Growing Up Catholic

Although my soul is no longer in her keeping, I owe my life to the Roman Catholic Church. I was born the second of five children into a traditional Catholic home in 1952. My Mom once told us, “If it weren’t for the Pope, four of you wouldn’t be here.”

We went to Mass every Sunday and I attended All Souls School through fifth grade. In the fourth grade I wanted to be a priest. I wrote to Father Foxhoven and I still have his reply telling me how to prepare for the priesthood. Then in seventh grade I discovered girls. They didn’t discover me until years later and then only one or two made the effort.

My sense of calling didn’t survive junior high but my Catholicism did. I faithfully attended Holy Trinity Church, regularly went to confession, occasionally wore a scapular (ask your Catholic friends what it is) and saw the world through Catholic eyes. I had never read a Bible; we didn’t have one in the house. I had never been inside a Protestant church. I was fairly serious for an Anglo youth. At one stage I remember saying 100 prayers every night before going to sleep. It isn’t as pious as it sounds; with practice you can whip out a string of Our Fathers and Hail Marys at a pretty fast clip.

My siblings remind me I had a bit of a temper. They say I hit my sleeping mother with a hammer but I believe I was a toddler and it may have been a toy hammer. At some point in elementary school my sister says I threw a knife at her but I don’t remember that. Domestic violence aside, I remember being an easygoing kid. I had to be since I only weighed 117 pounds in high school. I played JV football and basketball, scoring twelve points in all for the Mighty Rams. I acted in a few plays, joined the chess club and the National Honor Society, wound up as student body president of Sheridan High School and graduated along with ninety-eight other seniors in 1970.

Toward the end of my senior year, the only girlfriend I’d ever had dumped me. She married a twenty-six-year-old ex-marine just a few weeks after I took her to the prom. Devastated, I started looking for something else to give my life meaning. I attended a Sunday night catechism class for which I had to spend an hour in meditation each week and write down my thoughts. I have been journaling ever since.

That fall, a high school buddy named Rick invited me to a Bible study at his sister’s home. It startled me how these ordinary people could read the Bible and pray directly to God without a priest present. They were studying the Gospel of Mark and welcomed my questions. Several weeks passed until, on the evening of January 10, 1971, I prayed to receive Jesus Christ, not sure what all that decision would mean.

My life changed over the next few months as I got involved with these folks. They were part of a new house church and I was their first convert. I later learned the group belonged to the Plymouth Brethren. (If you’ve ever listened to Prairie Home Companion, the Sanctified Brethren to which Garrison Keillor belonged as a boy are part of the PBs.)

To my Catholic upbringing I owe my belief in God, my love of family, my knowledge of right and wrong and my well-developed sense of guilt. Jewish guilt is the only form more powerful than Catholic guilt, but they’ve had centuries longer to perfect it.


*          *          *

“All religions are the same.
Religion is basically guilt with different holidays.”
—Cathy Ladman


9 thoughts on “Growing Up Catholic

  1. Such an interesting story, and one I’ve heard and read many times. If you and the commenters are are truly Truth seekers, and it sounds as if you are, then look (or re-look) at the Catholic Faith more closely. I would recommend any of C.S. Lewis’s writings, Scott Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home (don’t be put off by the name), podcasts by Fr. Mike Schmitz or Bishop Robert Barron. All it takes is a love of Truth and an open heart. God bless you all!

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