October 9th is the feastday of Cardinal John Henry Newman. This year it fell on a Sunday. Sundays take precedence over the feastdays of saints (unless it is a solemnity). So, his feast was not celebrated this year. However, I when I realized it was his feastday, it made me think about how strong the faith is in people’s hearts today.
Cardinal John Henry Newman lived in 19th century England. He was raised in the Anglican Church. He was ordained a priest in the Anglican Church and served at Oxford’s Trinity College. There he became a member of the Oxford Movement, which emphasized study of the early Church fathers. This led to his conversion to the Catholic Church (“St. John Henry Newman”, Saint of the Day, https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-john-henry-newman). His feastday is on October 9th as the anniversary of his reception into the Catholic Church (“Celebration of Cardinal Newman’s feast day will break from tradition”, September 10, 2010. Catholic News Agency. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/20815/celebration-of-cardinal-newmans-feast-day-will-break-from-tradition).
Each of us has our own story of faith. Some have been lifelong practicing Catholics. Some people grow up in another Christian denomination but as that faith deepens, they find themselves becoming Catholic. When they come from other Christian denominations, this does not mean a rejection of the faith they were raised in. I see it as a deepening of their faith as they come to understand Catholicism.
Others who become Catholic in their adulthood may come from a spirituality outside Judeo-Christian tradition. Others might have been raised without any faith. They find themselves longer for something more. I love to hear conversion stories because they often help me appreciate the elements of our Catholic faith that lifelong Catholics sometimes take for granted.
Last week I wrote an article here called “Sacred Scripture and Tradition” based on my reading of Mark Shea’s By What Authority? An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition Revised and Expanded Edition (San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2013). In this book, Shea tells us his conversion to the Catholic Church was not a rejection of his Evangelical roots but rather built upon it as he came to understand Tradition in the Catholic Church.
Converts tend to be more vibrant in practicing for their faith. I think this is because they have a great appreciation for what they have found in the Catholic Church. Some of them were already passionate about their faith. That passion is often part of what leads them to the Catholic Church as they look for answers in faith.
Does this mean that lifelong Catholics cannot be passionate about their faith? No. It’s not that they don’t have faith. Sometimes people are just lukewarm (see Revelation 3:16) about their faith because they take it for granted. As cradle Catholics we learn about our faith as young children. It is important to teach young children about their faith but the learning should not stop in childhood.
We learn differently as children than as adults. As children we memorize prayers and listen to the stories in the Bible. Yet, we don’t always take them to heart. As we become adults, we look for more depth and meaning. This is when our faith can really come alive if we don’t just take it for granted.
I was baptized as an infant. When I went to church as a child, there was something that I enjoyed about my faith but I didn’t understand what it was. As an adult I began to search for something more in life. This led me back to church where I have found something very powerful. Discovering the fullness of our Catholic faith has led me to a strong desire to share it with others.
What does faith mean to you? Is it something you do for an hour on Sunday? Or is it part of your whole life? Remember, “Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). If your faith is part of your whole life, what has brought you to this depth of faith? How might you share that with others?