...and a lifetime to go.
In the movie Gross Pointe Blank, Paul Spericki is driving his long-lost and mysterious friend Martin Blank around their Michigan childhood stomping grounds after Blank’s surprise reappearance.
Finally, he can’t take it any longer. Spericki cuts Blank off, mid small-talk, pounds on the car horn, and yells, “Ten years, man! Ten! Where have you been for ten years?”
I felt a bit like both Spericki and Blank at the same time when Washington Examiner columnist Timothy Carney recently announced to the world of Facebook that he had officially been a Catholic for a decade.
That meant that it had been “ten years!” for me as well, and where did the time go? We were both welcomed into the Church on April 18, 2004, in a special ceremony at the chapel in the Catholic Information Center bookstore on K Street in downtown D.C.
Carney was working for the late Robert Novak and I was an editor for The American Spectator. The hours were very long. I didn’t have much time to spare and had heard horror stories about RCIA classes. This Opus Dei storefront seemed the easiest way into the fold.
There had been one hiccup for both of us. The Center did a priest shuffle. Fr. C. John McCloskey had started the process of bringing us into the Church. After a pause, Fr. Bill Stetson helped us to finish it.
When I went to see him months earlier, Fr. C.J. said that it was great that I wanted to be a Catholic. However he borrowed a term from his past as a Wall Street trader, saying it was important to do “due diligence” before a merger of this nature.
“Tell me, why do you want to be a Catholic?” he asked.
“Because it’s true,” I said, and started to explain what I meant by that.
Fr. C.J. cut me off. “That’s good enough!” he said.
The two priests had us read a few books, including Ronald Knox’s “The Belief of Catholics” and selections from the Catechism, and made sure we understood what we were getting into. Doctrinally, we both got it, though there were a few surprises in store.
I was a Baptist, the son of a Baptist minister in fact. It was gently suggested by Fr. Bill that I get a provisional baptism. But my own father had baptized me by immersion “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” when I was seven. I insisted the Church accepts that as a valid form of the Sacrament. That put the kibosh on that.
Most of the ceremony was clear sailing. Fr. Bill prepped us for what we were supposed to do, and I had been to enough Masses that I had the general idea. Yet I had never received Communion before and this was obvious when I practically fumbled the Host.
The patient but horrified Fr. Bill took me aside right after the Mass and showed me how to hold my hands when receiving the Body of Christ. That’s something you usually don’t get from the books, and that I surely didn’t get growing up as a very low church Protestant.
After the Mass, the Carneys held a small reception at the bookstore and asked me to be a part of it. My sponsor for confirmation, fellow Spectator editor George Neumayr, spoke a few kind words about me to friends and colleagues.
It was more than sporting of him. Neumayr agreed to step in at the last minute as my sponsor. This surprised me because we were rivals. He was the older, cerebral managing editor. I was the younger, ambitious assistant managing editor.
Before I came into the Church, I quite frankly coveted Neumayr’s job. That he was willing to stand with me before God and all those witnesses changed everything, utterly and forevermore.
As a Catholic, I saw Neumayr through a glass a little less darkly and no longer wanted his position. We became not just better colleagues but friends. That friendship, stretched out to over a decade now, was the first grace of my conversion.
Jeremy Lott is an editor of Rare.