Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why I am Catholic, and why I stay Catholic

I've been asked this a lot recently Why are you Catholic? Why do you STAY Catholic? They're good questions, with long answers. So I'll nutshell it here for you...

I was enamored with Church and Mass from the moment I can remember; from the smell of the incense, the sound of the hymns and choirs, the beauty of the art. Before I began CCD, I knew something...huge...was going on up on the altar during the consecration. When I did begin CCD, I became a "Church nerd". This meant my teachers loved me, my classmates ridiculed me, and I was left to ponder the Mystery on my own. I thought I wanted to be a priest (at least until puberty hit).

Fast forward a couple of decades...like many Catholics of my generation, I stopped attending Mass after confirmation, and my faith and prayer life dwindled. I dabbled in various esoteric religions; Buddhism, Paganism, etc. All had shreds of wisdom and the ritual I so loved, but my heart longed for the Eucharist. I tried to fill the emptiness from that and other things with booze, and this developed into full-fledged alcoholism. Luckily, I've been blessed enough to have an understanding and long-suffering wife to help me through all this without leaving me or killing me (but that is a whooooooole other story).

To make a long story short (too late), I remain Catholic due to the intercession of John Paul II. On August 30th, 2001, my wife and kids were away at my inlaws suummer house, and I was grimly setting myself up for a full weekend bender. I had been to the hospital several weeks before for excessive alcohol consumption. Didn't phase me a bit. There was drinking to be done. I was finishing off my third bottle of wine, had the bottle upended and was slugging it down. EWTN happened to be on in the background...I certainly was not conscious of turning it on...and my back was to the TV. As the last of the wine was disappearing down my throat, I heard in a warm yet unfamiliar voice:

"Thomas...you need to stop, NOW."

Of course I was alone but it was conversational, right in my ear. I looked back at the TV and there was the Pope, beset by his Parkinson's disease; leaning on his Papal Cross. And looking right at the camera. Right at me.

The urge to continue drinking disappeared. I called my wife, told her I was an alcoholic, and that I needed to get help. I called AA and made my first meeting the next day. I've been sober for going on 10 years, thanks to my wife, AA, Jesus in the Eucharist...and the intercession of Blessed John Paul II.

I'm a better husband and father than I ever was. I'm a better man than I've ever been. And it's largely due to my regained faith.

Feast of Saint Philip and Saint James, Apostles
Daily Mass Readings
1 Corinthians 15:1-8
Psalm 19:2-5
John 14:6-14

Monday, May 2, 2011

Death of an enemy

I'm not going to post any links to the news stories about the death of
Osama bin Laden or any conspiracy theories about what "really" happened.
We've all heard them by now.  Even amongst the conspiracy theorists,there is universal agreement that bin Laden is dead.

It's hard to know how to react.  I was 2 blocks away from Ground Zero on
9/11/2001, and continued to work there until 2005.  Friends and relatives of mine were killed, wounded, and worked on the pile.  It took almost 10 years (perhaps not that long, if some of the conspiracy theories are to be believed), but the man who claimed responsibility for orchestrating these attacks has been killed.  I pray this brings some small modicum of closure for the victims and their families.  When I watched the news in the wee hours this morning, part of me wanted to join in the spontaneous jubilation in front of the White House, in Times Square, and at Ground Zero.  

Another part of me was embarrassed and ashamed by what I saw.  

The parallels between the celebrations of Americans at the death of bin
Laden and that of many in the Arab world (and certain Arab-American communities) in the wake of the 9/11 attacks struck me hard. Celebrating the death of a person or a people you believe to be evil: How far removed are we as Americans from those who celebrated our darkest moment?

Loving our enemies is a tall, tall order from God.  It is one I am not prepared to carry out in this instance, at least not yet.  I pray that someday God will grant me the will to forgive.  I'm not there right now, and I know God understands.  He doesn't expect anything from me I'm not
capable of.  Maybe the idea that I write "not yet" instead of "never" is a small instance of progress and the movement of Grace within my heart.

I hope so.

Peace be upon us all.

Memorial of St. Athanasius
Daily Mass Readings
Acts 4:23-31
Psalm 2:1-9
John 3:1-8