….1) Bertha, who is not Catholic, has been married for 20 years to Titus, a Catholic. They were married at Mass, by a priest. She has attended Mass with him every Sunday since they moved into the parish. Their four children attend Catholic schools. She has been active in the Mother’s Club, has served as a faithful chaperone at high school “dances” and participates in one of the parish’s prayer groups. More recently she has received Communion every Sunday. The priests—rather against the wishes of the Vatican, it is to be feared—argue that it would create grave scandal if they denied her the Eucharist. Many people in the parish assume she is a Catholic. In late May, she informs Father Prudens. the pastor, that she wants to become a Catholic, preferably on the day of her husband’s 45th birthday, which is also graduation day from high school for her elder daughter Tina. Father Prudens sees no problem until Bertha tells him that, well, she never was baptized. His R.C.I.A. director, Elutheria, insists that Bertha must go through the whole process and that she cannot under any circumstances be baptized before the following Easter, 10 months away. If the pastor baptizes Bertha on the day she has requested, Elutheria announces, she will resign.

2) Coenobius is a distinguished literary critic and art expert. He has wandered the world religiously. Now married to a Catholic wife, Martiana, and the father of two small daughters, Coenobia and Fiona, he finds the religion of his family powerfully attractive. As he admits to the selfsame Father Prudens, he may finally have chosen to settle down with a Catholic family because he has always found Catholicism appealing. Peter Paul Rubens in particular has drawn him to the church. He is deeply impressed by the vitality of the parish, even finding the English liturgy attractive, although he deplores the quality of the translated text. The more he reads the literature of humankind, he says, the more he is convinced that humankind is destined for Something beyond itself and that Catholicism is the best representative there is of that human instinct. Long ago he read Augustine and Aquinas and more recently Teilhard de Chardin. Now he wants to talk out his insights and intuitions.

At a very general level it makes two important points that have been forgotten in the past and of which contemporary Catholics needed to be reminded—that becoming a Christian is a process and not an event, and that it is a process which of necessity should involve some sort of community.

3) Jucundus is an upright young son of an important Anglo-Saxon family that has not been religious for three generations. He knows hardly any Catholics. But as an undergraduate student at South Cook County University and a devotee of the classics, he has devoured Catholic theologians from Ignatius of Antioch to David Tracy, some of them (including Father Tracy) in the original. He is convinced, like the young Avery Dulles, that Catholicism is True. A friend. Anna, tells him that she has heard from Catholics she knows that Father Prudens is very sympathetic to people who want to become Catholics. Father Prudens is the first Catholic priest to whom he has ever spoken.

4) Sarah, a Jewish woman, and Bono, a Catholic man, have met at college and claim to be desperately in love with one another, a claim that profoundly offends both their families, as it has been designed to do. Since Sarah is marginally more strongly motivated to offend her parents, she agrees to become a Catholic, although she is repelled by the church. However she finds herself intrigued by it. too. She has what she thinks is a powerful mystical experience at Christmas Midnight Mass and tells Father Prudens that now she has no choice but to become a Catholic. She even compares herself to Paul Claudel who had a similar experience at the first Vespers of Christmas (Father Prudens is surprised that anyone has heard of Paul Claudel these days). She thinks she may break up with Bono and become a cloistered Carmelite.

What is Father Prudens to do? Turn these four people over to the enthusiastic shallowness of the parish R.C.I.A. team?

Give me a break!

The above comes from an August 11 story in America magazine. Greeley died in 2013.