Growing in Faith without Losing who You Are

Article by Mr. Ginger

I am a Catholic convert. Like most who convert to Catholicism, I did a lot of reading. For years before and after my confirmation I read nothing but apologetics, history, saint stories and the like. If I read fiction, it was probably Tolkien or Lewis. My listening and viewing were similar.

And it was great. I learned a lot about my faith, about history, and the wonderful and inspiring men and women that have practiced, lived and died for Catholicism over the centuries. I became a walking encyclopedia of Catholic trivia. Coupled with the typical zeal of the freshly converted, I didn’t talk about much else either.

You might be sensing that I’m working up to a ‘but’. You’d be right. I was happy with the massive changes to how I spent my time and certainly don’t regret it. I still greatly enjoy learning more about my faith. In fact one of the great joys of being Catholic is that you never really stop learning about it. BUT, all work and no play makes everyone a dull boy. After a while, I noticed that my imagination was slipping, and it was harder to just relax and have a good time. I realized that my steady diet of apologetics and history was actually stunting my growth. I had essentially given up a part of myself I wasn’t sure I had to give up.

Unfortunately, my personality doesn’t have much of a dimmer switch, and I went back almost the other direction. Not that it challenged my faith, but leaving off my previous reading, I delved headlong into pop culture once again, reading fiction, putting some rock and roll back in the CD player and watching a cheesy sci-fi movie from time to time. Again, I thought everything was fine until I got caught making a pretty embarrassing apologetics error, confusing the terms transubstantiation and consubstantiation. Needless to say, I wasn’t growing in my faith at all. It was time to find balance.

I promptly added some Catholic podcasts back into my rotation and dropped some of the pop culture ones and added some time for some kind of edifying reading that would keep me learning about Catholicism most nights. I volunteered again to teach faith formation at my parish to help keep the basics fresh in my mind as well as focusing more on teaching my own kids. I’ve found I could do that and keep reading a steady flow of fiction that includes things like nanotech, medieval aliens, dimension hopping mermaids and even Catholic vampires.

Do I have the perfect balance figured out? No. Currently, politics is probably taking up more time and energy than it should. I’ve been thinking I need to cut back a couple of the podcasts I listen to. The struggle continues.

In the end, that balance is going to be a bit different for everyone. And in a sense, it isn’t really a ‘balance’ in the way most people think of the term. It isn’t a matter of having a certain amount of religious things and a certain amount of non-religious things in your life. It’s better realize that everything you do contributes in some way to growing who you are meant to be. Growing in that way will draw you closer to God. That will of course mean growing and forming yourself in the faith, but unless you have a specific calling, you don’t have to spend all your time reading only things that have received an imprimatur. You don’t have to abandon every other interest and aspect of your personality. God gave you certain interests and talents that you are meant to use and to use for Him. If you can keep that in mind and keep your focus on Him, you’ll find that you can grow in your faith, and do it without losing who you are.

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