RSS

Tag Archives: Catholicism

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

 

 

Tags: , , ,

Emails to God – Supporting My Wife Going Catholic, Part 6

This is the final installment in my pieces accompanying my wife’s writings about her joining the Catholic church. Here is a link to her blog so you can see what she wrote and to what I am responding.

As we wrapped up the Right of Catholic Initiation for Adults (RCIA) classes, I was kind of surprised that Megan decided to be confirmed. As she said at the end of her post about this, there were some aspects of the theology with which she still struggled. I explained in the last post why I didn’t go through confirmation, but she decided to move forward.

Frankly, it was awkward for me to know how to respond to this. When we met twenty-three years ago and married three years later, I just never imagined that we wouldn’t be members of the same church, or worship at the same church. To my surprise, the idea of worshipping separately didn’t bother her, but it really bothered me. At the same time, I could tell (as you can see in how she writes about this in her blog) that this really was important to her and God was meeting a need in her that needed to be filled. So I purposed in my heart that I would follow her as closely as I could.

The kids and I went to her confirmation, and I invited her father too. He is a wonderful man who loves her, and was glad to come. It was a lovely service that seemed to go faster than the 2+ hours that it lasted. As she said today, the kids were supportive, and the service and her experience seemed to touch our son in particular.

Now, we are in mass together nearly every Sunday. I find that I miss communion every once in a while, but other than that I enjoy worshipping there. As we both said in earlier posts, the priest is a wonderful man, and I have found the people I know there to be genuine lovers of God. For what else can I ask? I will confess, however, that if she is out of town on a Sunday morning, I have been known to visit a nice Baptist church down the street by myself. It’s comforting for me to feel that familiarity.

I hope that reading about this process has blessed at least one person out there. Of course, our journey continues and I really don’t know how it will unfold. I guess that is part of the joy in the journey.

 
 

Tags: , , ,

Emails to God – Supporting My Wife Going Catholic, Part 5

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.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Supporting My Wife Going Catholic

 

Tags: , , ,

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.

 

Tags: , , ,

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.

 

Tags: , , , , ,