Saturday, August 1, 2009

Evviva il ritorno!

I just read a definition of religious reverts as "ethnics returning to the depths of Tradition." I had never thought of religious reversion, nor myself as a revert, in quite those terms, but I suppose there's a lot of truth to it.


Enbrethiliel said...


When I left the faith, a Protestant friend of mine just chuckled and said, "You started out a Filipina Catholic and you'll end up a Filipina Catholic." At the time, I resented the idea that ethnicity had anything to do with it.

Well, he turned out to be right, aye? Now I'm wondering how to get his Scots-Irish behind into the Church, too. ;-)

Pentimento said...

Enbrethiliel, this is very similar to my own experience as an Italian-American cradle, then lapsed, then reverted Catholic. I'll pray for your Scots-Irish friend!

christopher said...

You've got a beautiful blog here Pentimento, I found you through your comment at the above mentioned Filipina Catholic's blog.

It's funny, I'm not sure my Polish/Slovakian Catholic roots had anything to do with my return to Faith but it certainly now adds to it. I have to admit that when I occasionally do a google or facebook or (insert tool here search), and I come across someone with my unique family names, I'm always more than disappointed if see that they're Baptist or Evangelical or Pentecostal. I say to myself "What is WRONG with you?! Don't you know if your'e going to be Christian, you're SUPPOSED to be Catholic?!!! Your name is Yurkanin (or Namiotka) for Pete's sake!"

Pentimento said...

Thanks for your kind words, Christopher. There are Pentecostals in my own family, as well as Buddhists and atheists. I'm praying for all.

Enbrethiliel said...


Pentimento: Thank you. Once upon a time, the Scots-Irish must have been Catholic, too, right? =)

Christopher: I'm totally with you there! You can just imagine how I feel whenever I walk past one of the new Evangelical churches in Manila. There's a depth to Catholic tradition that matches the richness of ethnic culture in a way that the other Christian denominations never quite come close to.

I always think that new Evangelicals have no idea where they came from, no sense of history, no sense of roots . . .

Maclin said...

Interesting. I'm pretty sure there is *no* Catholicism in my Anglo-Scotch ancestry any more recent than the Protestant Reformation. Certainly not since the late 18th C.

Yet here I am. An ethnic reversion ought not to have taken me any further than Anglicanism (I grew up Methodist, which is an Anglican offshoot). Which it did for a time, actually, and I suppose in an earlier time I might have stuck there, but even then (late '70s) it was clear that Anglicanism was coming unglued.

Maclin said...

But (afterthought) I was heavily influenced by the English converts of the 19th & early 20th C, so one could presume a sort of ethnic pull there.

Pentimento said...

I suppose that is an ethnic pull, Maclin, though for some reason no one considers the English ethnic.

Enbrethiliel, believe it or not, the single mom friend of mine I wrote about in the earlier post is a cradle Catholic who became an Evangelical. She is an ethnic (seems like a quaint thing to call someone), and an immigrant to New York City. Like many South American immigrants, once in America she gravitated toward an evangelical church in her community. It was only after she became unexpectedly pregnant and I was able to help her get a place in one of the convents run by the Sisters of Life for women in crisis pregnancies that she returned to the Catholic faith. Of course, she had the amazing example of the Sisters to guide her. :)

Enbrethiliel said...


Do you suppose it's because we're speaking in English that we don't think of the English as ethnic? =P

Pentimento, something similar happens to Filipinos who emigrate to Western countries. I have a dear friend who joined an Evangelical church and claims she has never felt closer to Jesus. I mourn daily. ;-)

Pentimento said...

My mother is seriously ill with a chronic degenerative disease, and my aunt and uncle and I all visited with her this weekend. Before leaving today, my aunt and uncle, who are Pentecostal, prayed over her. I was in the next room and suddenly heard the sounds of an unfamiliar language. Aunt and uncle were speaking in tongues. I didn't know what to think. I asked my mother later if both aunt and uncle had the gift of tongues, and she said they did. I can't say I understand this. But I do understand how a gift like that -- if that's indeed what it is -- could make someone feel closer in a way to Christ. It goes back to Luther, and to the idea that we can approach God unmediated by the sacraments. A very radical idea, since even the ancient Israelites had a system of mediation between the individual and God. Aunt and uncle said it was the Holy Spirit. Since they were praying in the name of Jesus -- that part was in English! -- I saw no reason to doubt them, but I still thought it was really strange.

