Conversion, Part Two: Mostly the homilies

*You probably ought to read “Conversion, Part One” first.

Prior to this period of regular church attendance, I had been at most what we call in the South a “C&E” Christian: one who attends church only on Christmas and Easter, and only then to avoid to having our mothers fuss at us for being such disreputable heathens that we don’t even go to church to celebrate the birth and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I have always held fast to the idea that I never liked church. The truth is that I didn’t go and didn’t want to. The difference came in admitting something closer to the truth: I had never tried to like church, I had never allowed myself to be a part of any church, and at various points in my life I had been downright critical of church in general and openly antagonistic toward church-going people in specific.

In recent years, my wife had been making efforts to get back to attending church regularly, especially since our daughter is getting older, and she wants for our little girl to have the same religious foundation that she had growing up. Despite my complete agreement that my lack of religious foundations is regrettable, I usually stayed home on Sundays, using our infant son as my excuse, which in turn allowed our daughter to use me as an excuse. I had tried to be supportive, but the truth was that my half-hearted role in the situation was not enough. The situation came to a head one Sunday morning, when my wife overheard a short conversation between my daughter and I, during which our resistant little girl said, “I don’t want to go to church!” to which I replied, “I don’t blame you, I don’t either.” That exchange caused a flurry of tears and resentment from my wife, and I knew then that I was wrong for my attitude and that, if our family was going to be a church-going family, it meant that I had to change my ways.

However, as hard as bad habits are to break, and as hard as it can be to give something a chance that I had always told myself I didn’t like, the Catholic Church is not the easiest habit to pick up either. I have not found a willingness among Catholics to teach non-Catholics what to do during Mass. In now ten years of being a part of a relatively large Catholic family, and all of them knowing that I don’t know what to say or do during Mass, no one has ever offered to teach me. Maybe it’s my fault for never asking to be taught . . . I don’t know. After now a few months of regular church-going, I have figured out abbreviations on the signage that tells which hymns to sing at which times, but I still don’t know any of the memorized recitations, except for the Lord’s Prayer, which is called the “Our Father” in Catholic churches. I can follow the sung responses to some of the readings that are sung – I don’t know what they’re called – because the person at the podium sings it oout for us first. Of course, I can listen to and understand the homily, which in the Baptist Church was called a sermon. At this point, I respond most predominantly to the homilies, because at this point that is most of what I get out of the Mass.

I have harped a little too much here on some of the negative aspects of the experience, but even so far I have gotten some positive outcomes, too. During Lent, I forget now which Sunday, Father Carucci talked in one homily about how too many people are looking for what will make them happy and make their lives complete by focusing their energy on obtaining temporal things, like money or sex or reputation, but what they should be looking for is eternal happiness and comfort that they will find in God and Jesus. Essentially, he said, instead of looking for a temporary fix of happiness or pleasure, why not look (and find) for happiness that will last forever? Here then is the basis of sin: looking for what God and Jesus can provide everywhere except with Them. I got a lot out of that homily. More recently, since Easter, a visiting priest from the Air Force gave a very comforting homily about how unbaptized people can still get into heaven, which was good to hear since I’ve known now for almost eleven years that I am not baptized and haven’t done anything about it.

 

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