Confirmation: I Guess I’m Catholic Now

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

April 28

Welp. I guess I’m Catholic now. I feel about the same, but I smell like oil. I like it. I don’t want to wash off all the smells and feelings. I feel a little bit of a weight lifted. I feel grateful, but also kind of sad. Not sad because I got confirmed, but a little sad that there are friends and family that might be scandalized by the whole occasion. It’s kind of sad.

It was a great service. One of my former grad school professors presided over the mass. Mom and Dad came, and I was happy they were there to support. There was even a guy who jumped in to get confirmed at the last minute. Seriously. I think depending on the diocese/community you’re a part of, you can pretty much become Catholic whenever you want–provided you have some sort of Christian background, i.e. baptized Christian. Anyway, the ritual is intense, but good. Afterwards, there was a little reception for all of us, and we got gifts! I had no idea I would get gifts. One of my friends got me a scapular. If you wear it when the apocalypse happens, it protects you from hell. It actually says that on it. I also received a really lovely cross from one of my sponsors. It felt like home.

When I began writing all this stuff, I remember thinking that it’s good for Protestants to become Catholic. For myself, it had a lot to do with the experience of the denomination. I would say to all those “non-denominational” church people, “Go experience a denomination.” It’s beautiful. The process of learning, the rituals, the initiation, the families and friends and communities. Growing up, my experience was very anti-denomination. I realize that for some, even the word “denomination” is said like spitting, but it’s really just a descriptive word.

Wikipedia saves the day, “In Christianity, a denomination is a distinct religious body identified by traits such as a common name, structure, leadership and doctrine.” Maybe that’s why there are so many Christian churches with weird names like Lifepoint, Underground, Mars Hill, Common Ground, Cornerstone, Mosaic, Grace, Christians Meet Here, and New Walk. If they have a distinct name, well then, they can’t be a denomination. Well, I doubt they’ll escape the part of the definition about structure (prayer, band, smoke machine, 45 minute sermon, maybe communion), leadership (white married dudes), and doctrine (sola fide and sola scriptura).

I’m poo pooing on the non-denominational thing because Christianity is too big to avoid it, and the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can work together instead of battle against one another or pretend like were the only Christian church in a hell-bound vacuum.

Or, maybe my advice is to go experience liturgy. Because there are so many groups that do it! High liturgy: smells and bells and classic music and singing. And low: basically all those same things with more band worship music. The history of the Christian church is in denominations. I admit, it’s a weird breaking issue, that probably isn’t the case for others who “switch” Christian churches.

Do I know what I have gotten myself into? No. But no one ever really does. I’m happy to be here, and I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing. That’s also what’s weird, At the beginning, I’m like, “What way am I going to go?” Both.

Time to work on my last sermon in Boston…


Not Quite Catholic

[Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.]

I wrote this for America Magazine while I was volunteering with a Catholic retreat Centre (Tobar Mhuire) in the north of Ireland (or if you prefer, Northern Ireland). It’s not really good enough or Catholic enough for them. It also has nothing to do with what I was doing in N. Ireland. It is not the beginning of my journey, but for the Just Be God’s project, I thought it a nice starting point.

January 19, 2012

Not Quite Catholic

Every weekday morning at 8 a.m. there is Mass at the Tobar Mhuire Retreat Center in “the heart of County Down” Crossgar, N.Ireland. On a good day, there’s maybe fifteen people attending, and that’s including the five Passionist priests who live here. I’m a full-time volunteer at Tobar Mhuire, red-headed (not Irish) Italian, and just recently finished graduate school at Boston College studying pastoral ministry and mental health counseling. During the Advent season the Magnificant was read, and one of the community, Fr. Mel, gave a homily about Mary’s obedience.

He said, “Mary wasn’t Catholic, but she did the will of God. She embraced her history and her spirituality, and was obedient.” I couldn’t help but feel as though the non-Catholic comment was for me. Perhaps that was a selfish thought, but let’s be real, I am the only one not receiving at these Masses, and I am quite the obedient “non-Catholic.”

After all my Catholic education, my continued work with the Catholic Church, and my not quite being Catholic, I’m struggling to decide whether or not to “convert.” I put this in quotations, because I do not feel as though I am converting. But I am wondering, where am I going? What do the Catholics want with me? Is this spiritual growth? At first, it was funny, “Paige, ha. Become Catholic, ha.” In my first semester of theology school at Boston College, one of my Catholic friends created a Facebook page called “Convert Paige Cargioli to Catholicism.” I had a few friends (and family) who were slightly uncomfortable by the joke. I thought it was clever. The Catholics evangelize to the evangelical. I even dressed as a Catholic for Halloween one year. Don’t all Catholics wear rosaries and carry mini statues of Mary in their pockets? Three years later, my thinking seriously about “converting,” or as I like to think of it, being initiated, to Catholicism was not in the plan.

