I showed up on your doorstep, now I’m yours

October 9, 2008 at 4:09 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Or, what brought me to the Stargate Church.

I am not really sure why I never tried this church first. It’s nestled between several neighborhoods, none of them particularly high-income. People live there from all races and countries. It’s a funky round building that I think is supposed to look like a crown, but truly resembles that big UFO at the end of Close Encounters. The inside looks like the Stargate control room. The other parishes I had visited were all very nice, though some were upscale enough to make me a little uncomfortable. But this one was just poor and mismatched enough to let me slip in unnoticed.

I had by this time been on the internet quite some time, investigating my options. And a lot of people writing on the subject from first hand experience were pretty bitter. I’m not bitter, I know where I screwed up. I want help correcting it but I don’t expect a magic wand. But. I’m not an easy case. Two annulments and a protestant marriage? Heavens to murgatoid. I suspected any priest with enough sense to get out of seminary would point me in the direction of the nearest Lutheran church and thank his lucky stars for my exit.

I was quite fortunate, then, to find a priest that didn’t have any good sense.

He was, however, perceptive enough to see that I was stressing over the whole thing. Information overload!

Fr. O’Connor asked me in his kindly brogue, what do you want? And how much of it do you want to worry about TODAY?

I said, I want to be Catholic. I want a church home. I want to know what to tell them if I’m rushed to the hospital and they ask what is my religion, because “Lapsed Methodist” doesn’t fit on the bracelet. I want to stop being the lone Protestant poser in the back pew.

He said first, turn off the computer. The internet is a great source of information but the wisdom of God does not reside in a box on your desk.

Second, Catholic is a process. You never stop becoming Catholic. It’s a lifelong journey.

Third, I’ll put you on the parish books today if you want. Tell them you’re Catholic at the hospital and give this church as your home church. They will call the church office. We will know what to do.

Four, sit closer.

It took me a moment to realize that he was saying, yes. You can do this. We will take on your sadly complicated case because Jesus would. And Jesus did. He did caution me that Communion would be put off indefinitely until things were “regularized,” but that in the meantime, make myself at home.

Haaaaaaaaaaahahahaha. Now you have to feed and walk me too.

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Aunt Martha is Spinning in Her Grave

October 7, 2008 at 7:15 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

My earliest memories of Catholicism were of my Aunt Martha. A cold, distant woman, she nevertheless felt it necessary to drag my seven year old butt to mass with her when she visited. She took me to St. Louis Cathedral and told me about her kissing the Pope’s ring. She lit candles and talked to me about Mary and the Saints. How they were always with me, watching me.

Way to freak a kid out! Thanks!

And I wondered why all those ashtrays by the doors were full of water. I thought it was because they didn’t want the church to catch on fire.

My Evangelical Baptist mother, naturally, never knew. As I got older, it was acceptable to attend Christmas Eve mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It was, after all, a historic building and part of Mobile’s rich architectural history. At the age of fifteen, I asked if I could convert. My mother’s response was that I would be disowned.

But a seed, once planted, grows. Even if it’s in a closet with a grow and show light.

Oh wait. That’s marijuana. Never mind, I guess it still holds true.

Years, a few too many of them, slipped by. I found myself in an otherwise rewarding second marriage (leading to the necessity of the first being annulled, which is about as much fun as an IRS audit and takes a little longer) but my husband was in poor health, my family was being a pack of passive aggressive…relatives. My job was a steady source of income and insurance benefits but rife with pure idiocy that only government bureaucracy can manufacture. I remembered hearing that the Visitation Monastery had retreats and so checked it out online.

The one that most interested me was one for Catholic women. I felt the now-familiar wistfulness. I wish I were Catholic.

Which is when God slapped me in the side of the head with all the tenderness of an impatient father and said “You’re 40 years old. You can do what you want.”

Easier said than done. But I was on my way. I sat on my little secret hope for a bit, until one night at the local pub. My husband had gone home to prepare dinner (part of that “otherwise rewarding” bit of the relationship) and called me. I must come home. An emergency.

Bolting home, expecting to find a dead cat or police on the doorstep, I discovered he had cut himself rather badly. Being on blood thinners, this was cause for a little alarm. So, hand over the sink pouring on the antibacterial soap and applying pressure and seeing if he needed stitches and and and…

It really seemed as good a time as any.

After all, we are born of water and blood.

“Honey, what do you think of me becoming Catholic?”

After ascertaining that I was not drunk nor an impostor, we chatted about it a bit and I finished fixing supper. The next day, I emailed a convert friend to ask how I went about it. She gave me the number of her priest who, while helpful and of the proper SEC football team persuasion, was quite a distance away. He urged me to investigate all churches within a reasonable driving distance and so I did. Eventually landing at St. Pius X, which was my parish, geographically speaking. And began the drudgery of not one but two annulments, mine and my husband’s, so that we could have our marriage convalidated.

I swear, that particular journey seems now like it will never end. Only an institution that has been pushing paper for two millennia could envision a bureaucracy like this. It makes my job look like a pack of rank amateurs.

In spite of this, however, I was more interested in joining a church that had standards and expected me to abide by them if I wished entrance. When first faced with the obstacles, I nearly bailed on the whole plan. And was met with an instant tidal wave of shame. It wasn’t ABOUT ME ANYMORE. It was about Christ’s church and where I could find a place there.

After all, when you ask to move back in with your folks as an adult, you don’t demand they remodel the place to suit your fancy.

And so I sit, possibly the longest standing Protestant member of that parish, eyed as an oddity by clergy and laypeople alike. But for the first time, the fact that it isn’t about me is giving me patience rather than annoyance. Well, except for finding a parking place anywhere near the Diocesan Tribunal. But that’s another story.

I’m here.

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