Is It Possible You Were Never Not a Catholic?

One of the reasons I enjoy doing book talks on Growing in Love and Wisdom is that I get such interesting questions during the event. The range of questions is broad – raging from my own conversion experience, to specific points of similarity or difference between Christianity and Buddhism to forms of prayer and the challenges of maintaining a regular prayer practice, and then some.

When I was speaking at Marquette University the other night, one of the audience members asked me whether it was possible to say that, notwithstanding all of the years I spent as a Buddhist, was it possible to say I was never not a Catholic.

I thought it was an interesting question in that the answer rests on what it means to say that one is Catholic. If being Catholic is simply about self-identification as a Catholic, then the answer to my questioner was a simple no. For twenty years I assuredly did not self-identify as Catholic.

If being Catholic means simply having been baptized, then once baptized Catholic, always a Catholic. (We learned in grade school that Baptism left an indelible mark on our souls.) In that sense of the term, since I was baptized as a child, I’ve always been Catholic.

What I’be been puzzling over is whether there is another way to understand that question that allows me to answer the question in a more thoughtful way. I’m not actually sure that I can, but I want to think about it some more.

What I can say is that, in retrospect, it is clear to me that whatever I called myself, God was with me. That I may not have been looking at or for God, but God was always looking at me. And that whatever direction I thought my life was going, I was moving with and toward God. And maybe that’s enough for me to know.


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