Because I Am Happier Than Ever

As soon as I had published my post summarizing my first seven weeks of Catholic blogging, I realized that it was like several Stephen King novels: Hundreds of pages of build-up, then pffft, fizzle—whimper, no bang. Well, here’s the bang that post was missing: As a Catholic these eighteen months, I am happier than I have ever been.

I have written that Catholic women seem happy. I have even dared to write that Catholic women are happy. I have described several happy Catholic men, like Father Barnes and Ferde, and a very happy Catholic couple, Frank and Carrie.

What about me?

See that guy sitting in his stocking feet outside a rented cottage in Ballygaw, County Dingle, last March? That’s me, a year after my conversion to Catholicism, completely at peace, really quite boundlessly happy. Let me count the ways:

I have never belonged to a community where I felt more at home—I have had many advantages in my life and I have belonged to some pretty fine groups of people. Don’t hold it against me. These are just the facts: My family was and is fantastic, grandparents, parents, siblings, in-laws, children, nieces, nephews, the lot. I was a Boy Scout. My parents belonged to several country clubs and sent me to cool summer camps. I attended private schools, including arguably the best boarding school in the world (Exeter) and the best small liberal arts college in America (Amherst). I became part of a world-famous theatrical troupe (“Le Grand David and his own Spectacular Magic Company”), where some of my best friends still are active. And for all that, I have never been anywhere, never belonged to any group, where I felt more welcome, more at home, more loved than I do every single morning at mass. Or any time I have coffee with Ferde or Father or Ellen or Carol.

I have not experienced this level of intellectual excitement since Exeter—I’ve been a Catholic long enough to know what they say about Catholics: We check our brains at the door. Or as one skeptic put it recently: Baaaaaaa! (sheep sound) Well, I’m here to tell you that in these eighteen months (and in the six months of RCIA that preceded my reception into the Church) I have known greater intellectual stimulation and challenge than I have since reading Crime and Punishment with Henry Ploegstra or The Hero with a Thousand Faces with Rod Marriott, both at Exeter. I can’t possibly list all the books I have read, nay studied, in the past two years, especially when preparing a presentation for Saturday morning men’s group. Let me just throw a couple of thousand-pagers at you: Kristin Lavransdatter and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You could take those two masterpieces to a desert island and never miss your mommy.

My marriage has never been better—
Katie and I celebrate our 25th anniversary next week. (In lieu of gifts, donations can be made to St. Mary Star of the Sea Church.) I can guarantee that we will be married for as long as God gives us both the health. We’ve had our ups and downs, mostly ups, but right now . . . I can’t express my gratitude adequately. Psalm 89 from today’s Office says it best: “I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord . . . ”

I have experienced death at close hand and found it beautiful—For years, I remarked how lucky our family was: Two parents, six siblings, eleven kids in the next generation, and not one death, not one serious accident, really not even one serious illness. Then I became a Catholic, and my father died. I can hear the skeptic saying, Ya see? See what happens when you convert? Here’s what happened: No one likes to lose a parent—losing Dad was a life-altering experience for me—but no one who lives a life of normal length can dodge losing a parent or two. So it’s not whether Dad died that matters, it’s how he died, and how I took that death. I can only say that my being a Catholic in those months of melanoma, increasing weakness and nausea, and finally hospice care was demonstrably good for me and good for him. For me, it all came down to the four nights I spent alone with him in his hospice room, with Dad in and out of consciousness and me reading to him from the Liturgy of the Hours. An angel, a male hospice nurse named Jerome, entered the room during one of those readings, and I will never forget the love.

My life is working—You know when things are clicking? When things just fit? That’s the way it is now, not only in my life, but in Katie’s life and, I dare say, in our children’s lives. Our business is surviving this downturn and, in fact, turning into something brand-new and exciting. Friends and family seem well, too. Will there be unpleasant surprises down the road? Of course. Life ends, doesn’t it? Something’s going to get us all, and that probably won’t be entirely pleasant.

