QUAERITUR: Lack of support shown to a convert.

From a reader:

I joined the Church at this year’s Easter Vigil and am so glad to be Catholic. My family and most of my friends are very supportive, but there are a couple who are so derisive of my faith that it truly bothers me. Nothing I say seems to get them to stop looking down on me for living my faith. Is there anything I can say to people who are supposed to be my close friends to get them to lay off? I don’t see why it’s their business.

I understand what you are talking about and I sympathize.

When they begin to make “it their business”, it may be that they have a bit of envy.

My suggestion is that you continue to study well so that you are cable to “give reasons for the hope that is in you”, as we read in 1 Peter 3:15.   But beware of engaging in long arguments.  And never let them become bitter in any way.

I think the most powerful argument that you can use towards those who would cast gloom, is above all to show your joy.

Be a happy Catholic. If you have to take jabs, take them.  Remember that one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit involves “long suffering” and one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to bear wrongs patiently.

People are attracted to happiness, especially those who are unhappy and searching for something to give them a little peace of mind.  Let them see in you a potential path to their own joy.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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26 Responses to QUAERITUR: Lack of support shown to a convert.

  1. Ef-lover says:

    Welcome and God bless you for entering into the Catholic Church please don’t let your friends get you down, you did the right thing in following God’s call to you

  2. AnAmericanMother says:

    Yes, being happy/joyful is the best argument of all.
    And gentle humor will go a long way towards disarming that sort of thing.
    I was in the doctor’s office chatting with a fellow sufferer who was reading one of Carl Sagan’s books. Now THAT could have become pretty noisy . . . but when it came out in the conversation about the book that I am Catholic and he looked a little dismayed or perhaps apprehensive, I smiled and said, “but I’m not one of those lapel-grabbing Catholics!” (like there is such a thing?) and he relaxed, and we had a nice discussion. I didn’t give an inch, but I didn’t get in his face either.
    Of course as an old courthouse rat I am in the business of arguing, and I enjoy it (sometimes way too much). But everybody’s happier if you can defuse the tension a bit.

  3. Yes, joy matters in sharing the Faith with others. It also matters in helping us having to seek out botox later in life to remove those deep frown lines. How joyful is it to mock the misguided and glory in their ignorance from a position of “superiority”?

    Recent comments on this blog about the ACC attendees bother me. I expect better from this “learned” group. I used to attend and lead gatherings that make the ACC look trad. I was not convinced of the Truth by those who mocked my personal appearance or ignorance. I was convinced by those who were kind and shared their reasoned thinking with me in a patient manner.

    I composed this comment trying to look around the plank in my own eye. I realize I’m not always non-judgemental or positive in my relationships with others.

  4. QMJ says:

    A good reminder for all of us. Thank you, Fr. Z.

  5. PostCatholic says:

    To live your beliefs joyfully and be happy in them is very sound spiritual advice.

  6. Joseph James says:

    I converted from Protestantism last September (or at least I was finally confirmed last September, after years of conversion).
    I know some of what you are experiencing. Except that my family is NOT supportive at all.

    I have to agree that the most progress on this front has been made by following the advice given above, namely, being a happy Catholic. Part of that, of course, is being a faithful Catholic, and going beyond one’s obligations when possible to give expression to one’s love for the Lord.
    But I have found two other things particularly effective:
    1) As voluntary acts of penance, I sometimes target those who most vehemently disagree with my conversion with acts of sacrificial kindness (and, of course, I pray for them a lot).
    2) I do not respond to their challenges on the level at which they are presented. I endeavour to dig at least one level deeper, in charity and humility, to discern the underlying objection or assumption that feeds it. Yes, sometimes it’s misinformation or actual fundamental disagreement at base, and that can sometimes be addressed based on the level of goodwill the person has at the moment (cf. St. Justin Martyr’s admonition to pray for goodwill rather than correction). But other times, I have found that what underlies the objection is really a simple relational problem that is both immune to reason and open to love.
    Sappy answer, but it’s true. You can’t change them. You can be willing to rejoice that they are still in your life and within your sphere of influence, in the hope that the relationship can heal and the prospects of their conversion will gradually improve.

