Bible Belt

Conversion, Part Five: The Summer Months

In the more than two months since I have written about my movement toward becoming a Catholic, a lot has changed. It may not be possible to include it all here. After I had decided to join the Catholic Church after a period of weekly church attendance and accompanying introspection, our church attendance fell to zero during the busy summer months, mainly as we were at the lake most weekends, thus missing the Saturday evening and Sunday morning services. I will admit that I missed the homilies, and I kind of missed the routine of getting up and dressed to go; however, I was not idle during the months of June and July with respect to this sea-change in my life.

Aware that I was missing church, but not ready yet to address the matter of conversion with my wife, I went to a bookstore and bought a copy of the Catechism to read. Since marrying my wife in the Church more than ten years ago, the issue of whether or not I would convert has always been left to me, with no pressure. I had usually proclaimed that I would attend RCIA classes at some point, and if I agreed with what I learned there, then I would be baptized and join the Church at the appropriate time. Knowing full well the furor that would ensue if I declined to join, I knew the move was risky, and the knowledge fueled my reticence far more than other issues in my life. Having a copy of the Catechism has allowed me to read from the doctrinal proclamations of the Church without going so far as engaging them in a public forum and allowing myself to consider privately what my ideas and responses are. So far, I have read about a third of the first section on the creed – about the first 100 pages – as well as scattered sections on a variety of subjects that interest me particularly.

In recent years, when late summer came around, I talked about signing up for RCIA classes, which always begin in the fall and culminate in baptism around Easter, but never did it, mostly for two reasons, I thought. First, the inconvenience of going to the church one night a week for an hour or so of religious instruction, and second, my hesitation about beginning based on my fears about what might happen if I went through the classes only to realize that it was not for me. However, I am finding that a third cause, which has probably been there all along, prompts some hesitation for me. Because I was never a regular church-goer, that is part of my personality, part of who I am, and I am feeling a loss of identity in some way, like I am turning away from who I have been my entire life. In a way this decision to join the Catholic Church feels like losing something else, something comfortable and familiar that I will never be able to return to.

I called last week and put my name on the list for the RCIA class that are conducted locally by St. Bede Church. The woman I spoke with on the phone has known my wife and her family for a long time, and even taught my wife in Catholic school, so she was quite excited to hear from me apparently. The classes begin on August 24, the day after my 37th birthday. I have told my wife what I am doing, mainly because it was necessary since I would be out of the house every Wednesday night, and my mother too, but I have asked them both not to share it with other people yet. I’m not ready to discuss it or even to celebrate it, which a lot of my Catholic family and friends will want to do.

 

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