Last weekend during the Easter Vigil, our parish welcomed five people into Christ’s Church — two children were baptized and three were graced with the sacraments of confirmation and the Eucharist.
As I saw them receive special blessings throughout Lent, I thought about my own journey to the Church — a winding path, certainly.
To make a long story … well, less lengthy … I was baptized Catholic (yay parents!) but was never really raised in the Church. After my parents divorced, my Sunday mornings growing up were spent alternating between going to a Lutheran church and sleeping in.
While I didn’t necessarily feel a close connection to either Lutheranism or, frankly, to God, there was one thing I loved about growing up Lutheran: church camp. I’ll be honest, I don’t know if we Catholics have closed the gap in this area over the last 25 years, but Lutheran church camp was amazing. Spending a full week away from parents while hiking, swimming, boating, etc., was incredible. (Side note: I had so much fun at summer camp, in fact, that I sought out a Catholic summer camp for my daughter this year. She ships out in July.)
Although I was confirmed Lutheran, it didn’t really stick (obviously), and in my early teens my church attendance declined and my sleeping in rose. As a teenager, many of my friends belonged to a Missionary church, and, once invited, it was easy to see why. The youth group was fun and engaging. We had concerts, helped in the community — we even had a volleyball team. It was during this period in my life that, yes, I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. I was saved! (Though maybe through peer pressure more than my soul being on fire. But either way, I was saved!)
Except, then I wasn’t. After high school, the youth group broke up (for my friends and me, anyway). So as my reason for going to church came to a very abrupt end, so did my action of actually doing so. And for years I drifted not only without a church, but without faith or even the longing for faith. Not only did my interest in God get put on the back burner, that back burner wasn’t even lit.
And then I met a beautiful and devout Catholic. While we were dating, I went to Mass occasionally (and got little out of it other than earning brownie points from the woman I was wooing; I think Grifters call this a “long con”). I’m sure going to Mass (and not being hostile toward the Faith in any fashion) helped earn me enough check marks in the plus column because she agreed (enthusiastically!) to marry me.
After we were married (in the Church), I continued to sleepwalk my way through the faith portion of our marriage. I went to Mass every Sunday and on holy days, but I didn’t know (or care much, really) about the Church’s teachings. I think they call that a “timecard Catholic,” because I’d clock in and clock out Sunday morning.
I’d like to say that changed after our daughter was born, but it didn’t. I figured as long as I was going to Mass, that was good enough. She would see my wife and I as a united front, raising her in the Faith. It was only when she got old enough to start asking questions that panic set in.
So after years of putting it off, I went through the process of becoming fully Catholic, signing up for our parish’s RCIA class. The faith formation that went on for those several months before Easter was underwhelming. Looking back, I’m going to blame my passivity for not getting much out of it. I was like the kid who rolled through high school without caring; in the end, he just wanted the diploma. I just wanted to get the Catholic stamp of approval so my daughter wouldn’t ask why mommy was going to Communion and daddy wasn’t.
I share this story to illustrate type of Catholic we were — and still are, by the grace of God — raising. My daughter, Olivia, who is now 11, had just turned 3 when I entered the Church. Every week, I would return home from the RCIA class, and she would ask, impatiently, “Are you Catholic now?!”
Cut to the Easter Vigil — the Church’s most beautiful liturgy. After being lined up with the other catechumens and candidates, we were anointed with the oil of chrism. Before I could make my way back to the pew, my daughter, God bless her, ran toward me, down the main aisle, at a full sprint with her arms outstretched for a flying hug and screams, with a packed and pious congregation looking on, “Daddy’s Catholic!”
And so I am, sleepwalking and stumbling through my faith no more.
Scott Warden is the associate editor of OSV Newsweekly.