I've been talking with people of many faiths for over 20 years, now. During that time, I've met a great number who fell away from the Catholic Church. Catholics are, by far, the largest group of Christians. By ourselves, we total over 1 billion. But, somewhere, I heard that the 2nd largest Christian group, is fallen away Catholics. In the U.S. there are 71 million Catholics and 36 million ex-Catholics. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could get them all back?
Let's pray for that.
But, I digress. In this article, I would like to begin to analyze how I fell away from the Church. It's a subject that is dear to my heart. I have often thought about it and tried to analyze it, in order to come up with a plan to keep my own children from reliving my mistakes.
Why I left the Catholic Church - The devil made me do it.
Believe it or not, I think my journey out of the Catholic Church began when I was about 5 years of age.
Just as Satan tricked Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Satan tricked me when I was of a very tender age.
I went to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. I don't remember everything about those days, but I do remember my first day at school. I remember my kindergarten teacher harshly introducing me to her style of authority by slapping one of my fellow students on the back with her ruler. This impressed me so much, that I preferred wetting my pants to raising my hand and letting her know that I needed to go to the bathroom.
When I think back, I know that I was a very innocent and faithful little boy. I remember counseling my fellow students to be good. I remember that when I was asked how babies were made, I responded, "God gives them to people when they get married." So, I believed in God in those days.
But I also remember that, one day, as I was preparing to go outside and play with my friends. I was standing near the door of our small apartment. My grandmother came out of the middle room, obviously excited. She stopped me and pointed at something in her hand. It was a tiny seed. And she said, "Do you know, that if you have this much faith, you can tell a mountain to move and it will move?"
I don't remember saying anything in reply. Although, I may have said, "I have more faith than that!" If I didn't say it, I thought it. After my grandmother's lesson, I stepped outside with the idea that I would put that new knowledge to a test. After all, I lived in an area surrounded by mountains. I could test this premise, easily. I knew that I had more faith than that little seed. So, I walked to the corner of the street where I could have an unobstructed view of our largest mountain and I said, "Move!" I waited a few seconds.
Just as I suspected! Nothing. It occurred to me that this test might be a little unfair. After all, that was the largest mountain. Maybe it was too big for God to move. So, I looked at the smaller mountain, next to that one. And I said, "Move!" Again, I waited a few seconds.
Still, nothing. Again, maybe this test was also, unfair. There were some clouds over the little mountain. They were little clouds and light. Obviously. Maybe the little mountain was also too big for God. But these little clouds, they were nothing at all. If what my grandmother said was true, then these little clouds should be easily moved in the opposite direction that they were traveling. So, I looked at them and said, "Move!"
Now, that whole thing might seem innocuous enough to all of you. But, I remember having the distinct thought, at that moment, "Maybe God doesn't exist at all."
Where did that thought come from? As I think about it now, I know where it came from. It came from Satan. It was a little weed that he planted that would grow later in my life.
Think about it. My grandmother didn't do anything wrong. She was instilling her faith in her grandson. Who would have imagined that this grandson would go out and turn the entire lesson upside down?
What lessons can we draw from this?
I think the lesson we can draw boils down to the Parable of the Sower. In Scripture, Jesus tells us that we preach the Word like a farmer sows his seed. Sometimes those seeds fall on ground that is not ready to receive it. And, I, was obviously, not ready to receive that word on that particular day.
On that day, my grandmother did everything right, in accordance with the culture of the day. Today, most of us wouldn't dream of letting a 5 year old have the run of the streets. In those days, parents wouldn't dream of letting their children stay indoors. It wasn't natural. Children were supposed to be outdoors, playing with their friends.
Homeschooling was unknown amongst Catholics. My grandmother gave me a short lesson that day. But it wasn't something she was accustomed to doing. Nor was it something that I would have probably allowed. Even at that age, I knew how to sneak out of the house to avoid all kinds of things, like taking baths, doing chores and going to church.
So, another lesson we can draw, is this. There's no way I can blame my grandmother for anything that she did that day. She did all that she knew she was supposed to do. There was another force at work that day. And that force tricked another innocent, the way he tricked Adam and Eve, so many centuries ago.