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Supporting My Wife Going Catholic – Epilogue

Dear God, back in 2012, my wife was confirmed into the Catholic Church. While I went through the Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults (RCIA) with her, I decided not to be confirmed, but I still continue to worship with her.

We both wrote companion blog pieces back in 2012 about our experience back then (Megan’s series and my series). I read them all this morning–six for her and five for me. But that was six years ago and it was all still pretty new then. I thought it would be interesting to sit and pray through with you this morning what has happened over the last six years.

I guess it starts with the fact that we still attend our local Catholic Church with her being Catholic and me not. Even though I don’t go up for the Eucharist and I silently omit parts of some of the prayers with which I don’t agree (e.g. “ever virgin”), I pretty much feel like a member. While I’m not in any of the men’s groups like Knights of Columbus, we are active members of a couples group called Teams Of Our Lady (TOOL) with six other couples. There are a few people in there who came to the Catholic Church as adults, but I’m the only one who isn’t confirmed Catholic. No one seems to mind. I still stand by my statements from years ago that the people I have found there earnestly love you. It’s hard to ask for much more than that.

Here are some observations that I would now share:

  • One big thing is that we have really seen some personal trials over the last six years, and I am glad that we have continued to worship together. I don’t know how we would have gone through some situations with our children, our parents, or our careers and not be in a place where we are sitting together on most Sunday mornings.
  • We ended up having to find a compromise regarding communion. I am not allowed to participate in the Eucharist in a Catholic Church. I completely understand their logic here and do not hold that against the church. They believe that the Eucharist is something that I don’t believe it is. They don’t want me taking it if I don’t believe it. That’s fair. But I do miss communion, so on the big holidays like Easter and Christmas Eve, we go to a Protestant Church where I can have communion.
  • If she’s ever out of town on a Sunday morning, I will sometimes have a Protestant Sunday–mainly so I can have communion. I have found that our local Episcopal Church is the most reliable in having communion every Sunday and they have an early service which I prefer.
  • I attended an ACTS Retreat. I don’t want to say too much about this because they try to keep the contents of the retreat secret so that there are no spoilers for attendees. Let’s just say that I thought it was incredibly powerful and I really saw the Holy Spirit move in some of the men’s lives. While you don’t have to be Protestant to attend, it is definitely Catholic in flavor and theology. I don’t think I’ll do it again, but I am glad to have experienced it. I’ve found similarly powerful experiences at retreats at Laity Lodge.
  • We changed priests about a year ago. As with ALL leadership changes in ALL churches, there are been some who have been happy and some who are unhappy. The observation I would make about the Catholic Church is that you don’t have church splits and just start another Catholic Church. In 1993, Riesel, Texas, was a town of 800 people and five Baptist Churches. That would never happen for Catholics. People might go to a different Catholic Church in a different town, visit a Protestant Church (e.g. Episcopal) until the current regime leaves, or just stop going to church altogether. I know of people who did that with the last priest and I know some who have done that with this priest. But in the Catholic Church, you aren’t there because of the priest. You are there to worship and take part in the Eucharist.
  • Our children are grown and out of the house. One of them doesn’t have anything to do with church (that I know of) and the other sometimes visits with relatives in the town where they live. My wife and I pray together daily for both of them and have faith that you have them on the path that you have for them. I still can’t help but feel like that whole period of transition for them came at a critical and formative time and they were somehow damaged by not having continuity of church family at that stage of their lives. And the transition had nothing to do with my wife becoming Catholic. We were transitioning before she started attending St. Mary’s.
  • My wife seems to be really happy in the Catholic Church. She has no regrets, and, therefore, I have no regrets either. If she’s out of town on a Sunday she will usually try to visit the local Catholic Church. And I can say that, while I am not 100% lock-step with Catholic theology, the people I have found there earnestly love you and Jesus. I can’t ask for much more than that.

If I were advising anyone going through something similar, I would give them the advice my friend gave me way back in the spring of 2011. I told him that Megan was going to the Catholic Church, I was going to a nondenominational church, and I was feeling disconnected from her spiritually. He told me the words that I would say to someone else in that situation: “You need to suck it up and go to church with your wife.”

Father, thank you for continuing me on this journey. The last few years have been hard, and I hope I haven’t let you down too many times. I know that I’m grateful for you, your love, your help, and your provision. Thank you for my wife. Continue to lead us, to bless us through others at church and to bless them through us. We are your community, one holy, catholic (with a little c) and apostolic church. May we all bring you glory.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

 

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Emails to God – Supporting My Wife Going Catholic, Part 3

This is the third part in a series I am doing as a companion piece to my wife’s blog. She is explaining in a six-part series how she came to join the Catholic church this last Easter, so I thought I would flesh out some of the details as I experienced what she experienced. You can read her blog at www.meganwillome.com.

