I started life as a cradle Catholic, baptized at Our Lady of Angels. I went to
St. Joe’s was a typical Catholic grammar school. We wore uniforms. About half of our teachers were Sisters of the Divine Compassion, the rest were laypeople. We had one room that was a combination auditorium, cafeteria, gymnasium and church. So it was there that I played Squanto in the Thanksgiving play, ate ham and cheese sandwiches, was taught how to dribble a basketball (badly) and received the Eucharist.
The changes of Vatican II happened in my early grammar school years. I can still remember going to Latin mass. By the time I got to high school, Sister Mary Bonaventure, who I was my first grade teacher, was now Sister Delores. She seemed to enjoy telling my high school class her memories of me in first grade!
High school has a similar mix of laity and religious teachers. Since this was the high school that most of the kids from the northern part of the county attended, I had friends from whole area. There was a group of 5 of us who didn't fit in with one of the easily identifiable high school groups. We weren't jocks or brainiacs or greasers or stoners (although we were close to some of them at various times). So we formed our own group, "The Lunatic Fringe"! As a result, we survived high school.
In college, my friend Dave, who was a fellow member of "the Lunatic Fringe" and also Catholic, had become a born-again Christian (As we said back then. Or, as I would say now, had an experience of deeper conversion to the faith he already had in Christ.) We had planned to room together the next year, so he told me how he had come to know Christ.
It was a typical March afternoon on the Albany campus, a Thursday. Dave told me of how he came to a personal faith in Christ. He challenged me by saying that if what we had been taught by the Church was true, if Jesus was the Son of God who had became man and died on the cross so our sins could be forgiven, and if God raised him from the dead—if that were all true then it called for a response. It was not something you could just say "Yeah, that's nice." Christ wasTruth worth believing, worth following.
Did I take Dave's Challenge? More in part two, or "How a Nice Catholic Boy Became a Baptist".