As a child I had always been a rule follower. If the sign said keep of the grass I used sidewalks, I didn’t talk out loud in the library or in line entering church, and never got a detention in school. Rules taught by parents and teachers were there for my protection and I didn’t see a point in wasting time learning lessons the hard way. It just seemed practical, efficient, and logical. With the loss of my first baby and a conversation with a priest in a plane I had heard God calling me home and figured the best way to know what God wanted was to obey the few dos and don’ts of my childhood faith until my mind was more clear. If I stopped fighting the current, I knew I would have time to look around and find out where I was and where I needed to go; besides obedience was comfortable. There were issues I had with the Catholic Church, but I knew God was there.
My husband was not catholic. In hypothetical discussions he claimed not to have a problem with my raising future children Catholic, but once I became pregnant I started to worry that maybe once it was real he would. Eight months after losing our first child we were expecting our second. We also began to spend time with some neighbors who were raised Catholic, but were not practicing their faith either. They had one child. I don’t remember how the subject came up, but during one conversation about faith and needing to return to it, I asked what was needed to Baptize our baby at the Chapel on base. She had mentioned needing to baptize her child too and even asked if we would be the Godparents. It was very moving to me to be asked, even though at the time I didn’t appreciate the responsibility of the position. I was also very relieved when my husband Jason agreed to be a “Christian Witness” (Godparents have to be Catholic). We started attending Mass, registered at the on base Chapel as parishioners and signed up for the Baptism class. When Jason said yes to being a “Christian Witness” he took his responsibility serious enough to at least understand what it meant. (Thank you Sherri and Gil for planting a seed.) I also made an appointment with the priest.
The baptism class was not very memorable, but my appointment was. Like the priest in the plane, this Father was an older man. Because we had decided on my sister and her husband as Godparents we opted to baptize our baby back in Florida so our extended family could be together. [On a side note it meant waiting till he was several months old when my husband had leave. We now hate to wait more than a week before baptizing little souls. For one of our more recent children we baptized the baby the day after I was released from the hospital.] Needing Father to sign a letter for my sister’s parish saying we were parishioners at our church and had taken the baptism class there, I went in to speak with Father alone. I was very nervous. Other than the priest in the plane I had not spoken one on one with a priest since childhood confessions. Father was warm and inviting and a little apt to forget what it was he was saying. We were talking about light subjects while father filled out the letter. When Jason’s not being catholic came up, I joked that we would convert him eventually. Father shocked me with his reaction. “Don’t you try!” Ummm… pretty sure priests are supposed to want to convert people. He gave me some incredibly wise advice and my knee jerk reaction to respected authority was to listen.
My preaching could hurt our marriage and would most likely turn Jason off to the faith. If I wanted him to ever convert we were to never argue about his faith. As his wife I was to pray privately and be a positive example of my faith. I had made my choice to marry someone who wasn’t catholic and it would be unfair to expect him to change now. In case anyone might think he meant we should not spread the Gospel and encourage people to join Christ’s church that wasn’t the point. This wise old man had seen a lot of couples over his many pastoral years. As Jason’s wife my nagging him to convert would turn him off. The first mistake with demanding conversion would be changing the rules after the game started. Secondly, Jason needed to be the leader of our family’s faith; it was his responsibility as the head of our household and a follower of Christ. I needed too for him to be the leader, even though at the time if it had been stated to me this way my feminist training would have bitten off someone’s head. [If you’re foaming at the mouth and seething with anger or just think I am some poor subservient twit feel free to write to me and we can discuss the issue, but that isn’t what this post is about.]
With a very thin foundation as to the whys I began to do the few dos and don’ts of my faith that I knew. It was obedience that was allowing me to hear whispers that were guiding me to understanding the many issues I had with the Church and even the issues I hadn’t yet realized I had. Going through the motions of relearning to practice my faith felt right, but not warm and definitely did not feel like a burning passion. With the exception of confession I was trying to be obedient. God’s presence was felt in my heart, but not his love. It would take a yellow butterfly to ignite the flame and time to create a burning fire.