The moment I returned to the Catholic Church, Jack T. Chick, the infamous anti-Catholic cartoonist, entered my life. Well-meaning friends from my evangelical congregation took me aside. They were genuinely concerned: Did I not know that the Catholic Church was the “whore of babylon”, and that Mary was a fertility goddess with fresh make-up? Surely I wouldn’t become one of those idol-worshippers!
I had researched my way into an appointment with the Holy Spirit, but my immediate reversion to the faith had been a spiritual event, not an intellectual one. I had accepted Jesus as my savior at the hands of a Baptist deacon, and had been immediately filled with an overwhelming desire to attend Mass. I also knew, on my way to that first fateful Mass, that I needed to go to confession. I was on the lookout for a good priest who’d hear my confession and give me good advice.
First thing in the morning after my reversion experience, I went to Mass at the nearest Catholic parish. There was a visiting priest: Fr. James LeBlanc, then pastor at St. Martin de Porres church in Columbia, SC. And he was my guy.
That weekend I got in line for confession at his parish, stayed on for Mass afterwards, and just ended up sticking around St. Martin’s thereafter. Fr. LeBlanc got me on the fast track towards Catholic living. He began preparing Jon and I to have our marriage convalidated, and he directed us towards a free informational class on natural family planning. He kept a basket of Catechisms at the foot of the altar, and made sure everyone in the parish knew they could have one if they needed one. And he was around — available in the those few minutes after daily Mass to answer questions and keep me moving forward spiritually.
Meanwhile, Jack Chick & Company were busy telling me I’d signed on with Hell itself. Luckily, most of the anti-Catholic propaganda was laughingly easy to refute.
For one thing, if being Catholic made me a citizen of Vatican City, how come I never got my passport? I sure would’ve loved the legal right to live and work in Europe. Many anti-Catholic claims could be answered using non-Catholic sources, such as Ralph Woodrow’s The Babylon Connecton?, and going to Orthodox sources for quotes from the Church fathers in support of the sacraments and the Catholic view of scripture and salvation. Being able to use outside sources held a lot of weight with my skeptical and cautious husband.
Having to answer these egregious attacks on the Church was the best thing that ever happened to me. I didn’t have the luxury of saying, “Well, I just like the liturgy,” or “This seems to be where God wants me for now.” I had to turn on my brain and find out: Is this faith true? Can I know beyond a reasonable doubt that this is for real? Because it’s lovely to have bright glowing memories of a spiritual experience, but what about when shine wears off? What about when all the scandals that have rocked the Church take their turn at my place for a change? Will I still believe when things aren’t so easy anymore?
For five or six years after my reversion, I lived in apologetics boot camp. My marriage was the Reformation warmed-over. Jon and I had countless heated arguments, though no one was burned at the stake, so I guess we were ahead of the game.
Jon eventually became the best non-Catholic Catholic apologist on the block. Once I was firm in my faith, I had to cancel my subscriptions to This Rock and Envoy so I wouldn’t get too cranky at all the ignorant heathen around me, who just didn’t seem to ‘get it’ despite my brilliant explanations for their benefit.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul, and all your strength.
If it’s the Holy Spirit that got my heart and soul to show up at Mass, it’s Jack Chick and a hard-working Catholic priest who together brought my brain to the game. And I’m staying.
Copyright © 2012, Jennifer Fitz