Nov 3, 2008

Telling the family

Shortly after I resolved to pursue my faith in the Church (I've taken to calling the Catholic Church "the Church" [big C] but I don't mean to position it against the Mystical Body of the Church), I began telling family members, and a few close friends. It was an exhausting, challenging, and yet rewarding week-long experience.

Tiffany and I had spoken about it a number of times in the past few months, with increasing sincerity. On Saturday, after initially reading the inspirational passage from Crossing the Tiber, I had told her, "I think I am a Catholic."

That evening and the following morning at Agora, we discussed the relationship between soul and body in a topic poignantly entitled, "Who I am." I took issue with the presumed dichotomy between soul and body - another example of the disconnect I commonly felt when perceiving Protestant "either/or" mentality compared to Catholic "both/and" understandings on the same issues. When we got back home, my book was still open to the same page, I read the same passage again, and this time, in a trying-it-on sort of voice to answer the "Who I am" rhetoric, I said aloud to myself, "I am a Catholic."

I told Tiffany again, but this time I told her, "Yeah, I am a Catholic."

She has been great - for the last few months of my searching, and for the last week of my intensified interest, activity, and publicity. I have no doubt she is the woman God made for me. We are still discussing and talking thru the full meaning of what my conversion means for our family, but I feel this experience will only strengthen our relationship and love for each other.

The next day, Monday, I tapped out a short email to my sister-in-law, Laura, telling her about my decision and asking if she could put me in touch with her priest to talk about joining the Church. Her response was an immediate phone call and a gracious invitation for Tiffany and I to come talk to her, John, Anson, and Meredith about it. I have to say from that evening I have felt an increased, indescribable, closeness to them. I enjoyed sharing my "testimony" with them and I can only hope to live up to their faithful examples.

Tuesday morning I told my brother, Matt, over IM. Like with most other people, I think I had dropped hints over the preceding months, so I don't think it completely surprised him. He has been Catholic for years as well, and we were able to share more experiences later in the week.

That afternoon I had lunch with Pastor Jeff from Agora. He reacted like I hoped, and expected, he would - with active interest and joyful optimism. It was actually his support that made me start this little blogging project. I look forward to continuing our journeys of faith together.

Wednesday I think I took a bit of a break. And good thing too ...

Thursday night I told my parents. They had a gathering at their house before, and Andrew, whom I mentioned in my first post, serendipitously stayed afterwards. I told him I was over to tell my parents, and he and his wife Carrie offered to pray with me. I was joyously surprised, yet again, at how welcoming these members of Christ's Body were to me.

I've been saying that the talk with my parents did not go as well as I could have hoped, but it also did not go as poorly as I could have feared. Again I had tried to drop some hints over the past few months, and I could tell that they weren't completely surprised by the news.

My dad is the most learned and well-read men I have ever known, so he was ready, and a little overly eager to start discussing all the specific doctrinal challenges he has with the Church. Against his well-researched list of complaints I felt overwhelmed and none of the striking Scriptural arguments I had read came back to me at the time, so I resigned to absorbing his arguments with faint "But that's just your interpretation" comments; taking internal intellectual solace in the fact that the Sola Scriptura foundation on which he seemed to have built his cases had long since eroded from my mind. And I know and embrace that some of the doctrinal issues he pointed out - Papal Infallibility, Maryology, Sola Gratia - will be challenging, but I've reached the point where God's pull to His Church is overpowering my mind's hurdles.

Mom seemed more curious, but I also detected perhaps a little sadness. I think maybe she felt that I dislike or do not appreciate my Evangelical upbringing - which is not the case at all! On the contrary, my parents created a home of love and nurture mixed with faithful resolve, and instilled in all of us a strong desire for spiritual growth. There is no doubt in my mind that my Evangelical upbringing is what gives me this strong desire to continuously seek more of God. She asked me why I felt like I had to become Catholic to further my faith. The short answer is that I am compelled by an inexpressible force - which I feel to be Love ...

I've heard the analogy made between joining the Church and marriage, and it seems to fit my understanding. When I committed myself to Tiffany, I didn't comprehensively know all her thoughts, and I didn't perceive all her emotions. But I did know with certainty that she was the woman who will cause (sometimes force) me to grow into the man I am supposed to be - and I needed to commit myself to her and to that growth. In like manner, I believe my commitment to the Church is likewise my commitment to grow into the Christian I am supposed to be.

At the same time I was telling my parents, Tiffany was telling Esther, my sister-in-law. I don't think they spoke too much about it, but I know Esther has told my brother Mark, with whom I still need to sit down to talk more seriously.

The day after telling my parents, I had a strange feeling that I couldn't quite pin down. I caught myself tearing up in the car TWICE - and I haven't cried in years, that I can remember. Matt summed it up better than I could have myself. I also told my sister Christy and her husband, Mike. This telling was relatively quick and seemed almost small news in comparison to a similar dialog they had with mom and dad. ;)

The next day I think I felt *comfort* in the Dad/Hero metaphor - it's inevitable that heroes' sidekicks eventually strike out on their own, and it's a bittersweet encounter for both. But I finally feel like I'm entering my own Christian way, and hoping by God's grace that I can train my children in the same manner.

It was an exhausting week, and I feel bad for not having spoken face-to-face with Mark yet; when we saw each other on Sunday I was still pretty wiped out on the affair from the previous week, and he was only in town for a weekend spell. I hope we can talk more when he gets back. That may be another post entirely. :)


Matt said...

You are a man amongst men, my friend!

I hope I've said it before, but I am really excited, intrigued, fascinated, etc. by your journey and can't wait to learn more. No one can deny your sincerity nor question your prudence, not to mention your passion is contagious!

Saint said...

Like I said, I'm excited for you bro and will be here (of course, in the extra-metaphysical sense, heh) for you.

The Protestant "separation" theology stems, I think, from Luther's understanding of Communion as consubstantiation, that is, as the Body being "On, under and around" the bread (or something like that, I forget the exact words). Of course, this is semantically slightly different than the shared essence that the Church teaches, but it's much more significant when we understand the implications of those words.

I think, once you start taking Communion, you'll come to understand what the whole Last Supper scene is all about, and also Paul's writings on the subject. But they call it a "mystery" for a reason, and it really is something that is experiential, and thus annoyingly hard to explain.

Monk-in-Training said...

Dominus Vobiscum!