Great story: Presbyterian to Catholic conversion eventual leads to priestly vocation.

I grew up in a Presbyterian family, fairly consistent churchgoers, and I had always harbored an interest in religion. My father’s business took us abroad when I was very young, and most of my childhood was spent living in countries in Latin America. Most of my friends who were “serious” about religion were in fact Catholic, so I grew up touched by a favorable view of the Church. When we lived in Brazil, I attended an English-speaking Catholic school, and I vividly recall being one of the few children who were not able to receive Holy Communion during our weekly Mass. It was that hunger to receive Our Lord that would one day blossom into the grace of conversion and the faith to believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist.

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Film Critic Roger Ebert waxes fondly about his Catholic roots

…In my childhood the Church arched high above everything. I was awed by its ceremonies. Years later I agreed completely with Pauline Kael when she said that the three greatest American directors of the 1970s–Scorsese, Altman and Coppola–had derived much of their artistic richness from having grown up in the pre-Vatican Two era of Latin, incense, mortal sins, indulgences, dire sufferings in hell, Gregorian chant, and so on. Protestants and even Jews were victims, I suppose, of sensory deprivation.

The parish priest was the greatest man in the town. Our priest was Fr. J. W. McGinn, who was a good and kind man and not given to issuing fiery declarations from the pulpit. Of course in Catholic grade school I took the classes for altar boys. We learned by heart all the Latin of the Mass, and I believe I could serve Mass to this day. There was something satisfying about the sound of Latin.

Introibo ad altare Dei.
Ad Deum qui laitificat juventutem meum.

“I will go to the altar of God. The God who gives joy to my youth.” There was a “thunk” to the syllables, measured and confident, said aloud the way they looked. We learned in those classes when you stood. When you knelt. When you sat during the reading of scripture and the sermon. When you rang the bell, when you brought the water and wine. How to carefully hold the paten under the chins of communicants so a fragment of Holy Eucharist would not go astray. Later, there were dress rehearsals on the St. Pat’s altar.

For years I served early Mass one morning a week, riding my bike to church and then onward to St. Mary’s for the start of the school day. On First Fridays, the Altar and Rosary Society supplied coffee, hot chocolate and sweet rolls in the basement of the rectory. When you served at a wedding, the best man was expected to tip you fifty cents. When you served at a funeral you kept a very straight face. During Lent there were the Stations of the Cross, the priest and servers moving around the church to pause in front of artworks depicting Christ’s progress toward Calvary. Walking from one station to the next, we intoned the verses of a dirge.

At the cross, her station keeping,
Stood the mournful mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

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Is the Single Life a Vocation?

Here is the problem: “vocation,” in the sense the Church understands it, means “to give oneself completely.” The Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes says that man finds himself only through a sincere gift of himself. John Paul II, in Mulieris Dignitatem, speaks of the “spousal disposition of women.” We – women and men — were made to give ourselves, in love, to others. That’s where we find happiness.

Don’t singles give? Of course we do – often more than most. But vocation doesn’t mean “being a generous person.” It means giving our lives completely to another – either to a spouse in marriage or to God in consecrated virginity. And singleness doesn’t do that. In fact, the single state is defined by the lack of that gift. We are unattached, un-given.

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