There is a saying that if you want to make God laugh – then tell him your plans. The converse is also true. If God wants to make you laugh he will tell you his plans for you. Five years ago tonight on what was then the Easter Vigil I was received into the Catholic Church. Some eight years ago if I were to be prophetically told that I would rejoice on entering the Catholic Church, that tears would stream down my eyes as I went to my first confession – I would have told them they were crazy. I was at the apogee of my conservatism based on Randian Positivism. To me radical selfishness was the highest virtue. The heights of individualism and being a self-made man were my highest ideals. The natural virtues helped to modify this idealistic positivism towards how I related with others, but it was truly not enough. My nose had long achieved orbit as at looked down at those poor superstitious mortals who still believed in hunter-gatherer myths such as God.
C.S. Lewis had said “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” Without knowing it I was very careful of my readings. My first love of reading had developed with Science Fiction especially Isaac Asimov. There was really nothing in the SF that I read that challenged my convictions. Science was my true love and growing up during time of the big push on the space program only emphasized this. Was there nothing that science could not do? I would poor over astronomy text books and marvel at the universe. I have always kept up be reading science magazines. I probably came close to danger many times growing up as I experimented with mixing household products in the bulb from a light or played with the circuity inside of consumer electronics. I argued with anybody foolish enough to still believe in a god. I wondered how the universe could not be infinite and how we were all just random particles that fortunately coalesced. There was a National Lampoon song in the 1970s that got some radio airplay called Deteriorata.
You are a fluke of the Universe.
You have no right to be here,
and whether you can hear it or not,
the Universe is laughing behind your back.
My first brush with religion was going with my mother to a very progressive Catholic Church. I was a teenager and was trying to please my mother and thought it was pretty funny to be an avowed atheist and singing in the Church’s ensemble. During that two year period I did not learn one fact about what the Catholic Church believed. To me the sanctuary was the stage where myself and three others backed up the priest by singing contemporary songs like the Byrds “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and “Day by Day” from Godspell. To their credit they had a ministry for the homeless, but that was the only social teaching I ever heard. I found out years later that at least one of the two priests later left the priesthood to become married. I had been baptized as an infant in the methodist church. My Mother had gone through RCIA a year earlier though I didn’t know that till many years later. So I was receiving communion as an atheist who besides not being a Catholic was definitely not someone who should have been receiving communion. The priests knew that I was in no way received in the Church, but that seemed to be okay.
The next time someone asked me to go to church was during boot camp. We were told that there would be women there in the Church. Even this was not enticement to get me to go. The next event was when an instructor at the Navy’s Advanced First Term Avionics school invited me and some others to come to his house for dinner. It turned out that he was a Baptist trying to bring people to the faith. We all talked in his living room and some things were attractive because at that point I was like a typical sailor or college student living in party mode. The night ended in a full immersion baptism and some literature. I never saw him or the other people outside of class again and there was not followup. My conversion must have lasted all of 24 hours. It was definitely a case of the seed planted in hard rocky ground. I went on like this for another 18 years. The next time I was to enter a Church I was already fully convicted that God was real and that Jesus started the Catholic Church. By the time I entered RCIA I was ready to join the Church because my intellectual beliefs were starting to match the faith I held. I think I was probably little too much of a pompous know-it-all at the classes since I tried to answer every question that was asked, usually before the instructors had time to answer them. I was really excited by the Catholic faith, as I still am, but luckily other writers in St. Blogs have shown me how much more I need to learn. I would take instructions on humility if I could just find someone more humble than myself.
At this point if God had then told me that I would be writing daily to defend the Catholic Church and it’s beliefs I would have thought this to be some practical joke. That I would be writing emails in response to atheists and Protestants would seem to absurd to me. As an elementary school kid I had taught myself to type on a manual typewriter to try to write a story that was a combination of SF and the eco-disaster story that was so popular in the 60/70s. I soon realized that I was no writer and gave up all pretensions of writing the great american novel. The only writing I did was to sign my paycheck. I started blogging because I was excited about the faith and I wanted to put it into the context of the world events. This was to be a serious religious/political blog proving that I did not know myself very well. Surprisingly I also found that I enjoyed writing even though I realize my skills as a writer are greatly lacking. My first blog “Atheist to a Theist” was never intended for humor and parody but myself being an ex-class clown it is not surprising that it went down that path. One thing I am very thankful for is that blogging was not available when I was a fervent atheist. I have said enough stupid things in life without it being stored in a Google cache somewhere. I know just the types of things I would have wrote because I have seen some of the atheist blogs out there.
Getting back to the original reason for this post. I will never forget that night five years ago when I was received into the Church and first received Communion (licitly). Walking back to the pew I realized that I had truly spent forty years in the wilderness and had entered the promised land. My reading in Church History and listening to Catholic radio especially Catholic Answers prevented me from some idealistic church where all Catholics had halos and the Mass was always conducted reverently. If the Church would accept me than other suspicious characters could slip in also. So while I am greatly thankful for being in Christ’s Church on earth I always remember St. Paul’s words about persevering to the end.
So my advice is if a prophet invites to tell you the future, ignore them. If they were true prophets you wouldn’t believe them anyway.
If you are masochistic enough, here are some previous posts I did on my conversion story.