    May the Holy Spirit activate and accompany your witness to the Truth.
    Help of Christians, pray for us!
    Pattern of Patience, pray for us!
    St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!
    St. Cajetan, pray for us!
    Amen.

  7. Centristian says:

    “I don’t see why it’s their business.”

    It isn’t, provided you aren’t making it their business. Are they derisive of your faith or are they derisive of your display of it? It seems highly improbable, to me, that a couple in Church (of all places) would observe, somehow, that a woman is a Catholic in good standing and a good Christian, and then approach her (in Church) to repeatedly deride her for that, in the manner of a couple of high school bullies.

    What’s the rest of the story?

  8. FrCharles says:

    All of this advice is right on. Be patient, in every sense. Later on this year it will be nineteen years a Catholic for me. When I first converted, I didn’t anticipate what a trouble it would be for some people. I didn’t even tell my family, but somehow my parents found out (I was in college at the time) and my father was upset with me for years. Some friends who were initially horrified have softened up and some have even come to respect it.

  9. Supertradmum says:

    Be cheerful. The thing which puzzles and annoys unbelievers the most is your attitude of love and happiness. Then, they can ask you why you are so cheerful and happy, which most of the world-lings are not. God bless you and welcome to the Church Militant.

  10. Centristian says:

    Reading again the writer’s complaint, I fear I have misinterpreted what she was saying insofar as this couple is, perhaps, not actually bullying her in Church. In that case, I rescind my remarks.

  11. Paul says:

    Dear fellow convert,

    It was one year this last Easter day, for me. I share your pain, having lost one of my oldest and dearest friends, when she told me to choose between our friendship or the Catholic Church.

    That said, keep going. Keep learning. Keep smiling. As the previous posters mentioned, nothing pricks people in heart quite so much as a life well and happily lived. Today is the feast of St. Anthony, the Hammer of Heretics. He won many of them over with a combination of love and solid knowledge. You can do the same.

    Just out of curiosity, are these friends of your Catholic? I found that some of the worst hectoring came from other Catholics and even from priests.

    Paul

  12. Mundabor says:

    To the OP, I have been in the situation a couple of times; and not only with friends but with close family members, too.

    My reaction was as follows: “if you think that I am stupid there is no reason why you should continue to abuse a person you consider stupid; if you think that I am not stupid you should better ask yourself why I am Catholic”.

    I assure you the results will come, because if they are friends and respect you they will be forced to deal with the matter seriously.

    Mundabor

  13. <>

    Golly, Paul, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone hating the Church that much who isn’t in it.

  14. Brad says:

    1) They’re jealous of someone in the modern West who has the guts (they very uncomfortably sense the grace that gives you the guts) to enjoy a faith life that is not “I’m spiritual” pablum, but is, rather, quite the opposite: the Church headed by Peter with all the luscious trappings of organized, ancient religion
    and 2) they assume you are now “judging” them from your high horse, since they do not comprehend that now as never before your own sins, past, present and future, are occupying your field of view and you have no interest, having comprehended the warning in the Pater Noster, of playing the pharisee.

  15. Joseph James says:

    “all the luscious trappings of organized, ancient religion”.
    YA!
    (Thank You, Jesus.)

  16. Gregg the Obscure says:

    I’ve done much better at many things since coming to accept that other people’s opinions of me are none of my business. That took me too many years.

  17. fieldsparrow says:

    @Mundabor, I rather like that response.

    I have had some difficulty with a few folks since I was confirmed this Easter Vigil, largely from friends who think it’s OK to be Catholic as long as you “think for yourself,” i.e. disagree with the things they don’t like about the Magisterium. When I have basically said that I didn’t join the Church to try to change it from within, I get funny looks at best and the cold shoulder at worst. Some of my friends haven’t spoken to me since; now, it’s only been several weeks, so this could change.

    On the other hand, I also have a few friends who, having seen that I am happy, have even come to check out Mass with me and enjoy talking about it even though they don’t agree. (Yet?)

    I’ve got something on this front that may prove to be a giant sticking point and potentially very unpleasant coming up, so all I can do is pray for the strength and grace to do what is right instead of what is popular.

  18. Mark R says:

    If those two sourpusses act that way to you, you should take it that in converting you did the right thing.

