For those of you keeping up with this series that I’m doing to correspond with my wife’s blog, there is no Part 4 on my part because I didn’t really have anything to add to that part of her story. For those of you who don’t know what this is about, my wife joined the Catholic church this last Easter, and she is doing a 6-part series on how this came to be. I am doing companion pieces to her posts to give a view of what was happening with me and the family from my perspective as we all went through this process.
When last we left off, Megan had started visiting our local Catholic church, we were doing family worship times with our teenage children, but that was starting to fizzle out, and after I told a friend that I was feeling a little disconnected from Megan spiritually, he told me that I needed to “suck it up and go to church with my wife” as opposed to going to a nondenominational church that met in the bowling alley.
I started visiting St. Mary’s in late March. Frankly, I have never enjoyed Sunday morning worship so it didn’t matter that much to me. Also, as I’ve said before, I don’t have the problems that some Protestants have with Catholicism. I grew up in an ecumenical home, and after visiting a couple of times I found that I actually enjoyed the services more than I expected. My biggest hesitation was the more liturgical format, but, to my surprise, I didn’t mind it at all. In fact, after a few weeks, I got into the rhythm and kind of enjoyed it.
There is a local CPA in town who does the annual audit for the nonprofit where I work. He also happens to be a deacon at St. Mary’s. He had seen me at mass a few times and we talked about it in his office one day. He encouraged Megan and me to go through the RCIA (Right of Catholic Initiation for Adults) process to see if joining the church might be appropriate for us. I talked to Megan about it, and she had already thought about it, so we agreed to check it out.
On this point, I’ll disagree with Megan’s post a little. She said I had no intention of joining the Catholic church as I entered the RCIA process with her. That’s not true. I went into the process as open-minded as I could and willing to go through Catholic confirmation if I felt like that was what God wanted for me.
The classes were interesting. I knew that there would be parts with which I disagreed (as I do with any denomination), but I also didn’t think that was a big deal. I told Megan at the beginning that I was going to do my best to keep my mouth shut and not show any public disagreement because I didn’t want to be the person in the room that thought he was smarter than everyone else. For the most part I was able to do this. There was one night where the leader forced my hand a little, but for the rest of the time I was able to be a silent support in the class and not take away from anyone else’s experience as they sought out God and His call for them. I can say that I perceived that everyone involved in the leadership was very Godly and earnest in their love for Him. That’s all that mattered to me.
In the end, as I explained to one of the leaders about why I didn’t go through the final confirmation, I found that I agreed with 85% of the theology; 10% I didn’t agree with, but it didn’t matter; and then there was 5% that I didn’t agree with that was the deal-breaker. The interesting thing, however, was that it was NOT a deal-breaker for me, but a deal-breaker for them. If I couldn’t believe in this one particular part of the theology then they would not want me to join. I was okay with that, but my response seemed to vex the RCIA leader a little. I still don’t think he quite understands why I continue to attend mass every Sunday with Megan. The plain answer is that I think it is important that we worship together, and this is where she feels called to be.
There is one other reason I didn’t join the Catholic church. This became clear to me one night when the leader told me that one difference between Protestant churches and the Catholic church is that when you join a Protestant church you are joining that local congregation that may or may not be part of a particular denomination. When you join the Catholic church, however, you are joining the world-wide Catholic church and not just St. Mary’s Parish. Taken a step further, when you join the Catholic church, it is a life-long commitment to be Catholic. Frankly, I’m not willing to say that I am going to be a part of any particular denomination for the rest of my life, be it Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, or Catholic. I have found that my journey in corporate worship has taken me to different churches and different styles throughout my life, and that is simply a commitment that I cannot make.
One last thing. I don’t know if she’ll tell this part of the story, but I want to mention it briefly because it plays into the part of her post about rejection for this decision from different corners of her world. About a month before her Easter confirmation she received a letter from a “friend” of her mother’s. I came home from work and noticed she was upset. We were about to leave the house together, and when I asked her what was wrong she told me that she would tell me in the car. When we got in the car she read me the letter. It was someone who claimed that she knew Megan’s mother’s heart about this matter and that her mother, who had died two years before, would not be happy about this. The person wrote awful things about Catholicism and then didn’t have the courage to sign the letter completely, only giving her first name. I had to pull the car over while she read, I was so offended by what I heard. I knew Megan needed to understand that this letter was from hell, so I took the letter from her, crumpled it up, and drove to the nearest gas station where I threw it away to get it out of our lives as quickly as I could. I then told her that her father would scoff at the idea that this woman know’s Megan’s mother’s heart on this issue, and that it was full of lies. I think my response helped. Frankly, I consider it to be the most supportive thing I did for Megan through this entire process.
So to sum up, it is now spring of 2012, Megan and I are wrapping up going through the RCIA process. I am a little surprised that Megan is going to be confirmed, but supportive. Easter is coming, and she is wondering how her family and friends will respond.