I rather enjoyed this short article by a convert to Catholicism and how the fervor and intellectual grounding of converts may sometimes fail to see something important and valuable present in cradle Catholics:
Twentieth-century convert Karl Stern wrote that because the Catholic Church is a “church of the multitude,” the “outsider, approaching her, faces a thick layer of mediocrity.” For those who have read their way into the Church, this can be a shock. Given the widespread failure of catechesis in the post-Vatican II era (Mark Shea has aptly described CCD as “Cut, Color, and Draw”), the level of ignorance among cradle Catholics can be rather high. I occasionally wanted to shake the rather casual Catholics I’ve met—What are you people doing? Don’t you realize what you have here? Just as converts can be unduly harsh with their former co-religionists, they can also be unduly prideful with cradle Catholics.
Actual Catholicity of the “Here Comes Everybody” variety is much more daunting than hanging out in your small continuing Anglican or Lutheran parish where everybody has an opinion on blue vestments in the Sarum Rite and whether to retain the filioque in the Creed out of ecumenical considerations. My mid-sized Latin Rite parish has more people at one of its two daily Masses than there are at most Episcopal Sunday services. They ain’t all Father Rutler. Often they’re not even that friendly.
Learning to see through the thick mediocrity in the Church of the Multitudes is one thing that can take a little bit of time and a lot of humility. Converts are often garrulously fluent about their faith in a way that impresses cradle Catholics. And yet what I’ve come to see is how often I’ve misjudged Catholics because they don’t talk about their faith in the same way I do. I don’t mean to suggest that many Catholics couldn’t benefit from a more thorough intellectual grounding in their faith. They could. But what I’ve discovered so often to my shame is a quiet consistency of life, worship, and behavior that makes my own seem paltry. Newman preached late in his life, “Perfection does not lie in heroic deeds, or in great fervor, or in anything extraordinary—many, even good men, are unequal—but in consistency. This is what old Catholics have when good, in opposition to converts.” The Imitation of Christ’s admonition that it is better to feel compunction than be able to define it has often hit me square between my tearless eyes.