CiveItaChance asked a question about preserving her relationship with her best friend, who is a Protestant minister like herself, on our old discussion forum and received some insightful answers from the Coming Home Network community. We’ve curated the topic for you here. Feel free to continue discussion in the Disqus comment box below.
My best friend and I have had our friendship for half of our lives. We met in the university, when we were students of Protestant theology. We have gone through with each other whatever came into our lives. We could openly speak, listen, discuss, stand by the other’s side.… This year, in the spring, I asked to talk with her on a very important subject for me: that I am considering conversion to the Catholic Church. I don’t remember exactly what I told her. It was hard for me to break this news to her, because it implied that I would have to give up being a pastor and not knowing what I could do instead. I imagined that this would cause her sorrow concerning me. I think, because I spoke of “considering” instead of “going on to convert,” it was a bit easier for her to take. But I also felt from the start that in it lies a threat to our friendship, in telling her about this development. After that we didn’t talk about it for months. But I was glad that she knew about what’s going on with me.
But I was wrong. During the summer, I took up the subject with her again, telling her that I’m thinking seriously about the job prospects in the Catholic Church and finding someone to counsel me in the process of converting. At this, her chin dropped to the ground. She was bewildered, concerned, and her initial response was: “Do you believe that ‘there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church’?” She insisted on an answer. And then: “I really hope that our friendship will be able to withstand that.” But I wasn’t sure; I hadn’t seen her like that before. She added that she is moving in just the opposite direction in her faith: that there is no need to be Christian at all to be saved, that God will save anyone. What she is unsure of is whether that notion fits with her being a Protestant pastor. I reminded her that I had told her about my trending intentions months before. She replied that she had just put that thought into the back of her mind. So she was hearing it now as if for the first time.
Then she went on vacation, and we took our time apart to think, each on her own. Afterwards, we had a good talk, with some mutual understanding. She admonished me to go to spiritual direction, because she suggests that my difficult family experiences from childhood have led me to “surrender my individuality to the bosom of the Catholic Church,” i.e., that I’m not clear in my mind.
Mostly I am just sad about that development! It hurts me a lot. I really feel it is danger to our friendship, an alienation, a separation, an inner barrier that we have never before experienced. What I miss is just the intimacy of one friend with the other. The interest that wants to know more of what’s on her mind. The willingness to listen calmly, carefully and open-mindedly. Acknowledging our differences calmly: “Well, it’s not my way. But if it’s yours, go ahead. I’m caring for you anyway.” So, just being sad.…
David W. Emery
Your friend’s attitude is very common among Protestants. They consider it unthinkable that any of their number should become Catholic. That is the ultimate sin, a surrender to Satan. Basically, most Protestants who become Catholic will lose at least some of their friends and family.
She added that she is moving just the opposite direction in her faith: that there is no need to be Christian at all to be saved. God will save anyone.
This leaves her no intellectual ground to criticize you for becoming Catholic. She is, I believe, rather mixed up in her thinking, which seems to revolve around the saying, “Anything but Catholic!” That “anything,” according to what she has said, seems to be literally anything — even if it is not Christian — except Catholic!
Catholic doctrine admits the reality of human suffering, which is mostly the result of human sin, but it also recognizes that we can withstand suffering through the aid of divine grace.
There is one thing you can look forward to. Once you are Catholic, you can begin to build friendships in your new home. Chances are good that you will encounter someone who can be your new “best friend.” After all, there are good people in every religion, just as there are in the one you are leaving. You just have to seek them out.
I am so sorry you are going through this. It is a hard thing, I know. I lost a few good Protestant friends who just could not understand why I would do such a “daft thing” as join the Catholic Church. In their mind — and perhaps in your friend’s mind — it was a complete step backward. Never fear this, though. If you fully trust in God knowing that he wants to work all things out for the good of those who love him, then you will realize that he brings people into your life for a reason and he will sometimes take others out of your life for a reason. Don’t be hurt by this! Just commit those whom you lose into God’s good keeping and continue to walk on the path he has laid out for you, looking forward to the new folks he will bring into your life. Don’t be afraid of this! He is guiding you through it all.
Thank you, both Jennie and David, for your feeling with me and encouraging me to move ahead. It does my heart good. However, neither I nor my friend is inclined to give up and break up so easily. You don’t do that in a long-lasting friendship, if it has any meaning for you. And it has for us both.
My revelation was a shock to my friend. She was challenged in a way she had not anticipated. Now we are going to approach this subject cautiously, taking our time, step by step. The confrontation has subsided. It is new and strange for both of us to experience a kind of barrier between us that had not been there earlier. This separation hurts both of us.
For the moment, I am doing the best I can to show her that I care for her, feel with her and support her in her personal matters as much as before. My impression is that this means much to her to see this, because I suppose that one of her great fears is that this “Catholic perspective” might change my attitude toward her. And I am not sure of myself, because I’m undergoing a lot of change in the process of conversion, because it makes me unsure who I’ll become at the end. There are many awkward considerations going around within myself about faith, about morality.… After all, my light on the horizon is that we will discover a friendship that endures this estrangement, and that our appreciation of each other is more important.
I would appreciate it if you could pray for us, for this. Thank you very much!
David W. Emery
I am relieved to hear that your friend is not abandoning you. Much of the time, estrangement is what happens. Acts of Christian love on the part of the person who is converting can often make a difference, changing a sad parting into an eye-opening realization that people are still the same friends as before — only better as Catholics.
I am always reminded, when I hear stories like this, of the city of Boston, which is where I was raised. In that city, it was originally against the law to be Catholic. There may have been one Catholic woman who was tried for witchcraft because she was a Catholic. But look at Boston now. It’s one of the centers of the Catholic faith in America if there could even be such a thing. I know how hard it is for you in a way because I had close friends who were shunning me because of my conversion. It is still hard for me because my wife is still a Protestant in her thinking, and mix that with her Orthodox upbringing makes it even more of a challenge. Maybe if you thought of this from a long term perspective, you might see what God is going to do with both of you. Your friend is going to see you enter into a deeper and fuller expression of just what it means to be a Christian, the original version of what being a Christian is. Hopefully and with many rosaries recited on behalf of your friendship, you would be surprised just what God can do. Remember Saint Monica and her son!!!
Let’s try remembering one another in prayers and see with hope in our hearts and bring your friend spiritually with you to the Mass and place her soul on the altar during the offertory prayers and we can all lzCiveItaChance