I get a lot of questions from friends and readers who are interested in Catholicism but don’t know where to begin on their journey to learn more. As still a recent convert (class of 2010!) I’m no expert, but I’ll tell you a few things we’ve learned about crossing the Tiber.
Cover your spiritual journey in prayer. Pray that God will guide you. Pray the Rosary. Pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Pray, pray, pray.
For my husband and I, our conversion was deeply influenced by books. And reading is a great way to learn more about the Catholic faith. Don’t know where to start? Here’s some ideas:
If you want to understand what the Church teaches, this is a great place to begin!
Signs of Life by Scott Hahn
Dr. Hahn is also a convert and this book is a beautiful introduction to Catholic sacraments, sacramentals, and practices. Hahn includes many, many Scripture references and his explanation of how sacraments are biblically based is very helpful, especially to those of us coming from a Protestant background.
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
“There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.” Make Chesterton your friend.
On Being Catholic by Thomas Howard
Written by a convert, this book explains facets of the Catholic faith and Catholic worldview and dispels misunderstandings about Catholic teaching that might arise if you’re coming from a Protestant perspective.
Return to Rome by Francis Beckwith
Dr. Beckwith’s explanation of his reversion to Catholicism after being President of the Evangelical Theological Society is a great conversion story.
Crossing the Tiber by Stephen Ray
Part I discusses Ray’s conversion story from Protestantism and Parts II and III discuss Baptism and the Holy Eucharist.
You may also be interested in discovering some of the writings of the Church Fathers such as: The Epistles of St. Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch. (There’s a good Paulist Press edition) and The Prayers and Meditations of St. Anselm, Confessions or the Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love (by St. Augustine), and Selected Writings of Maximus Confessor.
I haven’t read Rome, Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn or Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic by David Currie but I’ve heard that those are worth reading, too! (Sarah wrote a little review of the latter in one of her recent posts.)
Call Your Local Parish
Start attending Mass and call up your local Catholic parish and ask how you can learn more about the faith. One way to do this is to attend RCIA classes (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). The classes usually start in the Fall and end at Easter. You’re not under any obligation to convert if you go through the program. Your parish will be happy to let you just sit in, if that’s what you want to do. And I’ll be honest…not all RCIA classes are created equal. I’ve heard about good and bad experiences depending on who’s teaching. I would describe our experience in RCIA as “OK.” If your questions are not being answered or you think the classes leave something to be desired, try to meet with a priest one-on-one as well.
Start a Conversation with Friends and Family
One of the questions I’m asked often is how to break the news to family. Looking back, there’s some things we would have done differently. Firstly, if you are wrestling with matters of faith, allow your family and friends to wrestle with you. Start the conversation and let your loved ones in on your thoughts from the get-go. If your conversion is going to be upsetting to loved ones, don’t let an unexpected decision add to their difficulty with the news. Allow them to examine the questions you have with you as you continue on this journey. You may think your conversion won’t come as a surprise, but unless you make your journey of faith a conversation with your loved ones from the beginning, it probably will be a shock.
Secondly, if you decide that you definitely are going to convert, it might be a good idea to write out all your reasoning for this huge step and let your family read and process that information privately. Let them know that you’d love to answer any questions they have in person. If the news of your conversion might be painful to your family, give them the grace of digesting that news before having to talk to you about it face-to-face. And remember to offer them respect, patience, and charity. The news might not be easy for them to take so give them lots of time, grace, and prayers.