In March, 1997, I talked to Father Aquinas McComb at the Newman Centre about the possibility of counselling.
My family know what behaviour issues I had. I had genuinely believed that becoming a Catholic would somehow take care of these. It did not do so.
Perhaps psychological counselling would help. I had thought that Father Aquinas would recommend me to a counsellor. In some respects, I had thought of him as 'liberal' - his Masses were low-key, rather open and not 'specially traditional.
I was still retaining a distinction in my mind that belongs rather to the world of politics and ideology than to faith. Father Aquinas surprised me by recommending, not a counsellor, but a special Mass for healing.
Father Aquinas, in other words, was a Catholic.
The form of Mass he recommended was, I believe, originally an Anglican idea. It is, in fact, controversial amongst Catholics. Father referred to it as a Mass for healing of my family tree - here is a link to one site that is positive about it. The Mass was something done by Father John Moss at the Catholic Charismatic Centre.
I visited Father John - perhaps in May? He asked me to write, first of all, a bit of a history of myself, including in it any connexions I might have had in the past with occult matters (I was rather surprised when I did so to discover how much of that there had been), and also describing what I knew of my family's history.
I did this, and sent it to him. Father wanted us to bring with us our children - and anyone else we might want to accompany us. We were only finally able to make a date in, I think, August of 1997.
Naturally, Johnny couldn't come as he was living in Seattle. Sue and I, with Helen, Eddie, and Adele, and, as well, two of our friends (who later became Catholics) showed up. Father began Mass as usual. He then prayed for the release from any occult spiritual influences, influences from drug-taking, influences from past family history. He then burned my statement (which, he said, he had not read). Mass continued as normal.
Grace is not a feeling. On the other hand, it is not merely, as some think it, a change in God's attitude towards you. It is invisible, intangible, unable to be sensed - and real. Responded to, it changes you.
I cannot say things suddenly became different. I was, and am, still John Jensen. Nevertheless, I am convinced that was a moment of change, of conversion that has continued to the present day.
That same year, 1997, saw the introduction of an influence in our lives that has been of vital importance to both me and to Susan. It began with my attendance at my first Opus Dei retreat.
23 February 2014
16 February 2014
Newman wrote, near the end of his Apologia pro Vita Sua:
FROM the time that I became a Catholic, of course I have no further history of my religious opinions to narrate. In saying this, I do not mean to say that my mind has been idle, or that I have given up thinking on theological subjects; but that I have had no changes to record, and have had no anxiety of heart whatever. I have been in perfect peace and contentment. I never have had one doubt. I was not conscious to myself, on my conversion, of any difference of thought or of temper from what I had before. I was not conscious of firmer faith in the fundamental truths of revelation, or of more self-command; I had not more fervour; but it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption.
In a way, I could stop here. When I was received into the Church, I had a feeling of having come into port after 53 years of journeying. That feeling has never changed. I can echo with deep conviction Newman's words above.
Nonetheless, I started this series as memoirs - records of things that have happened in my life that I have thought my family and friends might find of interest. Many of these happenings are well known to my children, at least, since they were the results of their own growing up. The most important ones may not be easy to write about at all, for they have been the internal changes in my that have, as I believe, resulted from my becoming a Catholic.
I speak of becoming a Catholic as end end of a journey, the beginning of a new life. In a way, 1996 saw the final end of something which we had started in 1980: home-schooling.
Johnny was the first of our children to go off to a conventional school. In 1991 (I believe it was), he started Fifth Form - now called Year 11 and roughly equivalent to the US Junior Year in high school - at Rosehill College. Helen started the studies that led her to the Bachelor of Music at University of Auckland in 1994. The same year, or possibly 1995, Eddie started Fifth Form at Tuakau College. Now Adele was alone at home.
Adele will be visiting us here from tomorrow - only for two weeks - the first time I will have seen her in almost nine years. I wonder if she will agree with me in this, that 1995 must have been a shattering year for her. We left the Reformed Church, which had been her church home as long as she could remember. For most of her life she had been home-schooled together with her siblings; now they were off to institutional education, or, in the case of Johnny, living overseas. Adele wanted to attend school.
This was no longer home-schooling - but it must have been very difficult for her. She left the house with me at 6AM for the one-hour 'bus ride to Auckland; then transferred to an across-town 'bus - a similar journey brought her home only by about 5PM.
For me and Susan it was likewise a major change. The three children slept nights at home; they were not there during the days. 1996, then, our first year as Catholics, was also the year of the beginning of end of our family as a nurturing environment for children.
It was also a year of a considerable shock to me. This is not the place for details of my bad behaviour - my family, reading this, will know what I mean - but becoming a Catholic was supposed to be the cure of this. By the end of 1996, I knew that things were not to be as simple as that.