I am still very unsure. There are all kinds of issues surrounding the Catholic Church, but just to clarify, I’m fine with transubstantiation and the Pope. No, the issue that holds me back, and draws me in, is exclusivity.

I’m trying to reconcile the inclusivity I feel with the Catholic communities I love, and am so deeply involved with, but also not really being a part of the community. If I was raised Catholic, or could just be Catholic without RCIA and big loud statements, this would, of course, be much, much easier. But alas, there is this process, this initiation, this ritual. To me, being from an evangelical background, it feels exactly the same as when you’re a kid and they put all the pressure on you to “accept Jesus” or get baptized, or yada yada in order to become “saved.”

For me, to properly do the Catholic ritual to become Catholic does not feel like conversion at all. I ask myself, “If I become Catholic, what sort of statement would I be making?” It would not a statement of “we’re right” and “you’re wrong.” It would not be a statement of “now I’m saved.” It would not even be a statement of “I feel more comfortable in this community” or “I really want to be a part of this community” (even though I do). I would just feel more included, and I’m not sure if even that is the right attitude to have—because I’m angry.

I’m angry about the exclusivity of most Christendom, and specifically, I want the Catholic Church to simply be inclusive. Many, in and out of the Church, simply wait for her to change and shift as she does occasionally. Whether you’re in or out, you’re always waiting for change, or angry at change. Unfortunately, I cannot make Holy Mother Catholic Church change or be inclusive, except by doing the exclusive rituals to be included. It is the paradox I live in.

And it is still a difficult decision to make because, what’s the point? I’ll still be pigeonholed as a convert. Another one bites the dust. God, please, not another question about transubstantiation, the saints, or the Pope from an ill-informed evangelical.

Right now, because I haven’t been officially initiated, I feel comfortable and out of place at the same time. I don’t know where I belong. Similarly to Dr. Stanley Hauerwas in his memoir Hannah’s Child, I feel homeless. A past religion professor of mine, said to me, “Just be God’s.”

I thought I wanted to become Catholic and I even feel as though it is inevitable, but the real challenge is finding meaning and being patient while in spiritual chaos. Regardless, I imagine I will become Catholic, and I imagine someone will ask, “Paige, why did you become Catholic?”

And I’ll say, “Because I already was,” but I haven’t performed the ritual yet. Like Mary, I’m simply trying to be true to my history and my spirituality.

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion

Just Be God’s: A Call the Continuing Conversion.

This is the first in a series of blog posts that are scheduled throughout the year. I recommend reading in order, starting here. Below, is an explanation:

I wrote a lot three years ago and didn’t take it anywhere. It’s a autobiography/memoir of sorts, and publishers are, understandably, sick of these. I’ll be posting my past thoughts on being Protestant and becoming Catholic three years late. Spoiler Alert: Not much has changed.

What is this “Just Be God’s” all about?

It’s about me, Paige Cargioli, a girl who works in a Tech Call Center, and has two Master’s degrees from Boston College in Mental Health Counseling and in Pastoral Ministry.

These are my thoughts for an entire year of RCIA at Boston College. Simultaneously, I was attending a Protestant church (Brookline Church of Christ). There, I was given the opportunity to preach several times throughout the course of the same year I was doing RCIA.

This project shows me going back and forth between these two Christian flavors. It shows my frustration, my friends opinions, and my questions. I occasionally mention pop culture, pray, and reflect on the readings from that year. That’s it. It’s an in real time Christian narrative mind trap.

It is my journey, and it is not unique. It’s back and forth, and very repetitive. It’s also extremely narcissistic and naive. In this narrative diary, I don’t hold back, and there are probably a lot of heretical and insensitive things said to multiple groups written in here. That’s what I was thinking at the time. I wasn’t writing expecting others to read it, and I have no idea who will be interested in reading this now.

If you’re a voyeur, you might like it because it is a day to day journal of a young, professional in constant spiritual crisis. Some days are more coherent than others.

If you’ve ever “converted” within Christianity, or are considering, you might like it.

This project is for the wanderers and those who like to break the rules. It’s for the person who likes questions more than answers and conversation more than debate.

This blog isn’t to convince anyone of anything. I don’t care if you’re Protestant or Catholic. It is demonstrative of an imperfect, confused, honest Christian seeking Jesus. It’s just a story meant to remind you that you are not alone.

If you would like to read on, here are the currently published posts:

I’ll do my best to respond to comments and reflect on… Myself? Over the weekends.

I’m giving up Justin Bieber for Lent

I have a confession to make… I’m a belieber. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true. I’ll always dance to “I need somebody to love.” And I’ll always know “Baby” on the Ukulele (C, G, Am, F, Duh). Really, actually, I’m not giving up Justin Bieber for Lent. I’m just giving up Justin Bieber for my life. Continue reading “I’m giving up Justin Bieber for Lent”