We had no sooner been seated when our friends blurted out their big news. "You’ll never guess what we did last weekend!" David burst with excitement. "We went skydiving!"
"Skydiving?" I echoed somewhat stupidly. "You jumped out of an airplane while it was in the air?"
"It was awesome! I can’t wait to do it again!" his wife Liz added.
"Wouldn’t it have been easier to just drive to your destination?" I asked in jest. "I mean, why would anyone jump out of a perfectly good airplane?" It was obvious that I didn’t get it.
Our friends ignored my stupidity as they raved about the thrill of skydiving, the feeling of freedom, the sense of adventure. As they talked, my mind wandered to a conversation that, at the time, had not made sense. All of a sudden as I listened to my friends, it made sense, like a joke whose punch line you don’t get until a week later.
The conversation I was remembering had occurred about five years earlier. At the time, Peter and I were planning to leave our Protestant denomination. We loved our local church but the denomination was in serious trouble, so we’d begun to investigate other denominations in order to select a new church home. Most of our lives had been spent as born-again Christians, so we expected that our search would land us in a new born-again church. To our shock, as our search proceeded it became increasingly obvious that we were being propelled toward the Catholic Church. To be quite honest, that prospect was horrifying. We had little respect for the Catholic Church, and a great deal of bigotry; it was certainly not an attractive destination.
Our only hope was to find loopholes in Catholic teaching that would give us a way out. Peter began reading the Catechism – the whole thing –and was shocked to discover how rich it is. That led him to the early Church Fathers, desert monastics, encyclicals and Bible texts. I read conversion stories, studied the Scriptures, and asked a lot of questions. A lot of questions.
The sad thing was that one of the biggest obstacles to the Catholic Church was Catholics themselves. Most had little knowledge of the faith, nor did they understand why we believe what we believe. Often the best explanation they could give us was, "Because that’s what Sister Joseph Gloria told me in third grade."
It was during this period that I spoke with a lifelong Catholic who was teaching second grade CCD. It was her responsibility to help prepare the children for the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist. Wouldn’t you think that she’d comprehend the incredible power of the sacraments?
And yet when I mentioned that we were seriously considering becoming Catholic, she scratched her head and asked in confusion, "It sounds like you’re happy where you are now. Why on earth would you leave?" Essentially she was asking, "Why would anyone jump out of a perfectly good airplane?"
This woman, and many like her, did not realize the treasure we hold as Catholics. She had no sense of the phenomenal privilege of the Eucharist, and the total forgiveness of our sins through the sacrament of reconciliation. She did not seem to grasp that the Catholic Church stands on 2,000 years of teaching and tradition handed down from the Apostles. This teaching authority was what first induced us to look at the Catholic Church, and it ended up being the linchpin upon which our decision rested.
So, why did we want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane? It may have looked perfectly good on the outside, but in reality it had serious problems. That’s why we chose to leave our comfortable born-again world in order to enter the new world of the Catholic Church.
"Reg? Reg?" my friends prodded. "What planet are you on?"
"Oh, sorry," I offered. "I was thinking about jumping out of airplanes. I think I understand now."
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.