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Jumping the bandwagon

Didn't we do this already last year? I thought we did, only I couldn't find the post anymore...

Ten Things I've Done That You Probably Haven't

01) Made myself into a nuisance to the late great Freddie Mercury by calling him on his home phone number one summer -- and even if I only called him maybe 5 or 6 times before he shamed me into leaving him alone, and it was years ago (I was about 14 at the time), I still remember the number!

02) Prepared a huge pot of 'hutspot' for the NYC homeless at one of the city's many church run shelters

03) Spent some time as a glorified office dogsbody at the UN headquarters in NYC

04) Worked my way around Italy going from excavation to excavation (Ostia, Satricum, Paestum, Pompeii)

05) Worked on emergency excavations on the West Bank (Israel)

06) Published dreadfully boring articles on utilitarian architecture (dikes, sluices, powerhouses) in Dutch civil engineering mags

07) Spent some time in retreat in a Greek-Orthodox monastery in Belgium

08) Converted to Catholicism at age 32

09) Won medals as a champion fencer (on épée)

10) Having torn most of the tendons in my right thigh and groin 3 days into my holiday, carried on (and even climbed a mountain in that condition) for another 10 days before seeing a doctor.



Feb. 24th, 2005 03:09 am (UTC)
I'm really envious of all the archaeological things you've done.

Re: #8... I'm secretly drawn to Catholicism. I cannot explain it. How did you explain yourself to people when you did it?
Feb. 24th, 2005 08:21 am (UTC)
Re: #8... I'm secretly drawn to Catholicism. I cannot explain it. How did you explain yourself to people when you did it?

How did I explain myself? Good question. It sort of depended on who it was that was asking, and what their intention was.

My friends weren't surprised; they knew I'd been steadily working towards this for most of my life. I was 16 when I first asked to see a priest, and let him know I wanted to become a Catholic. He asked me why. I couldn't answer, other than that it was a feeling I had. He told me to think about what it was I wanted, and that I'd always be welcome once I'd figured it out. I spent the next 16 years thinking about it, studying the Catholic faith from every conceivable angle. I studied the history of the Church, the writings of the Church Fathers (both East & West), the Bible (obviously), the liturgy, the sacred architecture; I read up on Liberation Theology; anything I could find on Vaticanus II; I went on pilgrimages to such places as Cologne (the Three Kings), Rome, Assissi (St. Francis, one of my favourites), Jerusalem (the Holy Sepulchre). Like Jesus, I spent time on my own in the desert -- it's the perfect place for an uninterrupted think; and I spent time in monasteries and cloisters. I spoke to an awful lot of people, from the grassroots to the top. I had conversations with Jean Gaudemet, one of the Pope's closest advisors until he died; and Pope Shenuda II of the Coptic Church. I became friends with a Jesuit priest, as well as with Orthodox Jews and strict muslims, and we had numerous discussions on (the nature of) religion. I became like a walking encyclopedia of comparative religion, and I ended up knowing more about Christianity and the Catholic faith than many of my interviewees. But I still didn't feel I could answer that first parish priest's question, and was reluctant to go back there. I was afraid they'd send me away again.
Feb. 24th, 2005 08:22 am (UTC)
In 1991, I became seriously ill with a brain tumour. I told myself that if I could overcome this, I could find the courage to face sceptical priests; and so in the summer of 1994, I presented myself to another parish priest, a friend of a former reformist bishop I knew. I'd been going to his church quietly for several months, and one Sunday the text being read out, about the True Vine (John 15: 1-6) resonated with me like it had never done before. I remember I was looking at the crucifix overhead, and I heard that phrase, "He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit"...and it seemed to me that here was the promise of an interpersonal relationship where the believer is in Christ and Christ in us; and it all suddenly made sense. I believed I had found the answer I'd been looking for for 16 years, gathered all my courage and asked for an interview. Which he granted me a couple of days later.

And boy, was he sceptical at first! But we spoke for several hours and he couldn't detact the slightest bit of hesitation on my part -- and he also could see that it had nothing to do with a passing fancy, a bedazzlement with the pomp and circumstance of the Church; or with a flight from the real world, or a fear that the world might soon come to an end and I wanted to be among the elect when it did. And we had several more meetings over the next couple of weeks, until after a while he agreed to have me instructed in the faith. He laughed and said I probably could teach his instructor a thing or two. And I did. On a theological level, I ran rings around this person. I argued like a Jesuit, while trying to remain humble like a Franciscan. And it worked! My instructor wrote a favourable report to the bishop of my diocese, and I received the necessary dispensation. Baptisms are usually arranged for Easter, but I was such a special case, my church arranged for me to be baptised and do my First Communion in an ordinary Sunday Mass in October.

My best friend is a Protestant vicar. I've had many conversations with her, long into the night, about my choosing the Catholic faith over any other. She respects it totally, and helps keep me on my toes. In addition to giving instruction to Catholic young adults who want to know more about the religion they've been brought up in in my own church, I often sit in on her courses with her parishioners who want to know more about what it means to be a Protestant in this day and age; and participate in ecumenical services, sometimes even performing a liturgical service.

Phew!. That got quite long...but did it answer your question some?
Feb. 24th, 2005 08:32 am (UTC)
Of course, over the years, I've come across many people who have taken me to task for becoming/remaining a Catholic when there is so much that is wrong with the Church. The conservatism of the present Pope; the scandals and court cases in America; the suppression of Leonardo Boff and other Liberation Theologists in South America; the ordination of women...

But to me, that is not what Catholicism is. Popes and politics...and priests that abuse their position and can't keep their hands to themselves, they are not the Church, they are not the religion itself. The message remains the same: "Love thy neighbour as thyself; and God above all".

JMHO, mind.
Feb. 24th, 2005 12:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you for an in-depth explanation. Good for you for being so thorough!

I still can't explain why I'm drawn to it. *sigh*
Feb. 24th, 2005 01:43 pm (UTC)
I still can't explain why I'm drawn to it. *sigh*

And if I'm honest, neither can I. But I know that for me, I made the right choice.