In my 25 years spent trying to fit into the Catholic church there were some fond memories. I wouldn't want anyone to think that it was all negative. As I have previously stated I only became Catholic because I was at the time married to one.
My instructions were a bit unorthodox. I tried attending a class, but it moved so slow it would have taken me years to accomplish my goal. I talked to the young (about my age) priest in charge and was asked, "Would you like to follow me?" Some of you might see that as my first mistake. Back then I was a lot younger and easily persuaded to follow. One of the funniest things that happened during our one on one instruction periods was when Father Bob asked me with a straight face, "What is the difference between a priest and a nun?" After I stopped laughing I gave him the answer he was expecting. A priest is ordained and a nun isn't. It still makes laugh when I think about it.
Shortly after I was finally baptized the Bishop came to visit our church. Apparently that was a big deal, but I wasn't terribly impressed. After mass the parishioners formed a line and one by one offered a greeting to the Bishop. I stuck out my hand and shook his as any normal person would do. Immediately, Father Bob stepped in and explained to him that I was new and didn't know I was supposed to kiss his hand. Whew saved by the bell! Along this train of thinking I never did get used to kissing a piece of wood that was supposed to be Jesus. Haven't you people ever heard of germs?
We eventually moved to the Laguna Indian Reservation in New Mexico and a whole new brand of priests appeared. They were a little less formal and on occasion stopped by our house to share a meal with us. I even agreed to be on the parish council for a short time before I realized it wasn't my thing. That experience brings back a rather embarrassing memory. During one of our meetings the priest was adamant that any child whose parents did not regularly attend mass would not go to heaven. His statement pissed me off to the point of my asking him. "Have you talked to God lately?" I never have been able to keep my mouth shut when something offends me!
The next outstanding memory occurred when we brought our new born daughter home from the hospital. We saw Father Bill outside the church and stopped to introduce the baby to him. I rolled down the car window and handed him my daughter. He was so startled I was afraid he would drop her. I seriously doubt he had ever held a newborn in his arms before. This same priest once tossed a basketball out into the congregation to make a point during his sermon. Fair is fair!
Our next move was 30 miles up the road to the small town of Grants, NM and again I met a new batch of priests. We pretty much avoided the large Catholic church and chose the smaller parishes to attend mass. The priests and nuns were much friendlier. I have a very fond memory of Father Oliver who loved music. Whoever came to his mass was expected to sing, whether you had a good voice or not, it did not matter. He reminded me a little of Gomer Pyle
And then came Father Clark, a priest I will always remember and I doubt there will ever another like him. What made him special, in my opinion, was the fact that he had been a Navy Chaplain and as such had seen and heard it all. He also knew that before he was ordained he was a human just like everyone else. I can't think of him without remembering his, slightly overweight dog, who always found a comfortable spot to nap right in front of the alter during mass. Father Clark loved to bend the rules just a bit. He changed the midnight Christmas mass to 8:00 p.m. because he said he couldn't stay awake until 12:00.
So you see my 25 year experience with trying to fit in as a Catholic wasn't all bad, just different.