Friday, April 10, 2015


The story of a revert:

Carol Costello is an award-winning journalist and an anchor of "CNN Newsroom." The opinions in this column belong to her.
Carol Costello-Profile-Image
(CNN)I remember the day I stopped praying. It was the day after my little brother, Jimmy, died of cancer. He was 25. I was so angry at God.

I was 27 at the time, and, like most young people I had stopped going to church. But, on that day -- that terrible day -- I desperately needed to understand why God took my brother. I called the nearest Catholic church, looking for a priest. A lady picked up the phone. "Can I talk with Father?" I asked.
I wish I could say her answer was "yes."

Instead, she asked me if I was a member of that particular parish. "Does it matter?" I asked. (At the time I lived far from my home parish.) I don't remember how she responded, but the answer about my being able to see Father was clearly no. 

I don't know if all Catholic churches would have shut me out, but I figured, at the time, it was part of the long list of rules the Vatican required Catholic leaders to follow. I cried for a bit, then decided I would never ask God for anything. Clearly, his conduits on Earth did not have time for me -- a lifelong Catholic -- and sinner -- so why would he?

Ever since, I've considered myself a lapsed Catholic.

Until Pope Francis.

There is something about Francis that's reawakened my faith. And it's not because he opened the floodgates to allow sin in the eyes of the church. He still argues against things I passionately support, but I find myself -- like many other lapsed Catholics -- enthralled.

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting one of the Pope's newly appointed cardinals. His name is Cardinal Gerald LaCroix. The 57-year-old presides at the Basilica Cathedral of Notre Dame in Quebec City. 

One of my first questions: What is it about Pope Francis?
"Every person is a mystery you know. ... But what's evident is this man is living with such freedom, such inner freedom. He's himself. He's in tune with the Lord," LaCroix told me. 

"Those close to him say he's up close to 4 in the morning to prepare his daily Mass, which is at 7 in the morning on the weekdays. So that's almost three hours of prayer, preparation and silence before the Lord and the word of God. Wow, that really fine-tunes you to start off a day."
Perhaps that's how the Pope stays humble. Why he defies tradition and washes the feet of the disabled, women and those of other faiths. Why he ordered showers to be built for the poor in St. Peter's Square.

All of this is appealing, but it's more than that. In my mind, it's his tone. When Pope Francis said, "If a person is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" The comment took me aback. Homosexuality has long been a taboo subject for the Vatican, yet Pope Francis uttered those welcoming words.

LaCroix likened the Pope's approach to Jesus. "Jesus didn't judge. Jesus did not come as a judge. He came as someone who preached and talked about the love of God."

Those kinds of answers are so different in my experience, but I understand why more conservative Catholics worry. If the Pope does not judge, then who will tell us who is a sinner and who is not?
"I hear that sometimes, too," LaCroix told me. "I think Pope Francis is conservative in the right way. You have to be conservative enough to come back to what is the foundation: that's the Gospel. You cannot reproach Pope Francis of not living the Gospel, or not preaching the truth of the Gospel."
But isn't homosexuality a sin in the eyes of the church? 

"There is room for everyone. The door is open," Cardinal Lacroix insisted. "Of course you know that the Catholic Church will never promote same sex marriage, but do we respect homosexual persons? Do we welcome them? Do we accompany them? Of course. But to respect the Church and its teaching, which is based on a long tradition and also the word of God, we will not go so far as to bless. But that doesn't mean we reject."

That last sentiment -- "that doesn't mean we reject." -- did it for me.

I finally understood why Pope Francis reawakened my faith. I always felt my church would reject me for committing the smallest of sins. Like calling a priest at a church that was not my home parish. Like not covering my head with a traditional veil at Easter. Like accidentally eating meat on Holy Friday. Like supporting the use of contraception. 

But as LaCroix told me, Jesus walked with sinners until the very end. He did not banish them to fires of hell, for He refused to give up on anyone.

The Cardinal's last words to me: "I'm trying to do my best on (the) local level -- to have an open ear to what the church and world are experiencing. To see how we can today respond to those needs. I want people to see me, and the church, as an open heart to grow together. Not a church that's imposing -- we have nothing to impose -- we have someone to propose: the Lord Jesus and his Gospel."

I can't wait to go church next Sunday. And, yes, I will bow my head and pray for forgiveness, and if I'm worthy, Christ's love.


Servimus Unum Deum said...

Thanks for this article Father. I highlighted it on my blog, Servimus Unum Deum.

Rood Screen said...

Parishes receive many telephone calls for a wide variety of reasons. Occasionally, the reason is urgent and requires a priest. Usually, it is not urgent, and a qualified deacon or lay minster, or even just the secretary, can handle it. Therefore, there must be some means of determining whether the request is for an urgent pastoral need requiring a priest, or a less urgent need that can be addressed in another way or at another time.

Vox Cantoris said...

She seems to have been badly catechised from the start and blamed everyone else for her own spiritual sloth. I don't feel sorry for her at all.

newguy40 said...

No comments from me on the Pope Francis love fest in the article.

But, her last words are wonderful. "go to Church and pray for forgiveness"

She is deserving of Christ's love and I am so happy that is, I hope and pray, on the road back to the Church.

So many times I hear people like her tell me how they seem to have had one bad experience and then they decide to quit the Church or stop believing in God. I think most if not all of those folks have already been suffering some crisis of faith already. Then, they have the "issue" and then they are done.

I will say that I hope and pray that not only does she go to Church on Sunday but goes to confession. The angels and saints would rejoice!

Anonymous said...

