My personal miracle misfires
I was scanning the AM radio dial while driving into town. The local Catholic radio station popped up and I discovered it was broadcasting the audio of The Journey Home, a television program devoted to the stories of converts to Catholicism. Sometimes boring, sometimes fascinating, host Marcus Grodi was entertaining listeners with tales recounted by former atheists who were now Roman Catholics. One of the former atheists was now a priest. Quite a switch! One even used to be a homosexual (or so he says). That's also quite a switch.
Father Jay Scott Newman had a nice story about two boys who were childhood friends who drifted apart as they grew up, one eventually rising to the position of archbishop while the other descended into drug addiction and despair. Newman described the depths of the addict's hopelessness, until he had an epiphany on the verge of committing suicide with a deliberate overdose. The despairing man suddenly cried out:
“God made me to love him and serve him in this life and to be happy with him in the next!”
“That was the last thing he had to cling to,” said Father Newman, “and it saved his life.”
In his hour of need, the junkie had dragged an old Baltimore catechism response from the depths of his childhood memories.
“And it was enough,” gushed Grodi. “Praise God for catechism!”
A nice story. Possibly even true. I have no special reason to doubt it. Just as some people find meaning and significance in Scientology, astrology, or fad diets, the protagonist in this morality tale found his anchor in rote-memorized responses from the religious training (or programming) of his youth. It could work.
I was not especially impressed. I knew Father Newman would not be sharing the story if the addict had gotten a grip on himself by shouting, “I am a rational man and I will behave rationally!” In brief, the message of The Journey Home was being lost on me.
Then, however, Marcus Grodi seemed to sense that I was listening. Perhaps he got a word of knowledge from God himself. However it happened, Grodi asked the priest to speak to me:
“Father, I'd like to ask you to first of all end with a prayer and a blessing, and particularly we're thinking of any who might be watching who might be an atheist, who maybe was brought up in the faith and happens to be watching.”
Damn! I was an atheist. I was brought up in Catholicism. I was listening. Damn! Of course, I'm not sure about the canonical validity of a blessing delivered via a taped broadcast—but they were clearly on to me! Father Newman was about to zap me with a special blessing. But Grodi suddenly intervened. Turning to his other guests, he said,
“Before you do that, any quick final words from either of the two of you with a word of encouragement for one of those folks who might be watching?”
As the other guests begin to babble some closing remarks, I arrived at my destination and pulled into a parking structure. The radio transmission cut off as I passed inside. No blessing. No divine intervention.