19 October 2013

Family Camp 1994

The beginning of 1994 was strange, and upsetting.  It began with the Reformed Church Family Camp.

When did we start going to Family Camp?  Perhaps 1989?  Annually, from the Friday following Christmas, North Island families spend a week at Finlay Park.  Typical summer holiday activities, coupled with religious study and - well, 'activities.'  Somewhere there is a photo of me and our four children playing music at Family Camp.

We went to camp after Christmas in 1994.  My closest friend Ross noticed that there was something different about me.  I spent much of the time sitting alone re-reading John Henry Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine and his Apologia pro Vita Sua.  I lived, at this time, and in the first months of 1994, in a tension of fear and desire - on the one hand, fear lest someone should discover what I was thinking about; on the other, the desire excitedly to engage my friends on the topic of the possibility that the Catholic Church was, purely and simply, Christ's unique mystical presence on earth.

I was rapidly becoming convinced that the fundamental question to be answered was not whether this or that Catholic teaching (many of which I misunderstood, in any case) - Mary, Purgatory, images - was true.  The fundamental question to be answered was whether there was such a thing as an authority on earth with the right to be able to speak in Christ's Name.

I had, many years before, asked my pastor how I could know what was in the canon of Scripture.  I was beginning to realise that the very most basic idea of Protestantism, that of Sola Scriptura, had no foundation itself.  Where did this idea come from?  Why did we think Scripture was 'specially from God?  Why was the Book of Mormon not from God?

I was afraid of the storm that would arise if my elders in the Reformed Church knew of what I was thinking.  I had told Roel Voschezang.  He had not seemed terribly disturbed, but I feared he had not really understood how seriously I was worried.  He had given me a book to read - I do not remember what book it was - but all that book had seemed to me to be saying was that we could properly consider Catholics as Christians.

I was reading now everything I could get my hands on.  I re-read a number of my Reformed writers - R. J. Rushdoony, Cornelius Van Til, James B. Jordan - but also a number of others whose books had been sent to me by Protestants on Christia.  None of these seemed remotely as persuasive as the many Catholic books by authors such as Karl Keating, John Hardon, Frank Sheed, and many others.

I feared my elders finding out what was going on - but longed to talk to others.  I began discussing matters with Reformed friends.  They were uniformly surprised, shocked, even - but deeply interested and our discussions went on.  Indeed, of the half dozen or so I talked to, none is now Reformed; two are Catholics.

I began attending Mass at the Newman Centre at the University.  Sue and I attended Saturday Easter Vigil Mass at St Patrick's parish in Pukekohe (and, I think, were put off by the whole thing; much of the Protestant unhappiness with Catholicism is visceral and cultural - nothing to do either with teaching or with fundamental questions of authority).

Things went along thus with my becoming more and more upset and afraid.  Dinners at our house ceased to resemble normal family mealtimes and became more and more religious debating periods.

Things came to a head in June, 1994.

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