“If you die in an elevator, be sure to push the up button.”
— Sam Levenson
It was a little over a year ago when Fred and I were having one of our usual morning talks about nothing. A rare pause gave me the opening I’d been waiting for and, expecting a huge reaction, I gave him my news. “I’ve decided to become a Catholic,” I told him, then waiting for his most familiar saying, “Oh my God!” Instead, he came back with, “I always figured you would. It’s about time.”
When I called the director of the RCIA program at St. Andrews Cathedral in January of 2019, she told me I had missed the fall classes and therefore could not be confirmed at Easter, but that I was welcome to join them for the spring classes. This was a disappointment and meant I’d have to wait almost a year and a half before I would be officially welcomed into the church.
My brain quickly tried to come up with something that might sway her to bend the rules this time and I began jabbering. “I graduated from Catholic High in 1975.”
No response, so I went on.
“You know, it’s kind of funny now, but when I was there I was on the football team and before every game, after we dressed out and waited to board the busses, we would lie on the gym floor and say like 10 Hail Mary’s.”
Still nothing. So I tried something that was sure to impress her.
“I also took two years of Latin while there, and even though I’m rusty on my verbs, I can still say the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary,” in Latin. Would you like to hear?”
“Some other time perhaps,” she answered. “Have you been baptized?”
“Why yes, yes I have. Does that help?”
“It doesn’t hurt,” she said. “It means you will come in as a Candidate rather than a Catechumen.”
“And would that speed up the process?” I asked her.
Discouraged but not yet defeated, I pressed on, deciding to tell her what a great film I thought “The Exorcist” was. But before I could, she asked, “Are you married?”
Ha, this was even better. I was sure I had her now. “Why yes, yes I am. For 38 years now to the same wonderful Catholic girl” (which was true for the most part, even though KM hadn’t been a practicing Catholic for at least 30 years. But as Fred used to tell me, “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic”)
I went on.
“My wife, Kathy, is the youngest of 10 children. What do you think of that?”
I was sure this would crack her tough shell, and she’d melt like the gatekeeper in the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy made him cry as she wished to see Auntie Em.
But all I got was, “That must have been a lot of laundry every week.”
So there it was. I had my final answer, as Regis used to say. By the end of our mostly one-sided conversation I told her I’d join the spring class, and return in the fall for the full treatment. She asked me if I had someone in mind who would be my sponsor. If not, she had a few extra Catholics waiting in the wings who would be happy to make this journey with me. I thanked her but said I had someone I felt certain would agree. Then, feeling I should perhaps preface that a bit, I asked her, “Once I’m in, my sponsor can’t get me kicked out, can he?”
Silence on the other end.
Oh well, I’m in the home stretch now and thankfully, have not been asked to not return. And Fred, being Fred, has managed to keep the conversation lively.