My first exposure to Catholicism came in the form of a podcast.
It was, I think, in the summer of 2005. I was fortunate enough to land a job working for my dad, saving money for my next semester of school. The company my dad worked for made point-of-sale machine and my job, working in Quality Assurance, was to inspect units before they were shipped out. It paid well but it was mind-numbing work.
To pass the time I decided to look into something I’d just begun to hear about on the Internet: podcasting. You must know something about podcasting now but back then, in the mid-2000’s, it was barely in its infancy. One evening after work I found a podcast directory and downloaded a few randomly plucked podcasts in the ‘general entertainment’ section. It was early days and the pickings were slim and several of my early choices were duds but one I was drawn to instantly, The Daily Breakfast.
The Daily Breakfast was a podcast about video games, movies, and television produced, daily, by a podcaster who loved a lot of the nerdy things that I loved too (like Star Wars and The X-Files). After a few episodes I was hooked and went through the overly-complicated process of setting up a podcatcher the snatch every new episode as it was released. Remember, these were early days.
It took me a few days, maybe even a week, to come to two startling revelations. First of all, this podcaster was from The Netherlands (his English was great). Second, he was a Catholic priest (what?!).
It was after a segment called “The Peculiar Bunch,” that the second revelation occurred. During The Peculiar Bunch segment the podcaster—Father Roderick, I now knew—answered a listener question about Catholics—the peculiar bunch. Call me naive but learning that a Catholic priest could have interests especially interests so similar to mine was downright scandalous.
While I hadn’t thought much about the Catholic Church since leaving for university, I’d be significantly influenced in what I did know by the nominally Pentecostal church I attended after becoming a Christian. There I was taught, sometimes explicitly, that Catholics weren’t saved—they probably weren’t even Christians. They shared in a religious tradition with the Pharisees—the hypocrites that Jesus came to condemn. They were outside of the invisible, spiritual Body of Christ and didn’t share in his death and resurrection. I believed it, but also didn’t think much of it. It was true, ipso facto.
Father Roderick, as he has for many, many people around the globe, normalized Catholicism for me. Looking back, some nine years later, I can see exactly how it unfolded. Between segments about the latest video game or television series were bits about Catholic teachings that were often misunderstood, a piece about a particular doctrine or feast day, and mixed up in all of this too were tidbits about Father Roderick’s life—he was a marathoner, a foodie, and, did I mention, a huge fan of Star Wars.
It was through this normalization of Catholicism, it was through getting to know someone thousands of miles away by sharing in a small slice of their life every day, that my interest developed, and deepened.
It was after encountering Father Roderick and The Daily Breakfast that my prejudices about the Catholic Church, and some of my misunderstandings, began to lift away. It was then that I began, slowly, to read my way into the Church.