Enbrethiliel said...


On the other hand, I have relatives in the States who are still part of the Church but who have joined a charismatic prayer group. Everyone in the group is Catholic, but hold decidedly non-Catholic ideas such as "praying in tongues" and being "slain in the spirit."

Yes, I know that praying in tongues is in the Bible--but the last time I checked, we aren't sure exactly what "tongues" mean. Back in my "evil" days (!!!), I read an occult writer who said that "tongues" are actually messages from higher spirits, which need interpretation. (Remember that in one of St. Paul's letters, he differentiates between the gift of tongues and the gift of interpretation.) Not that I believe what that writer said anymore, but his occult credentials (gnossis, ya know?) actually gave him more credibility to say what "tongues" mean than I've seen from charismatics.

Maclin said...

"for some reason no one considers the English ethnic."

Yes, I find that either funny or annoying, depending on circumstance and mood at the moment. I suppose it's because British culture has functioned as the neutral background of American life, and everything else is seen as a contrast to that. And it provides a subtle form of condescension for people who very much don't want to be insensitive, so they just describe something as "ethnic" rather than using a word like "foreign." But why shouldn't they themselves be considered "ethnic"?!

There's a telling moment in John Gardner's novel October Light, in which a New England woman has a conversation with a Mexican Catholic priest and is a little perturbed when she realizes that from his point of view she is ethnic. In her mind she was the norm and everything else a variation.

I've been around the speaking-in-tongues phenomenon and though I don't really think there's anything wrong with it I have also never believed it was entirely genuine--I mean, in the sense of being a supernatural phenomenon.

I'm sorry to hear about your mother.

Betty Duffy said...

I've been thinking about this conversation a lot. My relatives who are Evangelical frequently take missionary trips to Latin countries. THey've come back with testimonies from the trenches that go like this:

"And I asked, 'Are you a Christian?' and they said, 'No, I'm Catholic.' So we brought them to Jesus."

I once gave money in support of one of their trips until I heard this story, and realized the grave misunderstanding that's fueling so much of their work.

On one hand, if Catholics really don't know Jesus, I'm happy that Evangelicals can help them to know him. On the other hand, I don't buy the idea that most Latin Catholics are ignorant of Jesus.

I keep finding myself in conversations on the failure of the Catholic Church to foster a personal relationship with Jesus, and it saddens me, because my experience of the Catholic Eucharist has done EVERYTHING to increase my personal relationship with Jesus. How is our experience of the True Presence of God in the Sacrament of the Eucharist NOT an unmediated relationship with Christ?

I suppose, it relies on the gift of faith in that True Presence.

Pentimento said...

Thanks, Mac.

This is too long a story to tell in detail here, but my father was healed of Stage IV lung cancer twenty years ago after my Pentecostal aunt put him in touch with a charismatic Catholic group. There may or may not be a causal connection, but his healing was undoubtedly a miracle. The doctors couldn't believe it. The cancer had metastasized to his lymph and he had one lung removed. He's in excellent health now.

I myself have gone recently to a couple of charismatic Masses, because the priest who says them was recommended to me as a possible spiritual director by a very respected priest who is a friend of a friend back in New York. Betty wrote about her own experiences with this on her own blog a while back. I am an arrogant snob in many ways, and I compare everything in my new city unfavorably to everything in New York City. So when I entered the church where the Mass was held, and heard the music, I had no high expectations. Part of the Catholic ethos that I've always understood is its aesthetic superiority, especially to things Pentecostal. But I have to say that, though the priest preached about things you normally don't hear in contemporary Catholic theology, like the need to regard Christ as your personal savior, I thought he was pretty orthodox and also very knowledgeable.

Oh, and I was slain in the spirit, twice. I don't know how to describe it. He prayed over me and I crumpled like a leaf within seconds. And then I was a better mom for about a week both times, and THAT is definitely the work of the Holy Spirit.