  19. KAS says:

    Dear fellow convert, Fr. Z’s advice is spot on as usual. Do your best to be joyful and ignore the jabs.

    That said, I lost a bunch of friends when I became Catholic, some because they consider the Catholic church the whore of babylon and entry to devil worship so of course they dropped me for going over to the devil. Others I lost because I refused to agree with them when they dis-respected Mary, or insisted I agree that none of the theology they rejected was important. If it wasn’t important I would not have converted!

    Then there were those who insisted I skip Mass and go to a pentecostal service with them and were offended and became quite nasty to me for going to Mass instead.

    And those who spent hours tossing out of context Bible verses at me in an attempt to convince me that the Catholic church was unbiblical– except it is the Bible that made me Catholic so that kinda backfired on them.

    Anyway, when people insist on going toxic on you, let them go. Ignore what you can, stand firm and refuse to compromise your beliefs, and don’t let their bad behavior prevent you from going to Mass on Sunday or taking that long walk so you can pray the Rosary in the fresh air.

    I even forgot to put the crucifix I was wearing inside my shirt one day and my own good charismatic Bible Christian mother ordered me to either put the crucifix outside or leave. Apparently she has a thing about crucifixes…. anyway, I went out for Pizza.

    Then there are the “friends” who suddenly begin to schedule fun group activities so you cannot make it to Mass and they get bent out of shape when you go to Mass anyway.

    I could go on, don’t let it get you down! Give cheerful answer, don’t compromise, and ignore as much as you can.

    Join some activities up at your local Parish church and find some new friends who understand.

    So, welcome to the “I lost friends because I became Catholic” club–anyone can join, just start going to Mass and trying to live the Faith and soon you will be in without any effort at all. LOL!!

  20. anilwang says:

    WRT “people who are supposed to be my close friends to get them to lay off? I don’t see why it’s their business”

    I might reply, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. Of course it’s their business if they are close friends, they love you. If your close friend joined Scientology or the LSD, would you not make it your business to open their eyes?

    Granted, they are not approaching you in charity, but as long as you call them your close friends you must work with then on some rules of engagement. Or simply do as Fr. Z suggests and “bless those who curse you” with joy and love *in Christ’s name*. It’s not easy, but Christ only promised the cross on this side of the veil when we follow him.

    There are many misconceptions about the faith. Speak to them in terms they understand. If Mary is the use, use the analogy of your mother-in-law….you love her mother as your mother and giver he due honor because you love your wife and she loves and honors her mother. If it’s statues, show them a picture of your wife in your wallet and express that people sometimes kiss and ponder their loved one’s pictures when they can’t see them. If it’s prayers to the saint, ask your friend to pray for you. If it’s indulgences, ask them if reading the Bible or evangelizing has spiritual benefits to the one doing it. If it’s purgatory, make it clear that only Heaven and Hell ultimately exist, it’s clear that the moment a sinful human being enters heaven, it will not be heaven any longer. The moment that you and your worst enemy enter heaven for ever and ever, it will not be heaven…it will be hell. Something has to happen to us. Though our sins are as scarlet, they must be made as wool for heaven to be heaven.

    Every aspect of the Catholic Faith exists in broader Christianity, even monasticism, and it is possible to get any Christian to understand that you love Christ and you are every bit a Christian as they are, even if you appear a bit odd in their sight.

  21. benedetta says:

    Cathy of Alex I agree but at the same time I don’t at all feel “superior” to the attendees at that convention or that they are “ignorant”. I do have big issues with leaders for parishes who return to parish and diocese and teach that openly. That would include the couple dozen priests who were reportedly in attendance. And the ones who teach at university, seminary, and travel around teaching this. As well as the ones who teach to young people and First Communicants. Maybe you are defensive because of your regret that you once participated in what they are doing, for lots of media and publishing dissemination through a variety of means. The fact is that people have been quite patient for a long time with this and when it comes to protecting souls of others in our care the time to remain silent and pray for these people alone has come and long gone, without the courtesy of conversation even when proposed with gentleness and generosity. I do think that these are grownups who can withstand a little humor on a blog, at this point in time, after all that has been said and done, when they condemn the Church for media attention and take hold of teaching institutions in order to dictate to the exclusion of any other viewpoint, whereas there are some people who are innocent and relatively defenseless in the face of what they are doing (with all of the structures). Many good people have tried to have the dialogue and the conversation with, no reply. I don’t fault people who have become convinced of all of that in various places around the country, many have been taught with the use of liberal clericalism and it can’t be said that they have ever been offered a choice even while some have tried to do what they can, sometimes at great risk. But to pay money and travel across the country to agitate with hatred towards the entire Church?