In today’s post, my wife introduces our local priest, Msgr. Enda McKenna. Let me give you a description of Enda. If every priest were like Enda then everyone would want to be Catholic. If every Christian pastor were like Enda then everyone would want to be a Christian. You get the idea. He is a sweet, gentle soul. I often describe him as a doll of a man. Just precious. He’s in his early seventies. He has soft white hair and an Irish twinkle in his eye. He grew up in Northern Ireland, and has that slightly whimsical Irish stereotype about him. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, and I adore him. Here is a picture:

Msgr. Enda McKenna
St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Fredericksburg, Texas

Through my work, I am privileged to be a member of our local ministerial association, even though I joke that I am the amateur Christian among the professionals. That is where I first met Enda. He is the first Catholic priest since I have lived here to actively participate in our ecumenical Christian ministerial association (okay, there has only been one other priest since I lived here, but I was really impressed when he started to show up and participate). Without exception, all of the pastors in the association love Enda. One retired Baptist pastor has particular affection for him. Enda was one of the first pastors to reach out to him when he lost a son to a car accident.

So that’s a description of Enda. Now, back to our story. When last we left off, my wife had started visiting St. Mary’s during the Christmas season, and I was visiting a church that meets in a bowling alley. Our two children, daughter who was 11 and son who was 14 weren’t visiting with us because we felt like were were in such flux, so we were doing family worship services together on Sundays. I also started having a Friday morning breakfast with one of the men from the bowling alley church so that we could share our lives and develop our relationships with God.

Around March of 2011, about three months after my wife and I were attending different churches, I mentioned to my friend, Tom, that I was feeling really disconnected spiritually from her. He looked at me and his advice was profound. I think I have this quote right: “You need to suck it up and go to church with your wife.” Hmm. That wasn’t the advice I was looking for. I had hoped he would encourage me to work through this with her in a way that we would both find a church together. But God obviously had her on a bit of a spiritual quest, trying to make some sense of her own relationship with Him given the loss of her mother and how her own view of her Christianity might have been wrapped up with her mother’s. As I said in my last post, it wasn’t that I resisted going to St. Mary’s because it was Catholic. I resisted because it was liturgical. Having grown up Baptist, visiting Lutheran churches was about as liturgical as I had gone. Worshipping Sunday after Sunday in the Catholic style…scared isn’t the right word. Let’s just say, it didn’t enthuse me.

I started attending St. Mary’s with her in early March 2011, and I talked to Enda at one of the ministerial association meetings about us visiting St. Mary’s. He had seen me there with her and wondered. I told him that Megan would probably enjoy a chance to visit with him about what she was experiencing, so I think he made it a point to visit with her that Sunday morning that she describes in today’s post. That is not to say that Enda wouldn’t have sought her out anyway. He is a generous soul and as accessible a Catholic priest as I have ever known, willing to change his schedule at the drop of a hat for anyone. But I think he was particularly aware of my wife’s quest as a result of our conversation at the ministerial association.

That’s where Megan ends her narrative, so that’s where I’ll sign off too. We’ll see you next Wednesday with Part 4.

 

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Emails to God – Supporting my Wife Going Catholic, Part 2

I am continuing my process of writing companion pieces to my wife’s blog posts about how she ended up joining the Catholic church (click here for her blog). I’m doing my best to line up my posts with her timeline, trying to give my perspective on a fairly monumental shift in our lives.

My previous post about this last Wednesday ended with me saying that our family was in a bit of a church crisis at the end of 2009. My wife, daughter, and I were attending one church while our then 13-year-old son was attending another that he liked better. What I didn’t say was that my wife’s mother was gravely ill. My wife hasn’t written much about this in her “Going Catholic” series, so I want to be careful to not violate her privacy in this area. What I will do is give you a description of my mother-in-law.

In short, the people who knew here saw her as a spiritual giant, a prayer warrior, and thoroughly Godly woman, and she was all of these things. When she passed in March 2010 I would conservatively estimate that there were over 700 people at her funeral. I think I’m safe to say that, without exception, the people there admired her greatly.

She had gone through her own spiritual journey. I’m a little fuzzy on some of the details, but growing up Episcopalian, I believe she would describe herself as having discovered God in a new way in college. It was when she joined Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) in the late 70’s that her discipling relationship with Jesus took off. She eventually became the teaching leader for her group, and started to have tremendous influence on countless women that would continue until her death, and probably beyond. She eventually left the Episcopal church, and by the time I met her she and my wife’s family attended a Bible church. My wife grew up Episcopalian as well, and the change to the Bible church came in late middle school. By the end of her life, however, my mother-in-law and father-in-law had returned to the Episcopal church.

