Ok, when I started this blog-every-day-for-a-month challenge I stated that my theme was going to be "stories I never get tired of telling." I haven't really done that yet. But today I will pick one such story, brought to mind by my post yesterday.
And this story is all about a little work assignment I was given back when I worked at Wisconsin Right to Life. This was a very providential little task that had a pretty significant impact on me, and it shows how God has a very keen sense of humor.
This was "back in the day" when technology was not very developed. Internet and email were things barely heard of even by our computer guy, and all of the contacts we generated had to be done the old fashioned way. So we did a lot of networking with groups and churches.
In one particular networking blitz, all of the churches in the local area were broken down and a few of us were assigned to help get some information out to them. This is how I was assigned the task to call every Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. I even asked "Couldn't I call the Protestant churches?" No, I was told, we need you to do the Catholic ones. Ugh.
I always loathed the jobs where I had to call hundreds of anybody, but I was especially fuming at this point over calling the Catholic churches, because I had just had three friends announce to me that they were becoming Catholics, and I was extremely upset about it. I really was not in the mood for having my face rubbed in it any further.
Called I did. Call after call after call. Sometimes I got a grumpy response, and I felt justified in disliking these odd people. I felt my know-it-all pride poked and prodded as I looked at parish name after parish name and realized I had no idea who most of these saints were. (There were parishes named after women, for heaven's sake. Wasn't that scandalous?) Oh, then there was the time I came across a parish named "Mary, Queen of the Universe." I had to get up and take a short walk after coming across that one. What kind of heathens name a church that?
But something happened as I talked with all these... people. I started to realize they were people! At one point I sheepishly asked a Catholic co-worker, "Do I call them Father John or Father Smith? What about Sister Mary or Sister Jones? What's a "Monseigneur"? I slowly felt the inconsistency bubble out of my heart: I was supposedly (in my mind) this loving, Spirit-filled super-Christian, but I was firmly entrenched behind a bigoted hatred for people simply based on their religious affiliation, and it was excruciatingly painful for me to acknowledge any good coming from them. Even though I had acquaintances and co-workers whom I knew to be Catholic, I'd never really spoken to any Catholics as such in my life, really acknowledging them as representatives of this group I disliked. Catholics as such in my mind were worthy of contempt, because they were so wrong about so much. They were essentially a theoretical group of people whom I hated, and now I was talking with them and discovering they were human beings.
It was in the course of the weeks that I made these hundreds of phone calls that I realized that one cannot hate a group, or an idea, without being unjust to individual human beings. The discord within my own heart made me realize that something was very wrong with how I was discerning truth.
Up until that time, my logic went "Catholics are idiots; it's reasonable for idiots to believe lies." When I came to grips with how blatantly disrespectful this was, I had to humble myself enough to change that. I realized that Catholics had a completely different paradigm than I did for discerning truth. My paradigm was "The Bible says this, the Holy Spirit says this." And, I knew that whatever the Catholic paradigm was, was wrong. But I had to admit I had no idea what the Catholic paradigm was. I had no idea what their starting point was that enabled them to end up with churches named "Mary, Queen of the Universe" or to believe in a Pope or sacraments and all the rest. I had no idea what the paradigm was because I had never learned anything about Catholicism except from a Lutheran (or other Protestant) perspective.
I realized that to understand why Catholics were so goofy, I'd have to read Catholic sources and authors.
So I did. And within a few short months, I was telling the Lord I would follow Him and become a Catholic.