Not that I’m an especially cool guy, but according to society, I am a little strange. I got married at 21 while still in college, never lived with my wife beforehand, we had a baby while still in college, and now we’ve got two more. Furthermore, if you see me coming down the street, you’ll see my license plate says “Faith Hope and Love” and I’ve got pictures of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Jude dangling from my rear view mirror where most similarly bearded gentlemen keep lusty nudes. So, sometimes, people ask, “Peter, what’s your story?” and they suspect something awful happened to me. If they know me, and know the awful things that have happened, then they’re justified in the suspicion, but the truth is not interesting. The truth is, I started reading the Left Behind books on a recommendation of a bearded man when I was 16 while working at Waldenbooks and I stopped reading them under the recommendation of a girl who said, “aren’t those bad?”
But, in between the pages of what I clearly knew to be an attempt to rekindle a hundred year old money making device, I saw a few people acting out a faith they never knew they had. I read of people starting to make life and death decisions purely on moral, philosophical, and (shaky) theological grounds. I understood more and more how the love of Jesus could help to inflame the love between His people.
That was the start of something, it also happened to start at a time when my brain was going through a reading renaissance. I was devouring Asimov and Heinlein novels and the Christianity of Left Behind made a good counterbalance. It’s funny though, because my mom bought me “The Rapture Trap” in hopes to ensure that I wasn’t going to become some sort of a millennialist. But, what she should have gotten me was the “Pan-hedonistic Solipsism Trap”, because that was where the negative philosophy was coming from in my life.
I never wavered from Catholicism, though I remember for a while thinking that the only reason I was going to Mass was to think of new ideas for scripts I was going to write, but that didn’t last, because soon I would meet a girl who would introduce me to a woman (who is she?) who would set me up with a lady who would become my wife.
The girl was my best friend’s cousin, of whom he had been proclaiming the praises of since time immemorial. She was a Straight-A violinist whose presence was like a black hole for hostility. And, if she had the audacity to bend light, it was was only to magnify the Lord. She told a friend of mine that he had beautiful eyes and from that day forward, I can’t look at him without thinking, “Man, you have beautiful eyes…” No punch.
So, she came around because she was going to be my best friend’s confirmation sponsor. But, she needed to go to Mass like, every day, which was crazy. So, for some reason, she dragged me and my friend along to this other thing you do at Church called adoration where you pray before Jesus who is fully present in the Eucharistic Bread exposed for a time until the Benediction which culminates the celebration.
I had never heard of or seen a monstrance before and when I did I think I found myself praying for the first time. I may have prayed before in some wrestling matches, I may have prayed that at least one of my grandparents linger a tad longer in this life, but I had never just prayed before. Not in a way that connected my mind to Jesus’ in a way I could feel.
Well, I was on guard against “feelings” the Left Behind books said to happen. And rightly so; I can’t expect that everyone who walks in to a room with Jesus standing right there before you is going to be blown away, but sometimes signs are nice to have and especially nice to reflect on. But from that point, I felt like Jesus was there and I felt like I wanted the Holy Spirit to do something to me when I got confirmed.
As a present, this wonderful girl gave me my first rosary. She made it herself and had it blessed by the Bishop of her diocese. It’s one of the only things I have never managed to lose and kept with me every day (which was excellent advice from a great priest). If you keep your rosary in your pocket, you’re much more likely to pray it!
But, for a year, I didn’t pray it. And then my first night living on my own after moving out of college came and I prayed it. I didn’t want to make a commitment, but I prayed that night and I have prayed the rosary nearly every day for the last 10 years.
I even prayed it on the night I considered whether to pursue one of two options:
- A girl I knew who I liked being with and I had a hankering* would eventually want some sort of physical relationship (not you, if you’re reading this).
- Amber, a genuine woman (she was a bit older than me) whose mother went with my mom on a pilgrimage to see the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and together decided to set us up.
Praying about this sort of thing is important, but the question was simple, who is the narrower gate? Amber. (I’ve never met anyone so small who was so hard to get around, and I was a defensive lineman.) Who will help you store up treasures in heaven? Amber. (We have three of them now plus one already in heaven.) Who would you rather cast your pearls before? Amber. (She’s even beginning to consider what I say as “wise” now, that makes a man very happy.)
I didn’t exactly know that I was praying over a decision to pursue the woman I was going to marry, but I did know that I was praying over a decision to remain a virgin before marriage. I knew that whatever God has planned is inherently difficult. God is more challenging to appease than any coach, teacher or parent. God probably is more critical of the way I make the bed or fold the laundry than my wife is. That may be my personal theology. I’ve never read it in the Catechism; that the true test of whether something is the will of God is whether or not it is hard. But, it seems to jibe with the Theology of the Body. God made us to work hard and become stronger. He certainly did the same thing when it comes to virtue. And Chesterton says something similar**.
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” – Chapter 5, What’s Wrong With The World, 1910
And, that’s where I leave you, to try Christianity! If you do, I doubt you’ll find it lacking. That’s the whole point of “life giving water”. Even if your heroes and inspirations prove wicked, false, or insufficiently human, you can still drink deep the waters flowing from the side of Christ.
*@trig, poor word choice + pun intended
**The story of how I encountered Chesterton is even more mundane, I just randomly saw a big line of black books (his collected works from Ignatius Press) at the UW Memorial Library (home to well over a million volumes) and I started reading things like, “the Supersition of Divorce”, “What’s Wrong With the World” and “Eugenics and other evils” and I was quite understandably impressed, especially that I could find humor in such books along with the most incredible insight and moral clarity.
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