    For the questioner it must be trying to feel one has to explain. But it is still good that there is some reaction, it does mean that people are trying to figure something out. Whereas the dismissal and prejudgment that you must be pre-Vatican II or a schismatic, say, for proposing something for prolife, well, it is very hard to work with that in any meaningful way. Whether one is joyful or not will not be registered either way in any coherent fashion. At least where there are reactions based on a faith life to begin with there may be some room for a discussion eventually.

  22. Dear friend and co-sufferer!

    I too lost much family and many friends when I was confirmed and received into the Church on October 30. Let me share this bit of consolation. Whenever I think of what I’ve lost, I think of what I’ve gained:

    1. Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and the ability to go and talk to Him face to face in the tabernacle and pour out my heart to Him
    2. His Blessed Mother as my mother
    3. His foster father, St. Joseph, as my guardian and protector
    4. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every day
    5. Confession and the unburdening that comes with it
    6. The Holy Father

    I could go on, but I’d have to start my own blog!

    And then let me second what Father Z says about joy! Whenever I talk to anyone about my Catholic faith, I have taken Father’s advice about talking about our joy! I talk about my joy in going to talk to Jesus anytime I want to, face to face, in the tabernacle. I talk about the joy of going to Mass and Confession in particular, because so many people think Mass is boring and Confession is a burden! They just have never been taught! Share your joy! I had one person who never had a good thing to say about his Catholic upbringing and actually turned Buddhist say to me, “You make me want to become Catholic!”

  23. elaurier says:

    My Dad converted in 1962 or 1963. His mom, a Lutheran, cried but as far as I can remember, never let it affect her relationship with him, my mother or us grandkids. Fast forward to 1980. The pastor of our church loved the bottle too much and by the time he was removed had spent the parish bank account down to $12, and the utilities for the church and school were going to be cut off for nonpayment. In February. In Wisconsin. It would have been a little bit dark and chilly in those classrooms. My Dad is a great businessman, with a lot of moxie and strong relationships with other local businesses. President of the CofC, Lions Club, all that. He offered to go to every creditor personally and help get a payment plan worked out so that the school and church could continue to function. He was turned down. Why? He was told, “We generally don’t allow converts to assist in the area of finances.” That lack of support shown to converts can pop up in all kinds of ways.

  24. AnAmericanMother says:

    elaurier,
    My word, that is world-class stupidity — the same kind of stupidity that doesn’t take action until a poor old soak has run through his last dime (and everybody else’s dime as well).
    We’ve never noticed any lack of support for converts, or any treatment of any of us as second-class citizens. On the other hand, we’re in the South, where ‘cradle Catholics’ are pretty thin on the ground and there are an awful lot of us former Presbys, Piskies and Baptists around. Some of them are even priests and deacons!

  25. Ygnacia says:

    Welcome to Holy Mother Church!
    It can be hard coming into the Church – no one in my family came to my Baptism/Confirmation/First Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil. Over 20 years later, I still get jabs from many of my (mostly agnostic) family – they still don’t get it, and they still don’t like it.

  26. Imrahil says:

    Welcome to the Catholic Church even though I’m by no means entitled to speak for it save belonging to it… but I guess she welcomes you. But I’m disgressing. God bless you and make you achieve what you’re meant to do.

    That being said… and now I don’t want to be critical of you… but I can’t help to think… as a point of theory… that it does be their business.

    The stand about right and wrong, which really is included in our (yet more important) religious decision, is everybody’s business. Thus while they’re wrong in rejecting, their right in either confession or rejecting (as opposed to disregarding). Of course it’d be helpful if they followed Christianity at least in tolerantly and amiably respecting your stand.

    If they’re Catholics – it wasn’t sure from what I read – it’s a different problem I know nothing about. Not that I’d know about the other problem of course.