I remember being completely fascinated by all things Catholic when I was a child. I remember seeing nuns and wanting to be one. One of my favorite movies was “The Trouble with Angels” and my heroine was the young girl who went on to become a nun. I remember watching, with great curiosity, the election, and installation of Pope John Paul I and I remember my sadness when he passed away so early in his pontificate. I remember how excited my younger brother and I were watching the white smoke rise from the Sistine Chapel announcing the election of John Paul II. I’ve always been drawn to the Catholic Church.
I was raised in a charismatic, evangelical church that eventually became the “no-name cult” in Eastern Washington. Thankfully our parents recognized the danger our family was in and left long before the group took complete control of our congregation. We spent the next several years wandering in search of a community my parents agreed with spiritually. I can’t remember how many different churches we attended in those years, but I don’t recall my parents ever feeling at home in any one denomination.
When I entered college, I stopped going to church, funny since the school I attended was a private christian college. If I met a guy I particularly liked who was a church goer, I’d go just to impress him, but it never stuck. My mother warned me I’d be back; that God had something great planned for me. I’d just laugh.
My second year in school I met my husband Wingnut. He was raised Catholic, but was never confirmed and hardly ever attended Mass. Sometimes he’d go to Mass just to please his mom but it was always short lived. He and I dated off and on for the next three years, mostly long distance. He was at the Air Force Academy and I was in school in Washington State. My senior year Wingnut proposed and I accepted. The week after his graduation from the Academy, we were married, outside of any church affiliation. I often smirk now, when I recall the conversation my mother had with me the day of our wedding rehearsal. She told me he would make me Catholic (like it was some kind of disease) and I reassured her it would never happen. Neither one of us was religious, he didn’t even believe in God and I was hiding from Him. Becoming Catholic was the furthest thing from any of our ideas for our future.
Our first year of marriage was very difficult. Wingnut was in pilot training which only put that much more pressure on surviving marriage. We both drank way too much and fought almost everyday. We discussed ending our marriage more than once that first year, but then we got pregnant. Pregnancy was beautiful. Hubby and I were both fascinated with the new life going inside me. It added a new dimension to our relationship and re-sparked the fire we once had for each other. When #1 was born it was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to either one of us. The experience itself impressed upon me that God was really there and I had better stop ignoring Him. She was gorgeous and every new thing she did or discovered was a miracle and I knew it.
Wingnut graduated from pilot training and we were assigned to AWACS in Oklahoma City. The first year of #1's life Daddy was deployed a lot. He spent weeks on end in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. We both missed him terribly. I felt an ache and yearning in my heart that just wasn’t being filled and I knew I had to do something to fill it. I began to bug Wingnut to go to church, any church. I wanted our daughter to be raised with a religious background of some kind. Wingnut insisted we find a Catholic church because that was what he knew. I was secretly thrilled. I sought his mother’s advice and I continued to hound him about going. His mother once said if I could get him to go just one time he’d never stop going. She is a wise woman! I finally convinced Wingnut to take us to the Midnight Mass for Christmas at Saint Eugene’s in Oklahoma City and he’s been going to Mass ever since.
We went faithfully every Sunday for a time without doing much more. I expressed a desire to have #1 baptized and so we investigated that option, only to find out we had to jump through a few hoops first. Hubby and I needed to have our marriage convalidated, or blessed by the Church, before having her baptized. We met with our parish priest and he spoke with us about the importance of going to Mass and raising our children in the church. As a protestant, married to a baptized Catholic, I had to promise to allow our children to be baptized and raised Catholic. I willingly agreed and planned on remaining protestant myself. We had our marriage blessed, #1 was baptized, we continued going to Mass, and we registered in our parish.
A few weeks later we began receiving our diocesan newspaper. Our first issue was completely devoted to Natural Family Planning. Neither Wingnut nor I had ever heard of it. We were faithful and responsible contraception users, being open to life was a whole different world to us. I read that paper front to back and I was completely struck with the truth in it. I was impressed with the idea that the church that got the whole idea of the sanctity of life correct had to be correct about most everything. I was intrigued and wanted to learn what more the Church had right. Wingnut and I decided we should go to RCIA classes. I had just become pregnant (a side effect of loving the idea of NFP), so we decided I would attend classes first and he would go the year after our second child was born. The RCIA course in our parish was co-taught by our two priests. It was a no holds barred introduction to Catholicism. I loved every class and would go home to Hubby and tell him each week what it was he really believed. Wingnut grew up going most of his school years to Catholic schools but somehow he had never learned what it was to be truly Catholic. He was amazed by the depth of what the church offered.
We began to pray together and pray especially for people to enter our lives that would help us navigate this new Faith. Almost immediately our prayer was answered. Wingnut had met an extremely orthodox Catholic co-worker who invited us to attend a weekly rosary prayer group. For the next year we attended this prayer group, made life long friends and received the guidance and support our fledgling Catholic Faith needed. I don’t think I thank God enough for the gift of this answered prayer!
I was nearing my initiation into the church and one of our final classes in RCIA was a walk-through teaching Mass. Our priest took us step by step through the entire Mass and explained what would happen and the significance of each event. When he spoke about the Eucharist he explained in detail the form and the intent. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. We eat the body of Jesus? I raised my hand and asked: “Do we have to believe that?” Father Fuller stopped and very calmly let us all know that unless we did believe the Eucharist was the body and blood of Jesus we may as well not go on to become Catholic. At that very moment I believed. It was an act of will, but it was also a great gift of Faith given to me at that very moment. I will never forget it. It was the easiest choice I have ever made. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Hubby that he believed the Eucharist was the body and blood of Christ. The choice to believe was just as easy for him.
The rest is quite simple. I went on to enter the Church at the Easter Vigil two months before our son JP was born. Wingnut was finally confirmed by one of the auxiliary military bishops the following fall. We’ve gone on to have four more children, have become NFP instructors for CCL, and have been a mentor couple for engaged couples in our home parish. The path I travelled is still a source of wonder for me. I truly believe there has been someone praying for me my whole life and this is the place those prayers have led me.