I’m a sucker for Catholic conversion stories.
Maybe it’s a maternal thing–welcome home, welcome to the family! Or perhaps its the outsider perspective they have on doctrines and practices I’ve known all my life, making centuries-old rituals fresh and exciting again.
Reading Chad R. Torgerson’s Waking Up Catholic was no exception to my general love for converts and their stories. Written as a guide for “Converts, Reverts, and Anyone Becoming Catholic” (as it says on the cover), Torgerson presents basic Catholic doctrine in a grounded and concise manner. And just from that sentence alone, I can hear the unseasoned reader saying, “You had me at grounded and concise.”
Having gone through the RCIA process himself, Torgerson systematically answers the questions he asked throughout the process of his own conversion: What is the basis of Sacred Tradition? Why priests, and why call them “Father?” Why pray to Mary? Do we really need the Saints? Why believe in Transubstantiation, and why ever would I want to eat flesh and drink blood? As the author takes us through his own searching for answers, he becomes more like a companion, a guide, rather than a professor lecturing in a classroom.
I found it particularly interesting that the very first chapter talks about Sacred Tradition, stating that this was the main thing that sets Catholicism apart from other Christian churches. Making the case for Tradition (and correspondingly, the continuing revelation of the Holy Spirit) sets the stage for tackling the history of most other tenets of the faith. After convincing the reader of the importance of Sacred Tradition, the need for a governing body to ensure that the Tradition is faithfully passed on from one generation to the next logically becomes the topic of choice for the subsequent chapter. And on and on it goes, each section making way for the next. It takes a lot of talent (not to mention wisdom) to capture such a vast collection of doctrine and to present it in an orderly, step-by-step fashion. In fighting the urge to overwhelm, Torgerson succeeds admirably.
But the best feature of the book, by far, is the inside look into Torgerson’s life story. He shares his past judgements and misconceptions about the Church, and where necessary, subjects his own previous philosophies to scrutiny. This is not a story of naiveté or gullibility, but one of relentless searching (and finding) for Truth.
And in the end, more than a sentimental acceptance, or a renewed appreciation for the beauty of the Church, this is what really captivates me about conversion stories: the hand of God moving, guiding the heart and soul to Himself. No matter where any of us have been, His reach will always be farther and wider.
When you search for Me, you will find me; when you search for me with all your heart. –Jeremiah 29:13