I grew up in what would be in Dr. Laura Schlesinger’s phrase “an interfaith-less home”. My father was a semi-lapsed Catholic and former altar boy. My mother was a Methodist who never went to church. My father put my mother in charge of raising me Catholic, so you can figure out how well THAT worked. I can still remember my mother trying to teach me the Hail Mary! Anyways, my brother and I attended CCD off-and-on for a couple years and my family went to mass off-and-on, but more off than on. It didn’t help that we were going to a typical suburban parsh with in the era of “God loves you no matter what you do, go make your collage” catechism and campfire-song guitar music at mass. Definitely NOT the way to inspire reverence for the faith. By the time I was a teenager, we weren’t even C-E Catholics (That would be Christmas and Easter, for those not familiar with the term) and I was basically an agnostic. I still got confirmed, but I don’t honestly remember much from confirmation class except some cheesy retreat we went on.
My freshman year of college, I was attracted to a girl who went to what was then called the Church of Christ (Boston Movement). (My understanding is that they’ve undergone a few name changes since then). I went to her church for about 3 months, including undergoing a full immersion baptism in a condo swimming pool. The whole issue of baptism was pushed very fast on me in their Bible study, before I really knew what I was doing, and there was definitely an issue of psychological pressure going on. That night, after I got back to my room and dried off, I broke down and started to cry because I knew that something just didn’t feel right. I called my friend, intending to tell her that I wasn’t going to the Sunday service the next day. She convinced me to ride it out and continue to come, which I did for the next few months.
My parents were upset at my decision for different reasons. My dad felt betrayed, even though he hadn’t really practiced his faith in years (this is a common reaction), and my mom because there had appeared on the local news a story about this church labelling them a cult. This particular church has certain cult-like aspects, including use of “disciplers” who are sort of like spiritual directors. One other aspect is that they insist on all the members of a large metropolitan area meeting in a central location for most of the services. Those that fail to show up could expect to get a phone call from their discipler. In my case, once I was home for the summer, it was very impractical to make it all the way into downtown every Sunday as I was in the far-flung outskirts of the suburbs. I started reading a book by Isaac Asimov called “Beginnings”, which basically was a tour of history going backward to the Big Bang. When asking my fellow church members what they thought of the dinosaurs, I got what I considered some very unsatisfactory answers (Stuff like “The devil put the bones there to confuse us”). I wasn’t about to turn off my brain and accept that, so I quit that particular church and went back to being an agnostic.
Flash forward about 3 years. I met another girl (a freshman at the time) who was Catholic but was a bit more serious about it than I was. She taught the local CCD class. I’m sorry to say that I eventually had a very bad influence on her, and we ended up living together (with all that entails) for a couple years before we finally got married. She was insistent that we get married at the local Catholic parish, and were aided by the fact that the priest didn’t ask too many probing questions about our living arrangements. My wife was a little sensitive to the situation, and therefore opted for a wedding ceremony without a mass – an option that I wasn’t familiar with. We attended church sporadically.
About a year later, my wife was struck with a sudden need to go to confession. She had been going to a job which she absolutely hated for a few months. During her lunch hour, she noticed that there was a church nearby, and, driven by a need to get out of her office environment, she had been going to the noon daily mass there. The peace she received there proved to be just enough to get her through the day. She made an appointment to go to a priest for confession and spilled her guts over the course of an hour. After that, we went regularly to mass and she eventually convinced me to go to confession too. I have been going to church ever since then. (cont’d)