“Cradle Catholic”. I never thought about my self in that way until I joined a Bible study group a few years ago. (Actually, I still don’t think of myself that way, I just think of myself as Catholic.) The subject of “cradle” vs convert comes up from time to time in our group discussions. The term, at least as I have heard it used over the years, is slightly self deprecating. Since our study group is comprised of lifelong Catholics, converts to Catholicism, and a few non Catholics, it is often used in reference to how little we know about scripture compared to our converted and Protestant brethren.
There is truth in that observation. My own experience growing up in the Church and attending Catholic schools involved daily lessons in religion. Most of our learning centered on the Catechism. I have to admit, I don’t remember studying the Bible on a regular basis. Many of the lifelong Catholics in our group describe a similar experience.
As part of this group over the past few years, I have developed a greater appreciation for scripture and the role it plays in our faith. I continue to be impressed at the ease with which some of our group members can recall and cite relevant passages by chapter and verse. I sometimes feel self conscious that I am not more knowledgeable about the Bible.
The diversity of our study group makes for lively discussion. As we plough through one book of the Bible at a time, we have the perspective of those who have cultivated their faith through scripture and others who come to it through tradition. There is a wonderful synergy that results.
Those of us who were raised in the faith are, in a sense, attempting to “re-boot” our Catholicism by diving into a scriptural experience that takes us beyond what we will hear in the weekly readings. The converts in our group continue to expand their knowledge of scripture and (I hope) are developing a deeper appreciation of our Church’s tradition.
This dynamic mixture of cradle and converted Catholics brings a sense of energy not just to our group, but to the church as a whole. When I’m trying to get a better grasp of Catholicism, It’s amazing how often I end up turning to a writer who was an adult convert to the faith. G K Chesterton, John Henry Newman, Peter Keeft and Scott Hahn are just a few that come to mind.
So what’s better, living with a faith you were “born” into or one that you came to embrace as an adult? Actually, as a “Cradle Catholic” I think I am called upon to do both. I feel like I am having a conversion experience. One that is taking a lifetime to complete.
The more familiar I become with scripture, the more I appreciate the value of “cradle” Catholicism. Having started with the writings of Paul several years ago, then working through the Acts of the Apostles, Job, Genesis and Exodus among others, it is interesting to note how much scripture concerns itself with the maintenance of ritual and the preservation of faith from generation to generation.
Bible study has helped me see the value of the cradle more clearly. We have scripture, the inspired word of God, handed down generation after generation, but it has been families, baptizing their children and raising them in the faith that have been the vehicle for the survival and growth of the Church itself over the millennia.
Yes, some of us fall away, some of us come back, some of us just go through the motions, but somehow we have managed to bring our tradition and participation in the sacraments along the way over the last 2000 years. In each generation, we are joined by those who convert to the faith. Many of whom foster new generations of “cradle” Catholics.
So, after three years, I am prouder than ever to be a “cradle” Catholic, and more exited than ever to expand my faith through the study of scripture. From now on, when asked if I am a cradle Catholic or a convert, I’ll simply reply “Yes!”
Copyright 2012 Kirk Whitney