Jennifer W. Jordan K. Victoria R. Kaspar L. Doug W. Tammie L. David B. Kelly G. Troy R. Heidi M.
Focus hard on those names. Stretch your memory and try to recall where you might have heard of them, even though their last names have been intentionally abbreviated. Think. Take your time.
It’s a safe bet that 99.9% of you don’t know who those people are.
Who are they? They’re part of the group that became Catholic this past Easter Vigil at my local parish. They’re just regular folks, with regular jobs and regular lives, raising regular families, each of whom became Catholic for their own reasons, and are now fellow brothers and sisters in this crazy thing called the Mystical Body of Christ, the Catholic Church.
But they’re not Catholic bloggers.
And none were named Leah Libresco, the high profile blogging atheist who announced her inspiring and awesome decision last week to become Catholic.
They weren’t interviewed on CNN after making the decision to become Catholic. They didn’t write an on-line essay that generated 150,000 page views. They don’t belong to a Catholic web portal that gets millions of hits a month. They weren’t the subject of numerous blog posts, tweets and articles. They didn’t find themselves under the microscope as people from all sides of belief publicly opined, argued and discussed their decision. Maybe they said something on their Facebook page about becoming Catholic, I don’t know. Chances are still slim to none that they got widespread coverage in the Catholic blogosphere…oh, and slim just left town.
Their decision to become Catholic is no less noteworthy, though, even if very few people – outside of immediate family and friends – were aware of it. Their choice to trust and believe is no less commendable and wonderful and pleasing in the sight of God. Some may have risked alienation from family members, or lost friendships as a result. Most probably gained new friends, and earned deeper respect from those who love them, and found themselves more connected to a wider community. And most importantly, they’ve discovered a deeper love for Christ and His Church, and maybe even asked themselves “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”
Now, some may argue I’m setting up a false comparison between these regular folks and someone who has earned a certain level of fame on the Internet – and I’m sure that fame is well-deserved, based on the acclaims of her character and intelligence and wit, blogged about by many people. I’m not a regular reader of hers (I did read a couple posts of hers as I wrote this one, and she’s impressive), but I had heard enough about her, such that when the Big Announcement was made she would be joining the Catholic Portal at Patheos (the first non-Catholic to do so, I believe, which is interesting in and of itself), I wasn’t asking “Leah who?”
You know, like 99.9% of you were asking “Jennifer W.? Jordan K? Who are they?” Remember?
But this post has nothing to do about Leah and her decision. This is about how so many others are reacting to her decision.
Many are praying for her, and are very happy for her – as we should be – that she’s taken hold of the answer to her relentless pursuit of truth…or rather, that the relentless pursuit of the Truth has taken hold of her. Another soul preparing itself to love God with purposeful amendment and passion. Another member that will hopefully join this crazy thing called the Mystical Body of Christ next Easter.
Just like Jennifer W., Jordan R. and the thousands upon thousands of others across this world who became Catholic this past Easter. All precious and unique in the eyes of God, with their own purpose and mission and vocation.
But she’s not a 1st round draft pick, while these regular folks are just pew fillers. She’s not a prized turned enemy super-spy. The Church hasn’t landed an All-Star free agent from Team Atheist. But from the breathless excitement at having a new Catholic blogger (pant! pant!), and Patheos’ director of marketing (really? they have one of those?) saying her post had over 150,000 page views (ohmyohmyohmy!)… for goodness sake, it’s rather embarrassing! Imagine the reaction if someone really famous signed up for RCIA classes!
Granted, many if not most of the comments at her Conversion Announcement post were supportive and welcoming and full of charity. It’s a wonderful testament of the joy of our faith, that so many are happily waiting on the other side of the door that was knocked upon and opened. But as one of the commenters said: “Don’t be disturbed if fellow Catholics make things just as hard for you as atheists.” How very true – and that is nowhere more evident than in the Catholic blogosphere at large.
All this attention on Leah makes me wonder how many people approach the regular folks at their local parishes going through RCIA, telling them how happy they are at their becoming Catholic, and that they’re being prayed for. Personally. Sure, they don’t have popular blogs, but should that even matter?
Which leads me to my next point. Now, I was going to lay out some advice for Leah, but after giving it some thought, I’ve concluded that anything I say would only be self-promotion, and would be unhelpful. She’s most likely getting great advice from some great people already, people she knows and trusts and relies upon. She seems to be handling all this hubbub quite well so far. So I wish her well as she continues on her faith journey, and she’s included in my prayers along with everyone else who’s on the path of conversion.
What I will mention, though, is this: I’ve been a member of the Catholic blogonomy for 4+ years, so I think I have a slight shred of credibility in speaking about it. It’s this burgeoning thing I’ve dubbed the Cult of Catholic Celebritease. The hubbub over Leah’s conversion – a conversion that hasn’t concluded, let’s not forget – is the latest prime example of it. Please read that statement again – Leah’s conversion is not a prime example of it – it’s the hubbub that’s a prime example of it. A Google search of ‘Leah Libresco conversion story’ rings up 37,500 results – to be fair, not all of them are from Catholic sites, but nonetheless, that’s an impressive number for a story that’s only a week old, and it’s good that people are talking about it. Or maybe they’re arguing about it, I don’t know. Comboxes – Catholic or not – tend to be verbal shark tanks where blood-letting is favorable to charitable exchanges, so I avoid them as much as possible.
Conversely, if you google ‘US personal Anglican ordinariate Jan 2012′ (it opened on Jan 1), you’ll get about 46,000 hits. Which covers a longer time span. And a lot more converts. Now, that story has far-reaching implications on the life of the Church. Perhaps it just wasn’t as sexy.
What am I implying? How about if we leave the rejoicing at the conversion of one soul to the hosts of heaven, and us bloggers just shut the hell up? After all, shouldn’t we be just as ecstatic and elated when a Jennifer W. or Jordan R. becomes Catholic? They count too, right?
I’ll be writing more on the Cult of Catholic Celebritease as time permits.