I am a Catholic. I converted. My reasons are my own and nothing that would shake the earth. I have been questioned living here in my new location. Surprisingly my admission has raised a few eyebrows. A Catholic priest blessed my daughter’s marriage and her new in-laws were as nervous as I’ve ever seen a group of people be. Her mother-in-law had asked me about Catholicism and what it would mean to their children. I managed to keep a straight face when I said, “Well, the second born is always given to the Church, even if it’s the only son.” For two minutes, not seconds, minutes, she believed me. I did my best to reassure her that there would not be any drastic differences in their lives. Probably none she could ever see. She did ask if Catholics celebrated all the Christian holidays as they do in her Baptist church, which is very Christian. “We believe in Christ. We don’t worship Him dead on the cross like you do.” I explained the crucifix but it went passed her somehow. All she heard was that she could expect a Christmas tree in the house. When I told her there would even be a crèche she got lost again. I quit while I was ahead.
I wear a little cheap bracelet (see close up photo) that is called the Emergency Pass to Heaven. It is fully loaded with Jesus and Mary, Jesus on the Cross, the Holy Spirit, St. Joseph, and St. Christopher. And as the card in my wallet describing the medal says, “But that’s not all!”
On the back is the twelve stars representing the Apostles surrounding the “M” for Mary and the cross which symbolizes, you guessed it, Christ the Redeemer. Also on the back is the symbol of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Holding the Baby Jesus who promised that whoever wears the scapular will never see the fires of Hell. AND it says, “I am a Catholic. Call a Priest.” But that’s only in case of a serious accident. And only if I can’t speak for myself. I didn’t take a photo of the back simply because I didn’t want to overload anyone’s senses.
I also have a mouse pad (see other photo) of Sister from the Heavenhelpus site that makes all these neon-colored medals and wonderfully tongue in cheek things. The mouse pad reminds me not to go to those sketchy websites. Sister has her eye on me. My Dragon would have defied her on principal alone. He would have loved it.
I know the stories. I’ve heard the accusations. I’ve seen Bill Mahr’s “Religulous.” I’ve met priests and nuns who did not earn my respect, whose lives I didn’t feel had one speck of grace in them. I’ve also met greedy lawyers, arrogant doctors, angry retail employees, nasty bankers, evil politicians, crappy mothers, and bad fathers. I’ve seen cheating wives and I have noticed cruel husbands. Lived with one for a while. I'm one of those out there kind of people who fully believes that avarice is not selective to one group, species, gender, or faith. Bad people are not wholly a Catholic domain.
Contrary to this, I’ve met a man whose job it was to kill people in war, combat, however you describe it and he is the kindest, gentlest, most loving, and humblest soul I’ve ever known. He fully believes he’s going to Hell. I know he couldn’t have. He has too much honor, too much sorrow, and too much reverence for life. Being a soldier is complicated. It’s a whole other blog.
I’ve had a couple of my most significant moments because of Catholicism, epiphanies, if you will. I know I wrote about it before. I’ll only touch on it here. When my mother was dying, my Methodist pastor came once and expounded for an hour with Bible readings and his canvas, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” In my six months watching her die, it was the only visit I got and it was the most soul draining. A priest I caddied for on the golf course came several times because he felt “compassion for my wee lass up here in the wards alone.” His Irish brogue was very heavy even after all his years in the States. When I asked the hard questions, he held my hand and said, “Lass, I don’t know. I know your fine mother is hurting. I do fervently believe our Lord is crying with you. I have no idea of His great plan but I know that you are loved even if you can no feel it tonight. See, that’s why He put it in me head to drive the two hours up here. Now, girlie, eat the burger and drink the shake and let me tell you about how terrible me golf game has been.”
You had to have been there at 2 AM in the waiting room of the ICU. I cried with him and he had me laughing. And then I slept with my legs stretched out across the seats while he kept vigil and read, yes, the Bible. He had all the books of the Bible in these separate little bindings. He carried one until he’d read it and made notes in the margin. Then you’d see him with another one, another book. He was a good person and a fine priest. He baptized me and comforted my Methodist father who was very angry and upset at my conversion to Catholicism by saying, “Good, Lord, man, it’s not like she’s shaved her head, put on a caftan, and is trying to sell flowers at the airport. Yes, we’re a cult. Oldest one. Been around for a two thousand years. You Methodists were the rebels who deserted us. There, there, I’ll take good care of her. She’s a grown woman, man. Dry the tears. You’re wetter than she is and I sprinkled the water on good.”
Funniest priest I’ve ever met. I’m sorry he’s passed. I’m sure his wisdom and Irish mysticism would have been a comfort now that my Dragon has died. He would have loved my Dragon. What wonderful conversations (read arguments) they would have had. An Irish priest and a half Russian, half Sioux Marine. I would have kept them in Guinness and made sure the tape recorder had fresh batteries and ready tapes to change out.
I miss them both. The world is a darker, less spiritual, and most definitely a less funny place because my priest and my Dragon are gone. I wonder if they’re talking now?