Three kinds of Catholics
From time to time, our work schedule disrupted the now weekly Tuesday morning coffee breaks Josh, my cube farm neighbor, and I would have. This was one of those days; when Josh got back from a meeting, I had a conference call. When he was done with a conference call, I was on my way to a meeting with my boss, and so it went. Finally around 11:45 we decided to go to the caf, grab some lunch, and spend a few minutes walking laps around the outside of the building.
We made our way to and through the line, went outside, located a picnic table and ate our lunch. The conversation at the table dealt with work issues and personalities. When we finished lunch, we started to walk around the building and I gathered Josh was after some additional information when he asked, “You have been a Catholic all your life right?”
I responded, “I would love to say I was, but, there is a gap of a few years in there where I simply left the Church.”
He said, “But that isn’t an issue right? A Baptist can be away from church and still be a Baptist, so you were still a Catholic, weren’t you?”
I said, “At that level, you are right, a Catholic is a Catholic whether active or fallen away. But just like the sexes, there are three kinds of Catholics.”
“Wait a minute there Dan, I have known you for some time, and I know sometimes your elevator may not reach the upper floors, but you have to explain that one to me. There are two sexes.”
I responded, “Nope, sorry Josh, there are three sexes. There is the boy sex, there is the girl sex, and there are insects.”
I continued, “O.K. just kidding about that but there are three kinds of Catholics. There are the cradle Catholics who are born into the faith and never waiver. The second group is also my favorite: these are the converts who came to Catholicism from another faith. They are the ones who sometimes have to push back against relatives who think they are crazy to “join that cult”, and they spend a great deal of time exploring everything before they come into the Church. The last group is the category into which I fall, that is the reverts. These are the ones who probably were cradle Catholics, left the Church and came back; they reverted back to the faith.”
Why the falling out?
Josh questioned, “What was the cause for you to leave the Catholic Church, why the falling out?”
I told him, “I was born into and raised by a very strong Catholic family. My mother spent her youth in an orphanage in Canada run by the nuns. She was only a bit of time away from the novitiate when the mother superior told her to take some time away from the nuns and see what God had in mind for her. She was visiting some relatives outside of Lowell, Massachusetts when she met my father. She knew very little English, he knew very little French, so they bought chalkboards and while dating and in the early years of marriage, they taught each other their language. While growing up, we spoke only French at home since my father thought that would be easier for my mother.
“During primary and secondary school, I went to parochial schools, and it was all but certain I would enter the priesthood. Came the senior year of high school, and the Big Guy introduced my wife to me, We got married about a year later, and we have been married for quite some time. [As of the time of this publication, we have been married more than 50 years].
“After we had been married a couple of years, a faith storm hit me. Vatican II came with all of the changes people thought the Council had made. I had discovered the names of my personal trinity was not the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, rather Jim, Jack, and Johnny. I spent much more time watching life through the bottom of a glass. Then I began searching not only other traditions, but other avenues such as white magic, black magic, Zen, Occult, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
“My wife and our daughters continued to go to Church, but I stayed as far away as possible. It was not all that possible to stay away from the Church as my father was a sexton at the local church, so I would go there on weekends to help him do the floors, mow the lawns, etc. While working around the church and the grounds, I would experience a barrage of memories of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“During primary school, we would process outside, unless the weather was bad, to pray the rosary. During those days, I developed a strong devotion to Mary. While at the Church, I would see a pamphlet on the bookrack, see a statue, or hear music and be reminded of Mary which would cause me a bit of distress which I tried to drown it by visiting Jim, Jack or Johnny.
“The more I tried to get away during those years, the more Mary’s prodding would be obvious. I am also quite certain my mother and my wife were praying 17,729 rosaries each to get me back.
Josh asked, “Well, it is obvious something worked to get you back to the Church, What was it ? What worked?
I replied, “Mary’s primary job is to lead us to her Son. She is not divine, she is not a goddess, she is His mom, He is our Brother, so, she is our mom, and her job is to lead us to our Brother and keep the family strong.
“It was an easy movement from Mary to Christ to the Eucharist, which is the Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of Christ presented to us at each Mass. None of the other things I had explored up to that point had anything quite like it. Here was the Creator of the universe in all His glory coming to mankind each and every Mass.
Josh interrupted, “But, at the Last Supper, He said ‘Do this in memory of Me’, He didn’t say, ‘Hey y’all, if you do this, I’ll be right there.”
I explained, “Well, Josh, He actually did say that, or close to it. If you go to the 6th chapter of John, you will find Him talking to a group of followers and He said, ‘Y’all recall your ancestors ate the bread from Heaven and they died anyhow? What I am telling you is that my body is real food and my blood is real drink, and if you eat my body and drink my blood you will live forever’.
“His followers tried to tell Him Moses hadn’t said anything about cannibalism, so, they were just going to walk away and He could have a great day without them. Now fast forward to the Last Supper and He tells the apostles, while taking and breaking a piece of bread, ‘This is my body,’ then, after supper he took a cup of wine and gave it to them and said,’This is my blood.’ He did not say, ‘I need y’all to hang around for the next 1850 years until Dr. Welch learns how to process grape juice without fermenting it, and for croutons to be routinely available’.
“There is nothing I have found during my exploration which comes close to the Eucharist. Plus His mom nudging me constantly brought me back to the Church. I have been busy trying to share it with others for the 35 or so years since I have been back.
“The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have returned as the trinity, and Jim, Jack and Johnny have long since been returned to the shelf.