This was a great day. I met a very vocal and very articulate individual. It was a pleasure to listen to the life story of the quintessential example of a cultural Catholic.
“I was born a Catholic, was baptized, went to Catholic school and made my first communion. All my family is Catholic. My mother and father donated generously to the church. The priest came to the house and ate and drank with the members of the family. We provided the statue for the May block rosary and processions. There is no way that I am going to be anything but a Catholic. I was born a Catholic, brought up a Catholic and I’m going to die a Catholic.
“So, I tell you, I am in total shock that I have to go through so much red tape to get my husband into the Catholic Church. I mean, we have all the documents that we need to make this go smoothly. We have the divorce decrees, the death certificates, my baptismal certificate, my spouse’s baptismal certificate, I mean, what else could you possibly want? After all, we are not in any big hurry to get married in the Church, we’ve been married now for a number of years and we’re all right. We have a good marriage.
“The one thing that is uncomfortable is to have to sit there when communion time comes around. It’s a shame that we can’t get up with the children and go to communion. So that’s why my spouse really should be Catholic. I know my spouse has had a previous marriage, but the first partner has disappeared and no one knows where. Besides, we have all the documents that we can show you so we can get this thing done without involvingany other first spouse.”
When the talking machine stops for a breath, I inquire where this lifelong Catholic was born. I was told the name of the town and the country but not the exact broader political division (State / Province).
“I’ll have to ask my mother. Why do you have to know that? What does that have to do with my present spouse wanting to be a Catholic?”
“By the way, is this your first marriage?” I asked.
“Oh, fine. Was your first marriage blessed in the Catholic Church? Was your first spouse Catholic?”
“Yes, my first spouse was Catholic. No, we were not married in Church.”
“So you did not submit yourself to the Church’s sacrament of matrimony for your first marriage.”
“No, I did not.”
“So you realize that you could not go to communion then, either.”
“Yes, you’re right. Look, we’re going to have to talk this over together. I had no idea that this was going to be this complicated. I can’t understand why we have to endure all this red tape. All I want is that my spouse here should be Catholic. That’s the only goal. Besides, we have all the documents that we need.”
I went on to explain, “What you call red tape is your version of what Catholics call following the call of Jesus as expressed through His mission to His Church. The disciples of Jesus who follow Him through His Church accept the fact that they cannot be His disciples on their own terms. There are other religions that allow their members to relate to Jesus on their own terms, but not the Catholic Church. It appears to me that if you want to die a Catholic, you will have to experience a change of heart, a conversion, so to speak. "
I went further, “As to your spouse being admitted to the Catholic Church, I can tell you that it is going to take more than a pile of civil documents, and it is going to take longer than a month or two.”
“How long will it take?” she asked.
“I can’t begin to give you an estimate of that until I know the full story as contained in documents and testimony taken from both of you.”
“We’re going to have to talk this over. I never knew anything about this. I’ve been a Catholic all my life and I never knew anything about all this."
"All the more reason why you should come to the Sunday morning instructional meetings with your spouse. You'd get to know a lot about being a Catholic."
"Well, I'm very busy. Look, we’ll get back to you.”
“Talk it over and call me when you are ready. I am at your service when and where you want me.”
“All we want is for my spouse to be a Catholic. That shouldn’t be that hard.”
Now I know for sure that there is one more person in the world who will certainly not cry at my funeral.
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