On Oct. 11, Pope Benedict XVI declared the beginning of the Year of Faith.
He did so to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Blessed John Paul II. In his apostolic letter, the pope wrote, “We want this year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope.”
So, what did I do after hearing this call to arms? Not much.
Then, the doorbell rang. It was early, I was home with the kids, and wasn’t prepared for a visitor. I quickly picked up Abigail from her crib and headed downstairs. A grandfather figure, holding a Bible, smiled broadly as I opened the door. The cold air rushed in. He introduced me to a list of questions on a brochure and asked if any of them interested me.
“They sure do.” I replied.
Just then, Abby began to cry; I figured it was the cold air. “
Would you like to come in and talk?” I asked the man who said his name was Milton.
Astonished, he agreed.
“Normally, people don’t invite me in,” he shared.
At that moment, I was tempted to ask him to babysit while I took a vacation to New Mexico, but I thought better of it. He began to open the Bible.
“Wait, hold on a moment, Milton, what’s that?” I asked.
“I see. And is it the Word of God?”
“And by what authority can we claim to interpret it correctly?”
“Well, you see, it’s plainly written, no interpretation is needed.”
“But, Milton, there are hundreds of different denominations. It can’t be all that plainly written.”
Just then the resident militia surfaced from the basement with Nerf guns drawn. Balls began to fly, and I worried that Milton was in the line of fire. I waved him into the kitchen, and I ordered the troops back down to base camp.
Abby began to wail; so, with one free arm I began filling up the baby bottle, while reassuring Milton that I wanted to hear his case for why his denomination is unique and authoritative.
“Well, you see, most of the differences are quite easy to clear up, since there are some really strange beliefs out there,” he said.
“What’s an example of a really far out belief, Milton?” I asked.
Abby continued to fuss. It definitely was her diaper. Do I go rogue and change the diaper in front of Milton? Would that be too strange? Ahhh, I found the binky. That bought me a little time.
“Well, some believe in the immortality of the soul and heaven,” he said.
“I see. And you don’t. When we’re done, we’re done.”
“How about the transfiguration?”
“You know, when Jesus went atop the mountain and was shown in glory amid Moses and Elijah.”
“No, I’m not familiar with that.”
“I see. Well, what if I could think of an example when Jesus spoke of
heaven and paradise. Would you
reconsider your beliefs?” I probed.
He looked at me as though I was offering him a wooden nickel.
“Do you remember Christ’s final moments? What did he say to the good thief?” I asked.
“Today, you will be with me in paradise,” he replied.
Now, we were getting somewhere. Milton stood quiet. But before we had a chance to savor the moment, the front door opened wide.
I figured one of the boys was escaping the compound.
Unfortunately, no such luck. A gentleman dressed in a suit quickly entered. Perhaps, he was expecting to find me working on a ransom note. In a flash, they were gone.
What a way to start the Year of Faith. God knew I needed a bit of cajoling. There was a copy of the catechism in the kitchen, but considering the joyous mayhem that fills our home daily, he knew I would need a visitor.
In hindsight, I find it slightly ironic that the pope’s apostolic letter is titled, “Door of Faith.”
If you haven’t started your Year of Faith yet, perhaps, you could say a short prayer for Milton’s conversion.
(Joe is married to Teresa. They have four children and run a joyful home in Plymouth. Opportunities for heavenly inspired humor abound. Joe, a librarian and Teresa, a physical therapist, are parishioners at St. John the Baptist, Plymouth.)