I am a convert to the Catholic Church.
One of the things that first attracted me was the Church’s universality, both historical and geographical. I take the Church’s unbroken presence since the apostolic age and its world-wide ministry both to be strong evidences for its claim to be guided and protected by the Holy Spirit. I love the way that the Church has “baptized” cultures, using existing customs to present the Gospel in familiar ways to new peoples, and the way that it has fostered and protected real diversity of worship from country to country. We have surrounded our children with images of Christ from many different countries and times, showing them how much richer our understanding of Our Lord is because of the diversity of presentations.
But I recently learned that my love for the universality of our Church ends when it impinges on my Sunday plans.
I was delighted when I learned that Mass was being celebrated by a discalced priest from India, here to get sponsors for the children in his orphanage back home. I was pleased that my children were getting to hear an Indian accent and hearing stories about homeless children, and I was already planning my lecture on vows of poverty and the tradition of going shoeless. I had visions of picking out a little girl for our daughter to sponsor, who she could become pen pals with, who would teach her about India and about how blessed she is to live in the United States.
Then, after Mass, the priest came up and asked my husband to please drive him around that afternoon, to give him a tour of the city. My husband had been working 6-day weeks for a couple of months, taking only Sundays off. His Sundays were supposed to be mine.
Though I resented the intrusion on my plans, I supported it, knowing that it was the right thing to do, and went about trying to make the day as exciting as possible for myself and the kids.
But then my plans were wrecked again.
My husband called while I was outside, letting our three oldest children get covered from head to toe in mud, while I sat drinking a well-deserved beer, to say that he and Father Anthony were going to be home in a few minutes to visit. I tried to ignore the slovenly appearance of my children and my house and played the role of gracious hostess, but I would have given anything to have been grilling alone with my family as I had expected. I think that I maintained a veneer of friendliness, but inside I was impatiently waiting for him to leave.
I realized that day the huge difference between appreciating the “international flavor” of the Church and loving a person who comes from one of those nations.
And I am still getting opportunities to reflect on the difference because Father Anthony still calls us to chat, and each time I am tempted to ignore the phone calls because they are inconvenient and uncomfortable. I have a hard time understanding him because of his accent and because of the background noise my children create, and he has a hard time understanding that I am having a hard time understanding him.
But each conversation reminds me to pray for him, for his orphanage, and for my own openness to others. I pray that I will be more willing to open my heart and my schedule to the people that God puts into my life, to appreciate them as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, not just for the way they enrich my experience of the Church.
Angela, a philosopher, neighbor, and mother extraordinaire, lives in Indiana with her beautiful family. This is her second guest post at Texas Schmexas.