What’s the best gift your mom gave you? That’s the question behind my new series of guest-posts. Today I’m pleased to welcome the writer Mitch Finley as my guest! Mitch is the author of more than 30 books on Catholic themes, including The Rosary Handbook: A Guide for Newcomers, Old-Timers, and Those In Between (The Word Among Us Press) and Key Moments in Church History (Sheed & Ward). His reflection got me thinking about something I’ve never thanked my parents for … and should. Thank you, Mitch!
My mother and father were young and naive when they married in 1943, he 21, she barely 19. Hindsight reveals a couple of kids who, at that time, had no business getting married, to each other or, for that matter, to anyone else. Having studied for many years what makes a resilient, lasting marriage, I can see that their marriage didn’t have a ghost of a chance. That they stayed together as long as they did, some 20 years, is attributable to their decision to do so for the sake of the kids–myself and my younger sister–by itself never a good reason for any couple to stay married.
All the same, had my parents not married I would not have been born, so I have to thank them for that, as I must admit that I’m glad I was born. To echo Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., “So it goes.” It’s also true that my mother had some spiritual/religious leanings, and for some reason these leanings inclined her toward the Roman Catholic Church. After I completed second grade in a public school, she announced that my sister and I would, the next fall, attend the local Catholic school which was presided over by Benedictine nuns. Then, a couple of years into that experience, she and my father “took instructions” from the parish priest, and one sunny Sunday morning in May each one of us inclined our head over the baptismal font and became Catholic.
I had a few dark hours in the Catholic school, but all in all I felt at home there, was thankful to be there. I grew to love being Catholic, and while I can’t claim to be a cradle Catholic, all but the first nine years of my life have been Catholic years, and for that I am thankful, too. I would never choose to be anything else. I love being Catholic, I love following the Catholic calendar and being a member of the not infrequently wild and crazy Catholic community. I love the sacraments, and the scriptures, and everything else about being Catholic. And for this I have my mother to thank; this was the best gift she ever gave me. She it was who prodded our father to agree to send us to a Catholic school, and it was at her urging that we all were baptized Catholic. She is the reason I’m Catholic today and have been so for lo, these many years. Were this not so, I would not have majored in Religious Studies at a Catholic university, would not have enthusiastically earned a master’s degree in Theology at yet another Catholic university. For me, my studies truly were the fides quaerens intellectum of Saint Anselm, faith seeking understanding.
My mom did not have an easy life; that she was what I would call “emotionally challenged” led her to make some unwise, unhappy choices. But she gave me the gift of life, and then she gave me the gift that surpasses even the gift of life, namely, the gift of the Catholic faith. Thanks, Mom.