This week I'm running a series, For the Love of the Church, written by my friend Jacob Boddicker, SJ.
Jacob is a Jesuit scholastic originally from Iowa, and is currently studying at the Jesuit School of Theology in preparation for ordination. He has an academic background in archaeology, history, and philosophy, and his interests include music, science fiction/fantasy, and writing.
Make sure to check out Day One: How We Met
When I was ready to head off to college at the University of Wyoming, I didn't really think about the Church. As I mentioned yesterday, she was in the background of my life and while I know now that she was crazy about me, I don't know that a single brain cell in my head was processing the remotest inkling of a notion regarding her.
Yet I remember very, very clearly that first Saturday night in MacIntyre Hall in the penthouse of the state of Wyoming (it is the tallest building in the state at 12 stories, so I'm told), she suddenly came to mind. Growing up it was a rule of law that I went to see her every Sunday, and endure her boring stories and her plain cooking. I was struck by the realization that for once in my life it was up to me: would I go to church in the morning?
My teenage inclination toward sleeping in reared its slovenly head, "Jake, it's too early in the morning, and it's boring anyways. Just sleep in; you did only get here yesterday." But the more I tried to make excuses, the more I realized there weren't any. So I looked for a Catholic Church.
Much to my surprise I discovered that my cradle-robbing gal was also a prolific stalker! Not only had she moved to Laramie, Wyoming with me but she had a place just a few blocks from my dormitory. What's more is she completely anticipated my wont to sleep in and set up a brunch at 11am. It was settled then; there was no excuse. No way could I sleep past 11am without taking pills or something, and my "I don't have a car" excuse wouldn't fly either. So I went to Mass that Sunday, convinced that I would eventually come up with a reason to stop seeing this crazy woman altogether. Turns out my aunts and uncles and cousins went to this parish as well, and before I knew it I was going every Sunday.
Still boring, but my adorable little cousins made it tolerable!
Then I began to notice something after about a month or so: I was lonely and homesick. I had made precisely one friend (thanks, Frank Derksen!) and longed for the autumn fields of Iowa, my old room, my friends from high school...it was an incredibly intense desire for home. One Sunday while I was letting my future squeeze pour out her affections on my apathetic heart, I was struck by a sudden realization while singing that familiar song "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord..."
Though I was in a new place, I knew the words. I knew the words to all the prayers, the responses, and many of the songs. Why? Because they were the same that I had grown up with in Iowa. I realized that this Mass was the same Mass, essentially, that my family was attending back home, that not only had the church stalked me all the way West but had even brought the same outfit she wore every Sunday so that I would recognize her; she was just waiting for me to open my eyes. My homesickness vanished, literally, in that moment; I felt like I was home. I began to look forward to Mass, to that familiarity, and I couldn't have known what delight that brought her, to see that something she had done finally--FINALLY--pleased me. Soon enough I made my first friends at a viewing of The Fellowship of the Ring (Ben Corley being one), and then I made friends with their friends.
A few months later, though, is when I realized that I was only the beneficiary of a wonderful benefactress. My friends asked me if I wanted to go on a retreat. "From what?" said I, in all ignorance. That retreat changed my life because for the first time ever I realized two very important things:
1) That being Catholic is important to me, that there is nothing at all like it in the world.
2) That the Sacraments actually work.
2) That the Sacraments actually work.
I saw the Church alive for what felt like the first time; I saw fellow college students who loved their faith, and I realized it was my faith, too. I saw the Church touching hearts and loving people, not that she never had but I never NOTICED. Now, I noticed, and it was then that I started to pay attention to her.
In the months that followed I became more involved, more invested, and I took that budding love with me to the University of Northern Iowa when I transferred, getting involved at St. Stephen the Witness Catholic Student Center. It was during those years that I began discerning a call to the priesthood, that I first began returning the affection I had always received from the Bride of Christ.
It was still, however, a very adolescent crush; I was a very immature lad coming to admire the beauty of a very mature woman. How she ever had the patience necessary to tolerate my fickleness--particularly when, for a time, another woman competed with her for my heart and often, to my chagrin, won out--is beyond me, but she did. When I left Laramie, so did she; again she got a place right off campus, and again she was wearing the same outfit, all so that I would know it was her. Good Lord, where would I be in life if she wasn't so persistent?
Come back tomorrow for Day Three: Her Crazy Proposal.
If you missed the first installment, pop over to read Day One: How We Met.