Stained glass depiction of First United Methodist Church Chicago, Illinois
I bombed the first time someone challenged my faith. Visiting a friend in Chicago, I was dazzled by her city. Truth be told, Cassandra had dazzled me for twenty years prior. We grew up together in soggy Southeast Alaska, although she moved away when we were seven years old. Her parents are my godparents, a role they generously fulfilled by offering endless hospitality and Good Literature.
She attended a real live Boston prep school with which her family is affiliated, and I stuck around Alaska, marrying a boy from Orange County. Cassandra and I wrote letters and sometimes visited each other. Through the years, her edgy handwriting offered blythe notes about ski trips, grad school fellowships and punks with trust funds. Our bond, though tender and far-flung, is still quite sincere.
During that three-day trip with my toddler, our days were a marathon of first class museums and happy wandering. I rode the El and eavesdropped on ebullient strangers after witnessing the White Sox win the 2005 World Series. Each night I dutifully ordered a new variety of Chicago's famous deep dish pizza.
While walking her dog and my baby in her Rogers Park neighborhood, talk turned to travelling with babies.
I mentioned (rather pridefully and without cause) that earlier in the day, Lucy had finally fussed to sleep as I chanted the words of the Hail Mary against the hum of the basement laundry room. I had been a confirmed Catholic for less than six months and was still clumsy with the words of this prayer, but drawn to its meditative use. Cassandra answered with a casual question about being Catholic, specifically "as an intelligent woman". I demured, unprepared. She wasn't hostile and I wasn't resentful, but nothing was gained in the way of understanding. I had all the personal thrill of conversion, but so little to offer my inquiring friend.
It's trite but true --- we often take the gift of our faith for granted, not even sensing our lack of evangelization until we're stuck. Such has been my conclusion while watching the adroit "Catholic responses" to the Jefferson Bethke's viral video. The answers are truly beautiful, but am I wrong to assume they appeal mostly to people who are already Catholic? While my regretful moment was that of a fresh convert unaware there was an entire field called apologetics --- the call remains the same. To drink deep, of a Love so visible that we will be approachable, but ready with a defense of our Mother.
The Catholic Church is not a response to Protestantism.