There have been many things over the years that I feel now, in retrospect, have been drawing me to the Catholic Church. They are the signposts and landmarks on my road of faith, and I thought, as part of taking my bearings and setting my future course, I would recollect the journey so far.
I was born into a godly home, to parents who loved me and loved God. I remember my parents praying with me, and reading to me from a picture book of Bible stories. The images from that book still are recalled to my mind with a good many Bible stories.
I spent my earliest childhood in a nondenominational faith community formed by our family and perhaps about a dozen others. We were there from before my birth; I don’t remember not being a part of a church. We met in the building of a former skating rink, and it still feels like such a familiar place in my memory. We didn’t have a pastor, that I recall; I remember first encountering the word in a Sunday school lesson and asking what it meant. My recollections of faith in these days consist mainly of Jesus on the flannel board, Zacchaeus in the tree, and heroic tales of Amy Carmichael in India. I remember the ubiquitous portrait of Jesus hanging on the wall, that formed my earliest conception of Christ (Warner Sallman’s The Head of Christ). I remember, possibly as early as age three, the joy of the first time I prayed the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus to come into my heart. A team of young evangelists visited our church; I remember the young man who prayed with me. These were happy times. I remember having friends, and being loved. When I think of my mental concept of Jesus at this time, I think of love.
I remember the first time I encountered death. There was an elderly lady in a wheelchair in our church, named Rosa. I remember one day my mother told me that Rosa had fallen asleep and wouldn’t be waking up. In my mind I remember a rather frightening image of Rosa going to the hospital and the doctors putting her to sleep as for a surgery, or even as a veterinarian putting an animal to sleep. I think I might have understood better if my mom had said that Rosa died. I remember going through a box of Rosa’s things at the church; I got a pocket guide to birds.
We left that church when I was maybe seven or eight, and attended a United Methodist church for several years. These were not such happy times. I didn’t get along well with the other children in Sunday school; I felt rejected and alienated. I remember the worship services; I remember the Apostles’ Creed, and hymns, and the grandiose choir. The ministers seemed like nice men, but I never felt that I knew them and don’t remember their names. The older one would invite all the children to the front of the church to sit when him for a few minutes after worship and before his sermon. It was a beautiful church and service, but it felt cold, and dry. I have no memories of a spiritual life at this time.
When I was about ten, we joined Calvary. Calvary was the church I grew up in. It was affiliated with the Assemblies of God, and especially at that time, was the picture of the Pentecostal movement, with an emphasis on speaking in tongues and spiritual gifts. Calvary was a caring place, full of good people loving God and loving each other. Our worship was taken wholesale from a Don Moen album. (When I bought this CD for myself years later, it brought me back to such a precious place in my heart.)
This was the true birth of my relationship with Christ. I remember crying and praying the sinner’s prayer again with my mother one day, sitting in the car in front of my cousins’ house. I remember the first time I rationally questioned my faith, that horrifying moment, lying in bed one night, when I considered that there might not be a God — the prospect of eternal nothingness. I immediately got out of bed, like a child waking from a nightmare, to talk to my dad about it. I was beginning to discover my mind, and my heart, and my soul.