12 October 2013

Christmas, 1993

By December of 1993, I knew that the thing that had come upon me was not something that, like a nightmare, I was simply going to wake up from.  I was not going to realise that, of course, the Catholic Church, though it might have a number of good things that I had not thought of, was not uniquely the Church of Christ.  It was not simply one denomination amongst many.

I could not continue talking about this issue with friends on the Internet, and with Susan, without telling my children about it - and without telling the elder assigned to us as pastor.  Christmas was a Saturday that year. On Saturday 18 December, I 'phoned Roel Voschezang and asked him if he could drop over to our house after dinner that evening.  I had something I needed to talk with him about.

Roel was a wonderful man ('was' because he died in, I think, 2011).  He and I shared books and had many intellectual interests in common.  Our church had several 'ruling elders' - men who helped govern the congregation but were not licensed to preach - and, quite sensibly, assigned several families to each elder under his pastoral care.  I loved Roel and did not look forward to telling him that something had happened to me that might make me believe I was obliged to become a Catholic.

I had said nothing to our children about this possibility.

Almost every dinnertime in our family I read aloud whilst we eat.  During the years our children were at home we read through a great many books - readings which, I know (because they have told me), they remember with very mixed feelings.  This evening, I said, we would not read at table.  I had something I needed to talk with them about.

Had they already sensed that something was up?  Possibly one of them will read this and tell me.  Nonetheless, they can have known nothing of what, specifically, was going on.  They were astonished - and excited.

The excitement was understandable.  Our family had been serious, dedicated, Reformed Protestant Christians all their lives.  We had joined the Reformed church shortly before Johnny, our eldest, was born.

And the Catholic Church was definitely forbidden fruit.  I am sure part of the excitement was due to novelty.

Not all.  I received from Johnny the most exalted compliment I have ever received: "Well, Dad, I can say one thing: you have always stood up for what you believed was right."  I pray I may be worthy of it.

Whether it was the excitement itself; some infectious agent; or something she ate, Adele announced that she didn't feel too well.  She stopped eating.  Roel showed up towards the end of dinner.  The time that I talked with him was punctuated by Adele's loud vomiting in the toilet in the other room.

I told Roel that I had been reading materials about the Catholic Church.  I told him that I was quite disturbed.  I said that it could ultimately mean that I would have to become a Catholic.  The next day - Sunday the 19th December - was to be a Communion Sunday (Communion was celebrated only bimonthly in our congregation).  Should I not Communicate?

Had I decided to become a Catholic?  I said I had not.  I said that I had no intention of becoming a Catholic - a statement, I now realise, and, perhaps, realised privately at the time, that was ambiguous.  When one says, in English, that one has no intention of doing something, the statement, taken literally, simply says that one does not positively intend to do it; a common way of taking it is that one has a positive intention not to do it.  I am not certain what Roel took me to mean; I know that I meant only the first.

I should go ahead and Communicate, Roel said.  After all, it was perfectly sensible to learn about the Catholic religion.  Indeed, he would give me a book to read that he thought would help.

I was relieved - relieved, but, in fact, uneasy.  I think that even at that early date I knew for certain, at some level within me, that I was bound for the Catholic Church.

No comments: