14 March 2010

What Could Possibly Come Next?

That's the question I faced in November 1982 when I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church: What could possibly come next? See below for a brief account of my conversion in the post "Repent. And believe in the Gospel."

I was 20 years old and had just lost my path in life. From my early teens I thought I would make my life in the North, probably as a scientist, and certainly as an atheist. But when the Lord Jesus laid hold of my life in October 1981 all of that began to change, and the definitive end of the first part of my life came on the day of my Confirmation and first Holy Communion in the Catholic Church. On that same day, my mother's father died, and so my first step on the new path was to leave New Jersey and return to North Carolina for his funeral.

My grandfather was buried in the cemetery of the Mount Carmel Church of the Brethren near Scottville, North Carolina -- a spot high in the mountains of Alleghany County that resembles the hills of Scotland. I made it home just in time for his funeral, and from the cemetery I rode with my mother's brother and his family back down the mountain to the town where I was born, Elkin.

My Uncle Butch and Aunt Joanne have twin sons, Brandon and Chandler, who are nine years younger than I. At the time of our grandfather's death, they were eleven years old and filled with questions about this thing I had just done two days before. What is the Catholic Church? What are the sacraments? What is the strange book in your hand called a breviary? So the ride back to town just minutes after burying our grandfather was my first experience of evangelization: I began to explain to my young Baptist cousins the startling things I had discovered at Princeton, and it changed their lives as well. Father Brandon Jones is now a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Charlotte, and Father Chandler Jones is the rector of St. Barnabas Anglican Church in Dunwoody, Georgia, a congregation in the Anglican Province of America, a part of the "Continuing Anglican" movement.

What could possibly come next? I was beginning to suspect that I was called to be a priest. But where?