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INTRODUCTION Sarah and I are collaborating on a book called, Becoming Catholic: Finding Rome in the American Spiritual Marketplace,

which is based on our study of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. This book attempts to address three main questions about the process by which indi iduals become Catholic in a late!modern society.

". In the first place, to paraphrase any number of our friends, Given the choice, why would anyone want to become Catholic today #ow do people $find Rome% in the American spiritual marketplace& '. Second, once they are recruited, what process do they enter, and what does that process tell us about the character of the church they are (oining& ). *inally, what di!!erence the proce"" make indi iduals and the Church as a whole

I am responsible for the first and third questions, and Sarah is responsible for the second. So the paper she was going to present address the politics of ritual in the RCIA. I cannot co er that material adequately, so I am going to address the first question+ ,ith so many religions and no religion to choose from in the American spiritual marketplace, why would someone become Catholic today&

STEINBECK As a point of entry into answering this question, let me begin with -ohn Steinbeck. #ravel" with Charley in Search o! America recounts an epic ".,... miles road trip Steinbeck took in "/0. from Sag #arbor in 1ew 2ork to the ,est Coast and back in his truck, Rocinante. 3arly in his tra elogue, Steinbeck tells of an encounter with a liquor store salesman in Connecticut from whom he has (ust purchased Abourbon, scotch, gin, ermouth, odka, a medium good brandy, aged apple(ack, and a case of beer.@ Steinbeck=s con ersation with the Ayoung!old man@ went like this+

A4ust be quite a party.@ A1oBit=s (ust tra eling supplies.@ #e helped me to carry the cartons out and I opened Rocinante=s door. A2ou going in that&@ ASure@ A,here&@ AAll o er.@ And then I saw what I was to see so many times on the (ourneyBa look of longing. A5ord6 I wish I could go.@

A7on=t you like it here&@ ASure. It=s all right, but I wish I could go.@ A2ou don=t e en know where I=m going.@ AI don=t care. I=d like to go anywhere.@

It is perhaps not surprising that a land peopled by nomadic nati e tribes, global e8plorers, pilgrims, and refugees is restless in its ery spirit and highly mobile in its constitution. Indeed, according to sociologist -ames -asper, restlessness is definiti e of American character.

The centrifugal forces that produce this restlessness cannot help but affect religious life in America. Indeed, American religion has been described as a "piritual marketplace in which people are religious consumers free to shop for the faiths that meet their indi idual tastes and preferences. This reality both has deep roots in American society and has come into full bloom only recently.

According to Anthony 9iddens, in societies based on tradition, indi iduals ha e relati ely clearly defined roles: in societies in which modernity has taken root, indi iduals ha e to establish their roles for themsel es. $4odernity,% 9iddens writes, $is essentially a post!traditional order. The transformation of time and space, coupled with the disembedding mechanisms, propel social life away from

the hold of preestablished precepts or practices.% ;r, as <arl 4ar8 put it, somewhat more poetically, $All fi8ed, fast!fro=en relationships, with their train of ancient and enerable pre(udices and opinions, are swept away, all new!formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air.% This is the e8perience of modernity.

Although -ames -asper argues that religion doesn>t succeed at $calming the inner restlessness of American?s@,% we find that the centrifugal forces in American society do produce counterbalancing centripetal de"ire"Aa search for some grounding, continuity, stability. In a word, for home.

Steinbeck=s #ravel" with Charley again pro ides a telling commentary. #a ing tra eled from his home in 1ew 2ork up to 4aine, across the country to ,ashington state, down the ,est Coast, through the Southwest and across Te8as to 1ew ;rleans, Steinbeck directed Rocinante back 1orth, toward 1ew 2ork. Toward the end, he writes,

4y own (ourney started long before I left, and was o er before I returned. I know e8actly where and when it was o er. 1ear Abingdon, in the dog!leg of Birginia, at four o=clock of a windy afternoon, without warning or good!by or kiss my foot, my (ourney went away and left me stranded far from home. .

. . The road became an endless stone ribbon, the hills obstructions, the trees green blurs, the people simply mo ing figures with heads but no faces. . . . After AbingdonAnothing. The way was a gray, timeless, e entless tunnel, but at the end of it was the one shining realityAmy own wife, my own house in my own street, my own bed. It was all there, and I lumbered my way toward it.

