Note: All quotes in italics from the Baltimore Catechism of the Holy Roman Catholic Church
Q. How shall we know the things which we are to believe?
A. We shall know the things which we are to believe from the Catholic Church, through which God speaks to us.
I left the Catholic church the first time ‘officially’ in 1994. I turned my back and walked out the double doors of the vestibule leaving God, standing in the altar space, in his Catholic Uniform, wrapped in chains not unlike Dickens’ Marley. God’s voice no longer reverberated in the vaulted ceilings for me. I was deaf to the God who belonged to the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
I went from there to the Lutheran Church – Evangelical Lutheran Church of America – where God, in his Lutheran Uniform, welcomed me back. I had met the Lutheran God when I was in high school. After 10 years of parochial school, I was enrolled for my junior and senior years in the local public school. I use the passive “enrolled” intentionally. Had it been in my power to go to another catholic school, I would have. After moving in 1969 from the old neighborhood near the Cathedral to the “up and coming’ neighborhood in Tuthill Park, my parents decided that we would partake of the local school district: my siblings and I would have a public education.
Q. Why did God make you?
A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.
For the first time since kindergarten, I was sharing classrooms with non-Catholics – you know, the folks who would someday be sent to hell. I made friends with people I had learned would not be playing the harp in heaven with me as I floated thru the clouds, little wings madly beating. Especially during Choir and lunch periods, I began to know these ‘poor lost souls’ not as pagans but as people – flesh and blood people who also had a God of their own. I even discovered that Israelites still existed! I thought they’d died around the time the Apostles were taking their “Acts” to Rome. I learned there were modern day versions of people from the Old Testament! They were the Jewish people! Barb Greenberg made this revelation to me over lunch by telling me about the book she was reading called The Chosen. No kidding!
I discovered that Susan, and Karen, and Kari, and a host of others – boy others – with whom I sang in the Concert Choir belonged to the Lutheran Church. Church choir singing had helped me leap-frog immediately into the top ranked choir without the “one year experience of Chorus” requirement. My ability to sing well allowed me to be easily accepted, and it did not take long for them to invite me to the Friday Night Youth Group at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. My parents were skeptical, but allowed me to go as long as I maintained my attendance at Wednesday Night Catechism classes at St. Mary’s.
Q. Where is God?
A. God is everywhere.
Pastor Engh was the guru of the Youth Room. The room was dark paneled, had tables and chairs, a stereo system, was carpeted in the new style orange shag carpeting, had a counter and stools – you could buy candy bars and pop (yes, this is the Midwest where soda is known by its rightful name). It was a teenage paradise in the basement of a church. It was a stark contrast to the cement spaces under the Cathedral where the Catholic Daughters (no boys allowed) had held their service oriented meetings. Pastor Engh entertained questions about meaning – and life and trying to be good and being ok with failure. It was eye-opening. It became my most favorite place to be. And sometimes, mostly on Sunday afternoons, the Youth Room would be open and Pastor Engh would bring his beautiful wife and their two darling little toddlers to hang out with us. He had a family. Was that why he was so wise? Was that why he had a heart for the questions?
Q. What is mortal sin?
A. Mortal sin is a grievous offense against the law of God.
It was required that a Catholic attend church each and every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. So when I wanted to augment my Lutheran leanings and attend service with my friends on Sundays, too, my parents said it would be OK as long as I also made it to Mass and I did not receive bread and wine there. It would be a mortal sin if I missed Mass and a mortal sin if I took their communions because it wasn’t the real thing. And so I did double duty from then on and remained in the pew when it was time for Lutheran Communion.
When spring came, Pastor Engh informed the Youth Group that there would be a canoe trip to the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. It would be a week’s trip, leaving Wednesday Morning and returning the following Tuesday night. Translated into Catholic terms, it meant that I not be able to attend Mass. I really, REALLY wanted to go. These Lutherans were my spiritual companions, Pastor Engh my spiritual leader. This was my tribe! I would figure out how to go. Somehow.
Q. What three things are necessary to make a sin mortal?
To make a sin mortal these three things are needed:
- the thought, desire, word, action, or omission must be seriously wrong or considered seriously wrong;
- the sinner, must be mindful of the serious wrong;
- the sinner must fully consent to it.
… to be continued.