This was late winter, early spring of 2005. The nation was watching the final days of Terry Shiavo unfold, and you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing something about some bishop or other speaking out against the impending death.
I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to hear anything else about Catholics, and their loudmouthed bishops who were sticking their noses into something that, as far as I could tell, didn’t even involve them.
Then she died.
Ken, Lotus and I were in a Cici’s pizza when the news of his death broke. There were TVs mounted all over the ceiling of the restaurant, and even though the sound was off, the news came across on the ticker at the bottom of the screen.
I started to cry.
For a man I didn’t know who was the head of a church I didn’t want to think about.
I went to the bathroom and tried to get control of myself. What the hell was wrong with me?
Chalking it up to the hormone cocktail courtesy of my 7th month of pregnancy, I went back to finish lunch with my family. But I couldn’t shake the sense of overwhelming sadness. Back in the car, on the way home, the news was on the radio, and I teared up again.
The entrance to our neighborhood was directly across the street from—you guessed it—a Catholic church: Queen of Peace Catholic Church, to be exact. I would tell myself that the only reason I even noticed it was because it had a bright turquoise tin roof, and who can overlook something like that?
That day, the parking lot, which had been unsettlingly full during the days leading up to the Pope’s death, was full to overflowing. Cars were parked all the way down the street, and somehow, the thought of all those Catholics, mourning the loss of their Pope, made me tear up again.
I couldn’t get past it. I couldn’t get past the feelings of mourning that would come over me in the following days.
One night, not long after, I was on the internet again, and found myself at a website explaining the Miraculous Medal. Too perplexed by this newest revelation of Catholic oddity to keep my guard up, I accepted the website’s offer to send me a free medal.
Whatever. Weirdo Catholics and their weirdo medals and the weirdo claims of miracles and graces for people who wore the stupid things with devout trust in God.
Mumbo to the Jumbo.
I promptly forgot about my momentary lapse in good reason and went to read about Galileo and all the ways the Church hated science and reason.
Oops. Somewhere along the way, I got sidetracked by a list of famous scientists who were priests and all the other scientists the Church had encouraged, cultivated, and supported.
The end date of my second pregnancy sluggishly approaching, I went to the doctor for a routine checkup. I walked out of the appointment in a complete daze, having learned that the baby was breech, the doctor wouldn’t deliver breech babies, and an appointment for a C-section had been scheduled.
I called my mom both sobbing and terrified. In true motherly fashion, she talked me off the ledge, reminding me that a healthy baby was a healthy baby, no matter how he made his entrance into the world, and it was going to be OK as long as I didn’t get into a wreck on the way home due to hysterics. I calmed down, agreed with her, and got a hold of myself.
A week or so later, I went to the mailbox and discovered an envelope from the folks at the Miraculous Medal place. Overcome with embarrassment that I’d given them my real name and address, I opened the package. Inside was another envelope, with the words “Blessed Objects Inside” printed in blue ink, for all the world to see. I opened it, and held the oval piece of cheap medal in the palm of my hand for a long while. It was so Catholic.