Of Cradles and Converts.
Jay Anderson has a thoughtful post on the differences between cradle Catholics and those who convert (as he and his wife both did).
It sounds about right to me. Watching Heather, it strikes me that her faith is more elemental, for lack of a better term. It's part of the atmosphere, the water in which she swims. She grew up with it. In fact, she and those like her might be the last of the cultural Catholics. She remembers getting dismissed early from public school to go to catechism, and the Friday menu during Lent was fish and mac & cheese. Her Dad took the family to Church on Sundays, and received the Host on the tongue. The Church was an almost imperceptible, but reassuring, smell in the air she breathed. Plenty of "what" and "how," if almost never a good answer to "why?" [Don't get her started on her religious education. "S0-called," she'd say.]
Me, born, baptized and more or less raised as a Methodist, I approach it differently. Catholicism was an "other." A great big one, to be sure. There were the images of popular culture--Robert Redford saying the Hail Mary as he and the rest of the 82nd Airborne rowed canvas boats across the Rhine under fire in A Bridge Too Far. A cowled nun going medieval on Belushi and Ackroyd for cussing in The Blues Brothers. Priests chanting Latin as they performed the Last Rites for some condemned prisoner. Sure, I had Catholic friends and heard them talk about picking confirmation names or prepping for another milestone. However, that was very different from the quiet biblical Methodism I was used to. Almost sternly so, in a way I couldn't define.
So when Heather started inviting me to Mass, I joked that I'd set off "the Protestant Detector." She seemed a bit puzzled by that, but was happy I went.
Sadly, the detector never went off. So, when the time came to discuss the whole "what religion thing," I said (after definitively rejecting the ECUSA as a "middle ground") I'd be willing to look at being a papist. But I warned her: "If I am going to be Catholic, I'm going to be Catholic--no going through this 'RCIA' thing just to lapse."
Thus I enrolled. And, unlike Heather, my approach was an endless series of "Why?" questions. Providentially, after a couple of near-derailments, the Whys got answered and during the 1999 Easter Vigil, I poped.
But because I approached it from the "Why" perspective, I assimilated it differently. I suspect I will always have a different approach from those raised Catholic. This is both good and bad. Good in that I have a ready explanation for the faith I have. Bad in that I don't have the "roll with the punches"/"this storm will pass" peace that solid Cradles have. If I can find that "beat," I'll be all set.