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A Resource for New Catholics: Waking up Catholic by Chad Torgerson

Waking up CatholicWhen I decided to become Catholic, I was ravenous for information about the Church! Sad to say, I had a fairly hard time finding something that was simple enough, without jargon, wasn’t written in 1960 and clearly explained the basics of the Catholic faith.

I finally stumbled upon The Catholicism Answer Book: The 300 Most Frequently Asked Questions, which laid down enough of the basics that I was able to move on to more advanced reading. I wish I’d had this book: Waking up Catholic by Chad Torgerson.

Chad is a convert from the Protestant faith and does a lovely job hitting all the basics of Catholicism. While it’s useful for any Catholic RCIA candidate or Catholic newbie, I think it’s especially helpful for those converting from a Protestant denomination. There are many common objections that Protestants tend to have of Catholicism, such as the veneration of Mary, the veneration of the saints, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, tradition versus Bible-only, and the need for confession, or reconciliation.

Torgerson explains how he once held all of these very objections to the Catholic faith, in fact arguing them quiet often 🙂 (it’s amazing how God coverts us!), and explains how he overcame them in a way that I think will make sense to many Protestants. I find that many of the objections they hold are simply a lack of understanding. If we can just get them to listen to WHY Catholics believe what they do and practice what they do, I think many would come to see that Catholicism is the fullest revelation of the Christian faith. I know I have figured that out in spades over the last few years!

While I think he missed some key reasons for confession and why we venerate Mary, he does hit the basics, which is a great starting point for further study. I would encourage you to learn more about reconciliation by reading the book 7 Secrets of Confession by Vinny Flynn and to especially learn all you can about Mary (you will be amazed!) by reading a book like Meet Your Mother by Mark Miravalle. I am still learning so much about Mary and am continually amazed at the unique role she played in assisting our Lord with our salvation. Both of these books are very easy to read and give a well-rounded, in-depth look at these facets of the faith.

If your RCIA program has not provided you with a good resource for learning the basics of the faith outside of class (I know ours gave us print-outs that were very dated and not terribly helpful), this is an excellent option to help you get started on the road to Catholicism. If there’s a teaching you disagree with (and surely there will be one or two), please take the time to read further about it. I found that when I bothered to delve deeply into any topic I didn’t understand, I eventually saw the truth. Becoming Catholic is no easy feat… it takes time and dedication!

What resources did you find most helpful in the RCIA process? Any great books you recommend for Catholic newbies? Please share!

Editor’s Note: This book was provided to me free of charge in exchange for a fair review.

The One Thing I Wish All RCIA Candidates Knew About Confession

First Reconciliation

Confession is a scary word to most Catholic RCIA candidates. It looms in the distance as the big hurdle you must cross before joining the Church. Truth be told, I was more nervous about this sacrament than any other part of joining the Church. I was sweaty, nauseous and nervous as all get out. I suspect I’m not alone in my trepidation. It’s not that I didn’t welcome confession/reconciliation — I thought it was a wonderful opportunity — it was just the “doing” it that had me shaking!

But, Catholic newbies and RCIA candidates, I want you to know something about confession that you won’t understand until you experience it several times. Reconciliation is about forgiveness but it’s about a LOT more, too.

After I went to confession a time or two, I noticed that not only did I feel relief at being forgiven, but it seemed the very things I was struggling with sometimes just completely went away! So, for example, if it was custody of the tongue that was an issue, suddenly the temptation to say what I shouldn’t just up and vanished or I gained an improved ability to control it. I didn’t know quite how to explain or put into words exactly what was going on, but I new that confession brought me a benefit beyond forgiveness.

In reading Vinny Flynn’s “7 Secrets of Confession” recently (a great book for newbies, by the way, to help you fully understand the sacrament), I realized what I was experiencing. It was “healing”! He beautifully puts into words the amazing power of the sacrament of Reconciliation. It IS forgiveness, but Christ already “took away” our sins when He died on the Cross. We are reaching into time and accepting that “taking away” that he has already given for all sins that have been or will be committed. But because the priest acts AS Christ, we also encounter Jesus here just as we do in the Eucharist in the form of bread. It’s one of TWO opportunities to encounter the living Christ. And when we meet him with true repentance he heals us.

So that’s what I want you newbies to know — it’s also about HEALING. When you go to that first confession, yes, you can unload all of the things you’re sorry for and breathe a big sigh or relief that you’ve been forgiven. But expect MORE! You will be healed, too, and our Lord will help you overcome your temptations going forward.

So don’t go just one time to complete this step on the road to becoming Catholic. Make it a habit to go at least monthly. Why would you want to pass up the opportunity to meet Jesus and gain strength in overcoming temptation?

Newbies, I want to hear your worries and anxieties or excitement as you get ready to experience this sacrament! I’m happy to help answer any questions you have as someone who did this just one year ago. Experienced Catholics, please share this post with any RCIA candidates you know and lets show them the power of Reconciliation!

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My First Reconciliation Through RCIA

First reconciliationWow, I finally experienced my first reconciliation, also called “first confession” by many! Of all the portions of the Catholic RCIA process, this was the thing about which I was most nervous. Having to articulate — and thus face up to — all the wrong you have done in your life is not an easy task!

I love the idea of reconciliation, however. It forces you to regularly look your faults directly in the eye. There’s no hiding them shamefully in the back of your mind hoping you’ll forget them. That is not the path to self-improvement. If we want to become saints, or even just better versions of ourselves, we have got to start by discerning our flaws, acknowledging them and then addressing them. If you keep confessing the same sins over and over, that’s a sure place to start 🙂 on self-improvement.

I’ve been doing the Weight Watchers weight loss program over the last several years where I’m allotted so many points each day and week of food that I can eat. I find it greatly helps me resist an unhealthy choice because I stop and think “do I really want to waste 14 points on that?!!”

I feel like reconciliation gives me that same ability to resist. Since I did my first reconciliation, I stop myself when I start to do something wrong, as I can hardly stand to stain what has become so clean!

Reconciliation is an amazing gift for self-improvement and how wonderful that we are able to be forgiven of everything we have done wrong so long as we are truly sorry! It feels so joyful!

If you are nervous about reconciliation, here are a few tips that helped me for my first reconciliation through RCIA:

  • Make a list, but destroy it as soon as you’re done. I found I was so nervous I could hardly think and having the words in front of gave me the courage to just plow ahead!
  • Decide beforehand if you want to be face-to-face with the priest. Ultimately, I decided not to and I think that was a good call for the first time. Having to look someone in the eye while confessing your worst faults would have made me completely lose my train of thought I think.
  • Relax. The priest is there to hear you, forgive you and nothing more. There is no judgement. Remember, he’s heard it all before!
  • Don’t engage in a discussion. Just list out your sins, say your Act of Contrition and move on. Set up an appointment with the priest if you want to have a discussion.
  • Go regularly! I already strongly desire to go back so I can wipe the slate clean again. Again, I think this is such an amazing healing gift.

Do those of you experienced Catholics have any advice on reconciliation. What has helped you?

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