But armed with my faith (yes, it’s like armor, but very comfortable), with my rosary in my right pants pocket and my breviary in my backpack, with the support of friends like Ferde, with the love and support of Katie, Martha, and Marian and above all with the love of God, I know that there is no challenge that cannot be faced. And meanwhile, I’m having an awful lot of fun.

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  • Love the blog– you remind me of why I love being Catholic!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts in this format. My story parallels yours, and I have similar life experiences- but I am not as clever with words as you are! So, I am going to send this post to my dearly beloved protestant family who cannot understand why I became Catholic.I hope you don't mind my hijacking your talents for a good cause

  • Me, too! I love being Catholic. I'm happy; I'm at home; the intellectual stimulation has always been there—even in my childhood; Catholic marriage, sacramental marriage is a blessing; Catholic deaths and funerals (with an Irish touch) are beyond words; but, I've never been exempt from life's ups and downs. But at this end of my life I see that even the downs were ups in the sense that the Lord helps us carry those crosses.

  • I have not experienced this level of intellectual excitement since ExeterI can definitely understand that. I was always honors track and even did the Ivy League for grad school, but nothing has challenged and stimulated and excited my mind the way Catholic theology does.This is something that has always made my classmates and work-mates incredulous. As "intellectuals," they cannot see how I could "buy into all that stuff." But Calculus never challenged me the Catholic theology does, none of my engineering courses did, none of my architecture courses, none of my history courses. And while straight philosophy is hard – although more existentially hard than intellectually hard – it is not stimulating or fulfilling for me.But Catholicism excites me. The ideas are powerful and life-changing. The interconnectedness and cohesiveness of it all is astounding and compelling .. especially in a world that is driven by ideologically inconsistent systems. It just all .. resonates.

  • Wendy C.

    I can echo the happiness and joy even though I dare say I have been through some of the worst trials of my life since I have become Catholic. Some how my deepended faith (it was a pretty active faith as a protestant) has carried me through them with a different perspective. There is no doubt for me of the power of the sacraments. They have allowed me to attribute a new meaning to suffering and its eternal purpose.Your writing has an uncanny way of expressing many of the things I know to be true but cannot always put in words. Thanks for sharing!

  • Turgonian

    I agree. I agree.

  • Every single thing the Catholic Church teaches, Her every expectation and law, Her every ritual and rite is ordered to teach the faithful how to love in truth and deed and how to receive love in return. Since Love, being God, is the source of joy is it any wonder that faithful Catholics aren't just happy but joy-filled people?

  • cathyf

    As a high school student (when dinosaurs roamed the earth…) I was taught something from St. Ignatius. More or less, the notion is that God gives us times of consolation, that we might have them to carry us through times of desolation. And, likewise, He gives us times of desolation to remember in our times of consolation.You are indeed storing up well these wonderful words of conolation…

  • Christina

    Hello! A friend sent me a link to your blog because she knew I would love it, and I do! I am a new Catholic, having been confirmed at Easter 2008 after many years as a protestant Christian. Nothing could have prepared me for the joy and fulfillment that is the Catholic faith. Two of your comments especially caught my attention. First, the intellectual excitemtent is beyond anything I've known before. As another commentor said, the depth and interconnectedness of the truths of the Faith make it an endless surprise and joy.Second, your comment about Catholic women being happy is certainly my experience. A few months ago I asked my friend if she thought it odd that I was not going through the phases of yearning for a meaningful releationship with a man/husband as I used to do on a regular basis. What she said in reply I realized was the truth: that which my soul had been yearning for has been fulfilled in Christ and the Church. When God directly feeds my soul through the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, I don't look for that deepest of needs to be filled by another person or thing. I am happier and more content than I've ever been in my life, even though living in a fallen world still means times of difficulty, uncertainty, sadness, and longing. But when I receive Holy Communion, my soul is filled with the Grace of God and I am at peace. Now I understand why faithful Catholics during the 1500's risked their lives to receive Holy Communion. It is worth everything to be united body and soul with our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you Lord!And thank you for this wonderful blog.