,e do not deny the profound dislocations and fragmentation created by modernity. Still, it seems premature to declare, as ,ade Clark Roof does when he quotes ,alter 5ippman quoting Aristophanes, that when it comes to American religion, A,hirl is <ing.@

4odernity does create a situation of unprecedented choice. Indeed, according to Ceter Derger, because $modernity plurali=es,% it also uni ersali=es here"y, or choice. $4odernity creates a new situation in which picking and choosing becomes an imperati e.% Dut, at the same time that Americans ha e nearly unlimited discretion to choose and an unprecedented number of options to choose from, they frequently opt for convention.

FINDING ROME: MECHANISMS AND MEANING To understand why "thousands of people annually opt for con ention by being initiated as adults into the Roman Catholic Church, we need to consider two issues+ what I call the mechanisms for con ersion and the meaning of con ersion.

In terms of mechanisms, we know that most people are recruited to religious groups by someone they know, most frequently a spouse, but sometimes a friend or co!worker. This is Rodney Stark>s well!established network theory of con ersion, and it does an e8cellent (ob e8plaining the mechanisms by which people are recruited to the Catholic Church.

In the "/E.s and F.s, -oseph *ichter found that GF percent of con erts came to the church through interfaith marriages. Two decades later, Ruth ,allace found a similar pattern among Catholic con erts in Canada. They were o erwhelmingly likely to ha e Catholic spouses or to be engaged to Catholics. Some also had Catholic friends. 7ean #oge obser ed that, e en though pressure for one spouse to con ert in an interfaith marriage has gone down o er the years, family remains the most important factor in predicting con ersion to Catholicism. In this sense, con erts to Roman Catholicism in America today seem to be products of their circumstances H circumstantial con erts !! not necessarily religious seekers or e en consumers shopping for faith.

Dut if we mo e from studying the mechanisms of con ersion to the meaning of con ersion, some additional stories emerge. ",hen we listen to people>s stories, of course we hear a lot of different things, but one dominant theme stands out+ what I call the Church as a refuge.

In a social situation where family and community links ha e been disrupted, some people look to church all the more for the kind of stability and identity once anchored in other social institutions.

,e inter iewed hundreds of people about their con ersions to Roman Catholicism, but for now let me introduce you to two representati e figures to gi e you a sense of what the Church means to them. ;ne of them focuses on the Church as family and one of them on the Church as community.

"Diane Gall: Family

7iane 9all is a ).!something who was bapti=ed in '..' at #oly 1ame Church in South Dend. She was introduced to Catholicism by her then!boyfriend, now!husband and his family. 7iane>s home life growing up left much to be desired. #er mother was (ust "G years!old when 7iane was born, and not prepared to be married or raise a child. #er parents di orced when she was two years old. Although her father li ed only '. miles away, she saw him mostly on weekends. 7iane recalls, She wa" a very young mother$ She went out$ She wa" alway" at the bar"$ % wa" le!t alone &uite a bit in my younger childhood year"$ 'nce % got into my teenage year", "ince mom wa" never around and "he wa" alway" out at the bar", there wa" nothing !or me$ So, % went out looking !or people to hang on to$ She met someone who seemed to offer her both the security and the freedom she longed for. As often happens, the freedom was primarily se8ual and the security an illusion. As she puts it, At () year" old, % got involved with a boy that wa" !our year" older$ *ow % !eel the rea"on % did it wa" becau"e % wa" "o alone that % wanted to latch onto "omebody, and there he wa"$ +e had been together !or two year", and % ended up pregnant$ 'ur relation"hip had "tarted growing apart, "o % had an abortion, and the relation"hip ended, pretty much all at the "ame time$ #ho"e are thing" that % would not want a child to go through$ %t," rough$ %t," a very rough li!e$ She e entually met 4ichael Sulli an. As she grew closer to 4ichael, she also de eloped a relationship with his family and especially his parents, Catty and Dill. This relationship that would pro e decisi e in her own con ersion. #hree or !our month" a!ter % met hi" parent", hi" mother called and a"ked i! we would like to meet them !or dinner and to go to Ma""$ So, Michael "aid, -%,m "ure you,re not going to want to go, but here," the deal$. % "aid, yeah, "ure, no problem$ And he "ay", -/ou want to go . % "aid, yeah$ %,m not Catholic, % don,t know what to do, but, yeah, %,ll go$ And we went to a church downtown and % en0oyed it$ So, she continued attending 4ass with 4ichael. She continues, noting+ +hen % "tarted going to Church with Michael1it wa" like the third or !ourth Ma"" that %,d been to, it wa" the Mother," 2ay Ma""1all o! a "udden "omething hit me$ 2uring Ma"", with the "inging and the prayer, % 0u"t "tarted crying$ %t wa"n,t a bad cry, it wa" 0u"t kind o! like a relea"e type o! thing$ And that," when % knew, % knew % didn,t need to look any !urther, thi" i" where % belong$ +hether or not Michael and % ended up married or not, thi" i" "till where % belong$ %t wa" the !amily % never had growing up$

