We were putting down our Christmas decorations this weekend. In Catholic life, Christmas comes to an end rather late. We tried to make the most of it, though endless problems, a death in the family, sickness and a polar vortex that challenged our ramshackle house took away many of the traditions we've enjoyed in years past. That's tough, since this was our 18 year old's Senior year and we wanted it to be a special year. Hopefully we had enough family time to offset the issues.
Which leads me to where I am. As we were putting things away, I noticed a special ornament. It was a commemorative ornament my wife and I received years ago. I was just starting out in ministry. Though I was a second year seminary student, I already had made a mark with my colleagues. I was older than many, and my testimony (recent convert) got me speaking engagements beyond what my lack of experience would suggest. By 1994, I was serving at one of flagship churches in Kentucky. I had already spoken at large gatherings, youth rallies and other special occasions.
I was doing well in school. Professors and students recommended that I should continue on and get a PhD. Perhaps be a professor myself. Within years, I had visited governor's mansions, dined with the president of one of the country's leading seminaries, had lunch with a Secretary of State. I had met religious leaders. I had become a senior pastor. I had gone back to school to pursue the doctoral degree that so many people recommended.
And that year, at the start of it all, my wife and I sat in the balcony, with the senior pastor, local business leaders, media personnel, professors and other leaders of the denomination. We were watching the annual Christmas performance, a local event broadcast and promoted throughout the season. And during intermission, the pastor presented select guests with a commemorative ornament. My wife and I received one. There was applause from the audience. All seemed to be a horizon bright with a wonderful future.
Now, as I type this, I prepare to go to my job. A mid-day schedule. For four days a week, and one day in the weekend, I'm removed from my family. I don't make enough to pay bills, and my wife can't find work. Without what she gets from the government, we'd be bankrupt. We've lost all savings, most retirement, and virtually everything we've had.
I've been told that there is nothing for me in our diocese. That's it. There isn't anything. The reasons are varied, and I can't quite tell why. I see others coming into the Church and doing well, though most to be honest had other vocations than just Protestant Clergy. Most were professors. Or they had some other vocation in life they could lean on.
Despite the stories told by certain lay apostolates, there really aren't many full time vocational clergy who become Catholic. And I can't help but guess I'm why. It's one thing to say sell everything you have for that pearl of great value. It's another to do it.
The family has certainly suffered, especially the boys. Those outside who know of our plight have increasingly begun to tell us to come home to the Protestant world. Get a job. Serve the Church. Be loved. Be accepted. Family and former colleagues who know what we've been through have been ratcheting up the invites. But here's the problem. I don't believe it. Protestantism that is. I believe in the historic faith as live out in the Catholic tradition. As Peter said, where do I go? When I believe something is true, what are my options?
I'm not sure if the Church would care, though I know some individual Catholics would. Nonetheless, I can't leave what I believe to be true, even though I feel I would be cared for better if I did so. I must trudge along. Still, I can't help wonder at times, just like now, what happened. A life that seemed so full of promise, so full of encouragement, now this. A diamond in the rough a former colleague called me. Someone who had something to give. That seems so long ago. Now, I must get ready. I'm a paper pusher underpaid and unable to support my family. I've been told there is no future in the Church, at least not in these parts. As it stands now, I must go on wondering.