Catholic or bust (or maybe just busted)
When I decided to become Catholic, I made sure within myself that it was what I believed was right and really wanted, even if all I gained by becoming Catholic was a closer relationship with God and the right to worship in the Catholic manner. I joined when I was sure I would still want to be Catholic even if no one ever took an interest in me, no one offered support, no other benefit ensued.
Since my last post, that conviction has been put to the test. The dilemma I faced could face anyone.
Lesson one: The warm welcome can turn to benign neglect or even active dislike after the confirmation ceremony, so make sure your beliefs are the reason you convert.
Lesson two: There are other, and equally as important, ways to contribute than through the established ministries.
One year after confirmation, I discovered that the congregation (in this case, I am happy to exclude the clergy) that originally promised to be a community for me evaporated in light of real-life effort and relationship. For example, despite a great deal of buzz about needing hands, several of the willing newbies were either ignored altogether or used temporarily and discarded with no explanation.
After about the fourth personal slap in the face, and learning of several similar slaps to others, I really started to feel that walking into church was like trudging into the Arctic Circle without a parka. It took everything I had to go to Mass on Sundays, and some days I have to admit not being able to face it.
Two good things happened during those weeks of internal debate. First, I confirmed that I converted for the right reason and did not for a minute regret my decision. Second, I learned that among the "ice people" were one or two warm-blooded people who felt the same chill as I did, had the same need for friends and support, and who were willing not only to accept my friendship but also to return it.
The formal channels rejected us, but because we were not tied up in those, we were free to respond to the less organized, less wide-spread, but no less critical needs of the people beside us. This is the spirit of Catholicism specifically and Christianity in general.