Stephen Smith: Community ,here 7iane 9all found family in the Church, Stephen Smith found community. Although he is only E.!years old, his work as a salesman has taken Stephen to fi e different employers and eight different residences since he graduated from Dall State Ini ersity as a ''!year old. % wa" bapti3ed in the 2i"ciple" o! Chri"t in %ndianapoli", and went to church regularly when % wa" a child$ *ot every week, but mo"t every week$ '! cour"e, % didn,t have a choice then$ But a" "oon a" % got to Ball State, % "topped$ Church wa"n,t very convenient to get to$ But, % mean, even i! it wa" 1 even i! they put the church right ne4t to my apartment % probably wouldn,t have made it very o!ten$ % 0u"t had other prioritie" and intere"t" at the time, you know$ Changing (obs and mo ing e ery two to four years was e8citing at first for Stephen, but after his marriage and the birth of his first child, the change became troubling. +hen our "on 2rew wa" about !our year" old, % wa" home !rom work during the week !or "ome rea"on, and % "aw "omeone % didn,t recogni3e pa""ing by our hou"e "everal time" that day$ +ith all o! the "torie" you hear on the new" about people hurting kid", % got all nervou"$ % called to my wi!e and "aid, -5ey, who i" that guy 2o you think he," "a!e . My wi!e "aid, -Stephen, that guy live" two door" down !rom u"$. +e had lived in Fort +ayne !or about (6 month" by then, and % didn,t even know one o! our clo"e"t neighbor"$ Stephen>s wife, <aren, had been raised Catholic but had also stopped practicing at Dall State. She had 7rew bapti=ed, and for a time the family attended a Catholic Church but Stephen was ne er really into it, and when the family mo ed again for his work, it was a good e8cuse to stop attending. Dut this moment of insight about not knowing his neighbors stimulated Stephen to commit to (oining the Church. '! cour"e % !elt like % wa" mi""ing out on "omething, when % didn,t even know who wa" who in our neighborhood$ But % al"o thought that 2rew and 7aren mu"t be mi""ing out on "omething, too$ So, % a"ked 7aren i! "he wanted to "tart going to Church again, and i! "he knew how % could 0oin the Church$ % didn,t e4pect it at all, becau"e "he had never pu"hed me to 0oin, but "he "tarted crying when % a"ked$ She "aid "he had prayed !or thi", becau"e "he o!ten !elt lonely and out o! place with our moving around "o much, and "he thought being a part o! a church would help$ So Stephen went through the RCIA process at St. 4ary>s in *ort ,ayne,

with <aren as his sponsor. #e was recei ed into the full communion of the Catholic Church in '..' and has been acti e at St. 4ary>s since then. %t," been great$ 2rew goe" to religiou" education at St$ Mary,", and we,re involved in the ho"pitality committee that "erve" donut" a!ter Ma""$ #hat," a great way to meet people, becau"e everyone want" to get to know the per"on with the donut"$ 8"pecially kid"$ And once you meet the kid" you,re "ure to meet the parent" "oon enough a!ter that$ At thi" point, St$ Mary," ha" really become my main community$ 'ut"ide o! work, that," where mo"t o! my !riend" are, where mo"t o! 7aren," !riend" are, and where mo"t o! 2rew," !riend" are$ Actually, becau"e people in my line o! work move around "o much 1 0u"t like me 1 % probably have more !riend" now at Church than at work$ 8"pecially becau"e % go to Church on Sunday" now in"tead o! playing gol! with the other "ale" guy"$ +e even got to know "ome o! the people in our neighborhood, becau"e they go to St$ Mary," too$ %t," been a real ble""ing !or our !amily to have thi" kind o! community$ ,hat about if you ha e to change (obs or mo e again& +ell, % think it wa" a big mi"take to "top going be!ore when we moved$ 'ne o! the great thing" about the Catholic Church i" that there aren,t many place" where you can,t !ind one$ #here," really no e4cu"e not to go$ So, i! we move again 1 and there," no rea"on to think we won,t 1 be!ore we even look !or a hou"e % think we "hould look !or where the Catholic Church i" in town$ *eighbor" come and go, but the Church i" alway" there$ %t," like -Cheer".1 where everybody know" your name, and they,re alway" glad you came$