I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a Baptist church when I was eight years old. I grew up there. My parents were married there. I have served there. I know many amazing, godly people there who have played an important role in my personal and spiritual formation, and though I am no longer attending that church, I still value my time there.
So when I was told that my Baptism there was considered valid by the Church, I felt relief. To me, it was validation of my Christian formation and the journey that preceded my coming to the Church. It was also indirectly a mark of respect for my parents and my family that are a part of this church.
Converts play a valuable role in the Church. My sponsor continues to remind me that converts make the best converts, and she has confided in me a few ways that RCIA has been helping her with her own walk. There are the obvious reasons. Converts are willing participants. We don’t have parents pushing us forward or bribing us with promise of cars or privileges or other material things. We’re well-educated concerning Catholicism, thanks to excellent RCIA programs. We’re curious about the Church and excited about discovering its many unique beauties.
But many of us bring other things, too. We bring with us our own traditions and backgrounds. We have our years of hearing long, in-depth sermons on the Bible. We have own retreats mountaintop highs, Bible studies, community prayers, thick tomes, and personal miracles we have experienced. All of these things help form our approach to church and spiritual practices, and they are, for the most part, unique to converts and what we bring to the Church.
Many of us, myself included, also have a great yearning in our hearts for unity across all Christian traditions. The more I learn about the Church from within, the less strange and foreign it seems than when I viewed it from outside. God is very much the same God. The Bible is just as celebrated on Sundays. The urging for a personal relationship with Jesus is just as strong. There are traditions, yes, but I had those, too, growing up, and with the Church they seem to hold greater meaning because they are literal and therefore feel substantial and more meaningful. The Church helps make sense of my past formation. It is not overriding or erasing it; it is merely elaborating onto it. I know that one, united Christian Church will only be realized in Heaven, but I want to see more strivings on earth. The Catholic Church has a process and history of reforming itself from the inside.
The more converts the Church has the more bridges we can make across different traditions. The Church also gains insight into these different traditions. There is a great deal of misinformation on both sides, and it’s important for us to dialogue in peace and love with one another.
One step is recognizing our similarities, one being that all believers are unified under one baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.