It is embarrassing to recall that I didn’t think my grandparents were Christians. They were Catholics, you see, and so I believed that they worshipped the chipped statue of Mary that stood atop their China hutch. I must even have thought that they intended to hoist themselves into heaven with the rosaries that hung on their bedroom mirror. As an earnest young Evangelical Protestant, I set my faith against theirs.
I only realised how stark this opposition must have been in my mind when I stumbled last week across the testimony that I read out when I was baptised at age 13. Here is what I told the people who assembled on the river bank to see my immersion:
I am a second-generation Christian, and was therefore taught the truths of the Bible my entire life, but it was not until I was three years old that I entered into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My mother was tucking me into bed and listening to my prayers. She was pregnant with my little brother Joseph, and it was this fact that sparked my interest in the Lord. “Mom,” I said, “Can I have Jesus come into my tummy, too?” My mother then led me in prayer as I accepted Jesus into my heart – or tummy, as it were. In a way, I was led to Christ by my unborn sibling.
I was a “second-generation Christian”. An unborn brother might play an unwitting role in a faith like mine, but aside from my Evangelical parents (one a former Catholic, the other a lifelong Methodist) I had no forebears in faith. Generations of Christians, my grandparents included, were neatly excluded.
When I became a Catholic, I did not cease to be susceptible to such unjust renunciations. If before I stood at risk of erasing my Catholic grandparents from my spiritual autobiography, I now faced the same risk with my parents. How could I be a good son despite the action of Christ’s dividing sword? In my journey from anti-Catholic to Catholic, I have tried to keep two things in mind: many criticisms of the Church are valid, and my reasons for becoming Catholic, whatever their merits, were based on lessons taught me by my Protestant parents.
Along with a whole generation of altar boys raised in the post-conciliar church, my father felt that drawing near to Christ meant walking away from Rome. In this or any age, the Church, however spotless, looks to human eyes like an unattractive bride.
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