About a year after leaving the military I met a girl and we started to date. She was the first girl I truly dated and she was Catholic. Sunday obligation was important to her parents and they tried for months to get me to go with them. I always refused. I wasn’t Catholic and I didn’t need a building to have a relationship with God. I had my faith and that was enough for me. But as time passed they wore me down and I reluctantly went with them one Sunday. That experience deserves its own post.
Within three months her mom knew that I was the one and began planning the wedding, much behind my back. We had talked about it but nothing serious had been discussed. One day I was told that if I were serious about getting married I had better pick a date because all of the best reception halls were getting reserved a year or more out. A year and a half later their daughter walked down the aisle in a dress of white to a beautiful Catholic wedding.
If any of you have witnessed a Catholic wedding you know that the bride and groom take vows stating that they will be open to life as God grants it to them and that the children be raised with the Catholic faith. I took this vow. Long before I ever learned the true meaning of words like vow, oath, promise or sacrament I held their meaning in my heart.
In the second year of our marriage she got pregnant with our first child. I vowed to raise my children Catholic and I had every intention to do so. I felt it was dishonest to raise a child in a faith that I did not myself hold so I entered the RCIA program at our parish. RCIA stands for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults and is the instruction usually needed for an adult convert to enter into the Catholic Church. On Easter Sunday in 1997 I was accepted into the Catholic Church as a member in good standing. This is the date of my first conversion.
RCIA is meant to open the door to the Catholic faith. It is not meant to answer all questions but to give you a taste of what the faith is all about. For many that is about the extent of their learning about their faith. For some the taste leads to a desire to know more and the more you learn the more you desire to learn. For a few that desire becomes an unquenchable thirst and lifelong quest. When I accepted the faith as my own I brought along my Lutheran baggage. Like so many in Mass today I stood and said “I believe” while in my heart I was saying “but I disagree”. It could be said that I only half converted that day but God wasn’t done with me yet.
Now, as Paul Harvey said so eloquently, here is the rest of the story. Our first three years of marriage went as many of them do. We adjusted to life with someone else and struggled to make ends meet. In general we were as happy as most newlyweds are. Things changed after having our baby. I continued to grow in my newly found faith but she started to grow distant. The distance turned to depression and the depression changed her behavior. In our sixth year of marriage she came to tell me something I had known for a while. She told me she was gay.
I had taken a vow to love her until my last breath. I do not take vows lightly and I was not ready to walk away from this one. I gave her a choice. I told her I would stay with her and be her husband but she would have to stop the lies and behavior that she had been engaged in or I would grant her freedom and she could pursue a life of her choosing. She chose the latter.
I was an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at the time. I served at the Easter Mass in 2000 and then walked out of the church not to return for the next thirteen years. I did not lose my faith. I had asked God to make me a husband and a father and he granted both. I could not believe that he would want me to live the rest of my days alone. If the Catholic Church would not grant me an annulment and allow me to remarry I wanted nothing to do with the Catholic Church. The Catholic faith was now in my blood and that was something I could not change. One cannot accept a faith as being true only to exchange it for another simply because one’s situation in life has changed. Far too many do but truth is truth and does not change its nature at my whim or desire. I had become Catholic and Catholic I would stay.
I left the road to Damascus and began my sojourn in the desert. God walked with me every step and guided me to where I needed to be. When I was ready he brought me home.