Again, I don’t want to tell too much of my wife’s story and violate her privacy, but instead explain what I experienced during this process. After my mother-in-law’s death in march 2010 my wife found herself being uncomfortable in the church we attended. It wasn’t the church specifically. She felt like it was something within her. We tried different churches, but she never felt comfortable. For my part, being very frank, I have never enjoyed going to church so I was probably not the best-equipped person to lead us through this transition. There were some Sundays that, with no specific place to go, I would just choose to sleep in. This was difficult for the kids because, being middle schoolers and high schoolers by now, they were just like me at that age and didn’t want to go to church–especially a different one every week or two. It wasn’t exactly fair to them make them try a new place each Sunday, so we stopped making them go with us when we would visit a place.

By the end of 2010, we were trying a “family worship service” on Sundays with our son leading music on his guitar and having a short devotion/lesson. That part was going surprisingly well at the time. I had found a church that I liked that met in a bowling alley (obviously, it was an informal group), but Megan was still looking for something different. Then one Sunday (I think it was one where I had slept in), she came home and told me that she visited St. Mary’s Catholic Church that morning and really loved it. It was the first time I had heard her describe a church that way–really ever. I had never heard that kind of enthusiasm from her about any church in the 20 years I had known her. It kind of scared me because I was thinking that there wasn’t a way I could follow that path–not because it was Catholic in theology but because it was liturgical and formal in its structure. My response would have been the same if she had said Episcopalian. It made me nervous and resistant.

That is where our story ends today because that is where her blog ended. In summary, at the end of 2010, my wife’s family was dealing with the loss of her mother, I was visiting a nondenominational church that met in a bowling alley, my wife had visited St. Mary’s for the first time, and we were doing family worship with our children on Sundays. It was also during this time that I started to have a once-a-week Friday morning meeting with a man I met at the bowling alley church. This new friendship proved to be pivotal in how I would support my wife on her journey.

 

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Emails to God – Supporting my Wife Going Catholic, Part 1

My wife has started posting a series on her blog about how she ended up “converting” to Catholicism (www.meganwillome.com). I decided it might be good if I posted corresponding posts to describe my own church journey as it corresponds with hers. I think mine will probably be longer and less succinct than hers, so if you’re game you can read along.

It starts when I was eight years old, and my parents were trying to reconcile after a six-month separation. They found themselves at a marriage retreat at Laity Lodge, which is in the Texas Hill Country about an hour from Kerrville. A Catholic priest lead the retreat, and it was through that process and a prayer my father prayed with the priest during one of the breaks that my father became a Christian. When my parents came home and my dad moved back in (the exact order of events is a little fuzzy for me), we all joined the First Baptist Church in our town. Now, many Baptists grow up with anti-Catholic sentiments, but I never did because of my dad’s experience with this priest. My dad, for his part, grew up Methodist, but during the separation had started attending a Baptist church in San Antonio, so joining the Baptist church in our little town seemed a natural fit.

So I grew up Baptist, absorbing more Baptist theology than I realized. I won’t go into the whole story about my own developing relationship with God, but, suffice it to say, by the time I met my wife 23 years ago I was a discipling Christian as was she. Neither of us felt like we had cornered the market on theology and approached our adult lives post college in a very ecumenical way. We usually drifted towards Baptist or non-denominational churches (which are usually theologically similar to being Baptist), but we remained open to different Christian denominations.

After we moved to our current town nearly seven years ago, we looked for a church our children would enjoy. They were both in grade school, and we were trying to replace a church with a vibrant children’s program. After visiting seven different churches, all of differing denominations, the children chose the Methodist church. This suited us fine, and the kids were happy.

Unfortunately, three years later the church went through a terribly divisive time. We tried to stick it out, but it was difficult because nearly all of the families left. The final straw was when we took our son, who was then in the 7th grade, to the youth room on Sunday morning only to find that it was locked and the lights were out because there were no youth to serve. We needed to find something else.

We visited a Lutheran church for a while that my wife, daughter (three years younger than our son) and I liked, but our son didn’t. They were doing confirmation and he had trouble getting into it. Having grown up in a confirmation-free Baptist world I didn’t know how to coach him through it. So we tried giving him the freedom to go to other churches on his own. He tried the Evangelical Free Church youth group for a while, but he didn’t end up liking that.

This is where I’ll end this part of the story since this is about where my wife’s blog post today ends, but, in summary, by the end of 2009 my wife and I were attending a Lutheran church with our ten-year-old daughter, and my son was visiting the Evangelical Free church’s youth group. Something was about to happen, however, that would send my wife on a spiritual journey that God led me to support.

 

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