Today Joy and I turn “ten years old as Catholics.”
Prior to being a Catholic, I was an Episcopalian priest and becoming Catholic is the most important thing that I have done in my entire life.
Ten years later my thought is: “Wow, it’s a lot harder than I expected!” We are joyful, but don’t let this glossy photo fool you into thinking that we have everything together.
Joy and I had breakfast this morning after Mass, and we celebrated and discussed our last ten years inside the Catholic Church. We are taking all the kids out for dinner tonight to explain to them how important our conversion was.
We have eight beautiful children and our marriage has been deeply blessed by Catholic teaching. The Eucharist and Confession stand out as the greatest blessings.
The hard parts?
What are the hard parts? Initially (for me) it was being a layman and not being a clergyman. This is a much younger Taylor as an Episcopalian priest with Fr Benedict just before I became a Catholic:
10 years later, that “priestly” feeling has faded to silence. I am very content and fulfilled as a Catholic layman. Through books, podcasts, NSTI, and speaking I thank God that I have been able to be used by Jesus for other people. On my podcast, we have reached over 900,000 downloads and we are heading to one million. It’s humbling and encouraging. Despite me being a sinner and unworthy of His favor, God had much bigger plans for me.
For Joy, the initial hard part was trying to navigate Catholicism and all the groups within the Church. When we converted there were some who wanted to use us for their cause (eg, married priesthood or whatever) and she didn’t like that.
Ten years later the hardest part of being Catholic is:
- Catholic politics and division
- Having a big family
I speak for Joy and me on these two points:
1) Catholic politics and division; I’m dizzy
When I was an Episcopalian, I wrongly believed (oh so wrongly) that the Catholic Church was a Shangri-La of doctrinal unity, devotion, and custom. I was not aware of all the movements, debates, liturgical abuses, and dissent within the Catholic Church. My exposure to Catholicism was reading books by Saints and Church Fathers. I assumed that every Catholic read, study, and agreed with the Catechism.
I received a number of shocks: “Wait, you mean that not all seminarians are taught Thomas Aquinas?”
I was shocked to learn that there are actual Catholic nuns that did not believe every jot and tittle of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Since the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, I feel dizzy as a Catholic. Like I’ve been spinning on that carousel at the park. I’m not falling down. I’m not sick to my stomach. But I’m dizzy.
Ten years ago, I would not have expected to feel this way. So I hunker down in my Catechism and in the magisterium of the Church. I’m spending more time reading theology and the Church Fathers especially. I’m going back to the roots. Of course, I recognize Pope Francis as Pope and I pray for him daily. I am now 10x more aware of my devotion to the papacy and to the Pope’s need for prayer.
As I read Church History, I realize that the Barque of Peter has always been a rocky boat (I have post on that coming out this Wednesday). So it was my own naivety that led to my misunderstanding of the Catholic Church that I was entering. My conclusion is that the Catholic Church is a giant family, and like a family, it’s complicated.
2) Having a Big Family
Speaking of family, Joy and I now have 8 kids. Joy was pregnant with number 4 when we entered the Church ten years ago. So 5 children have been born and baptized inside the Catholic Church.
We always wanted 8 kids, even before we were Catholic. Now we look at each other and say: “This is hard. Why didn’t anybody warn us how hard this would be? Everyone said big families were fun! They didn’t mention the unfun parts…”
You often hear me on my podcast celebrating marriage and family and talking about joy and peace. I’m speaking to myself more than I am to you. It is very hard. I would say it’s even a cross. But a cross is a joy. Each of those 8 children is a blessing – each is an everlasting soul. They are my heart.
After 10 years, I have to recommit myself to my vocation. My vocation is Joy and those 8 children. The screaming kids. The spilled drinks (every day). Joy sometimes being too tired to talk at night. The late nights. Housework. Dishes for 10 people. Laundry for 10 people! Studying for tests. Monitoring media, video, inputs. Teenagers. Teenagers. Lots of broken things. Budgets. Costs. Debates. It’s not easy.
But there are also the cooing babies, cuddles with a tired 2 year old, the joy of seeing a child learning to walk, the first words, the first day of school, the First Communions, the laughter at the dinner table, the gigantic birthday parties, and the rewarding “grown up talks” with a teenager. And we look forward to the graduations, the marriages, the future births, and whatever else God may have stored up.
And when I pray at Mass in the morning, I see their faces and pray their names. I can’t help but love Joy and those 8 babies and I want nothing more in the whole world than to spend eternity (millions x millions of years) with them in Heaven dancing with Jesus.
Now for the Good of Being Catholic:
The greatest joy of being a Catholic is the joy. Without the Faith, I would be a depressed wreck without hope and without peace. Maybe I’m crazy, but I have had visions. I’ve seen things in the supernatural. I know that Jesus is real. I have felt Him. I have been with Him.
I have knelt before the bones of Peter. I have cried before the miraculous image of Guadalupe. I’ve prayed before the Shroud of Turin. I’ve been to Mass with two Popes. Those things are great and edifying – but they aren’t the center of my Catholicism.
Rather, in the simple quiet of my daily Mass in Bedford, Texas and at night praying the complicated Rosary with my distracted children – I know that Jesus is burning in my heart. That’s where I find it. That’s what I searched for 10 years ago. And that is what I have found.
It’s a war. Even this past weekend, I wanted to give up. But Jesus keeps burning in me. The same Jesus of the Gospels. I know that he won’t give up on me. I need Him.
Here’s to another 10 years and in saecula saeculorum.