I kind of don't like these sorts of half-hearted "return to faith on my own terms" kinds of opinion pieces. It is almost like, gee, if the Church could only meet me half way, I could come back.
I noted she, as do many in the media, quoted Francis about the homosexual priest out of context, as if he said, "(active) gay is okay as long as the person is searching for God and has good will." Of course that's what the world wants to hear, but it isn't what was said. So basing a hope on that, isn't that going to lead to a further disappointment when she realizes what she thought was said was not said, and what she thought was Catholic teaching, which she could not agree with, actually is Catholic teaching?
This isn't a reversion of repentance. It's a reversion of maybe the Church sees things my way after all.
Remember in the Gospel's those who just couldn't follow Jesus because he spoke of eating His flesh and drinking His blood? There are those of us who will be willing to do as He says even if it sounds horrible, and those whose own minds tell them they cannot do as He says, they will not do as He says.
Perhaps her's is a case of a smoldering wick not being extinguished. I sincerely hope so, and will say a prayer for her.

rcg said...

She must take up a search for Faith and study the Church's teachings to prevent falling away again when we get a new Pope. I pray that she finds her Faith regardless of who is talking to her.

Anonymous said...

"I always felt my church would reject me for committing the smallest of forgetting my chapel veil...supporting the use of contraception."

Something is missing here, either a) Catechesis or b) Honesty

Forgetting your chapel veil does not equal supporting contraception.

Though the media would have you believe otherwise, the terms "sin" and "sinner" are not interchangeable. The Church rejects sin, particularly unrepentant sin. But the Church is full of sinners! Brimming with sinners! But all sinners are welcome who confess and repent of their sin. Submit to the Church's authority to define sin and repent, confess, and make an effort to work on your sins and you're in!


Anonymous said...

Like Bee, I think that Ms. Costello is under the assumption that the Church will meet her half-way. From time to time, my husband turns on her show and the intensity she expresses toward those who hold different opinions is staggering. So I truly hope she finds her way back to the fullness of the faith and not some watered-down version that allows one to believe in grave. The biggest problem that I have seen so far during Pope Francis' papacy is the tendency of the Left to idolize him to such a degree that all common sense flies out of the window. Like other Supreme Pontiffs before him, the Holy Father is prayerful; and yet this is routinely portrayed by clerics and the media as some wholly new invention, resulting from his humility. Personally, I find aspects of his papacy troubling, especially in regard to the often flip remarks about Catholics who are more traditional in scope. That coupled with the chastisement and removal of Latin Mass-oriented prelates is really bothersome. The Holy Spirit is in charge so we will all see what He has in store for the Church

WSquared said...

It's a step in the right direction.

While priests are very busy, and are often overworked, I wish the answer of that parish secretary had been "Father's very busy, but I'll see what I can do." I do like JBS's answer: here, some counseling of the doubtful by anyone qualified at all until a priest is available-- if being able to speak to a priest is in fact necessary.

I've been blessed to have many a priest be very patient with me, and far more than I deserve. One at another parish very graciously offered to hear my Confession recently "by appointment"; I was prepared for him saying "no," even though he knows me, given that I'm not a parishioner. But he did it anyway. That's a gift. Why shouldn't she have received the same? Persistence in faith has to start somewhere.

Sometimes, the faithful do need to see that their priests are there for them, because they need to know that Christ means it when He says "I will be with you unto the end of the age." It can make all the difference, especially if they are having a crisis of faith: a crisis of faith is not a reason to turn away; it's an opportunity for growth. Nobody should expect a childish faith to sustain them as an adult. The Catholic imagination does matter, because the Catholic faith provides a way of seeing the world-- one that is counter-intuitive and counter-cultural, and one where everything is logically coherent and connected. So, whatever we can do to cultivate that imagination...

Priests stand In Persona Christi, and no priests, no Eucharist. Most people don't make that connection. Not everybody is at the same place on the way to conversion, and most Catholics who graduate from Catholic school don't know how to connect the dots of the faith that they've received.

It seems like this woman wasn't just badly catechized, but also wasn't spiritually mature then and still isn't. But it's not too late to start! Sloth is a problem here, as it is for many to most modern Catholics: it's great to notice that Pope Francis is merciful, but yet, one has to be repentant in order to receive that mercy. A lot of people don't seem to understand that connection, either.

What I hope and pray for is that she will come to realize that the Francis that enthralls her and the Francis who "is still against what I passionately believe in" are one and the same-- in fact, the two go together. His emphasis on mercy would have no substance were it not for the "hard teachings," and the hard teachings would be a form of cruelty without the mercy and love that are at their very heart. Put another way: if you only pick and choose the stuff you like while jettisoning the stuff you find hard that you "don't like," you'll find that without the stuff you "don't like," the stuff you "like" will fall down.

George said...

But to respect the Church and its teaching, which is based on a long tradition and also the word of God, we will not go so far as to bless. But that doesn't mean we reject."

The teachings of God, His laws and precepts, correspond to His Essence, His Nature and His Holiness. It is the desire of God that we have a good relationship to Him and this can only come about by us by our will conforming ourselves to His Holy Will. We have a right relationship to fire by respecting its nature. The mercy of fire is that it provides heat and light, the justice of it is its power to burn and consume. So likewise God by His Nature is just and merciful.
Persons in a marriage must respect each other or the marital relationship between them will suffer and even cease to exist. Would a spouse stay in a relationship in which her marriage partner was in an aduleterous affair? Only if the affair ended and the person repented with a sincere resolution not to engage in that behavior again. Even with that it may well take a long time for things to heal and get back to where they once were.
Both in the Old and the New Testament, marriage is used to convey our relationship to God. We would do well to ponder that.

The best part is what Carol Costello says at the end.

"I can't wait to go church next Sunday. And, yes, I will bow my head and pray for forgiveness, and if I'm worthy, Christ's love."

God call us from where we are at but He beckons us to come to where He is at. I hope an pray Ms Costello becomes a good Catholic.