My name is Tabitha. As I write this I am 30 years old and married to a wonderful man, Karl. We've been together for about 10 years. We have four children who are 2, 4, 6, & 8 years old.
Karl was raised Lutheran and I, Baptist*. I can't speak for Karl, but I have experienced many phases in my life as a human and believer. I left my childhood religion with a bad taste in my mouth and rebelled, but I have usually looked to God for answers. I have inquired at many churches, or found myself showing up there. Despite my social meanderings there has always been this other part of me that is searching.
Dear to my heart is St. Dominic's Catholic Church, where I would linger before and after class as a teenaged student at CCSF. At the time I didn't know non-Catholics were even welcome at the church, and for some reason I did not look into it further. I just lingered. I spoke to almost no one about it. I had a single friend who shared this secret with me.
When Karl and I met, he took me into his Lutheran tradition, and our first son was Baptised at a church called Immanuel. We attending for a while, but felt cornered to be more involved and were not interested. So we lapsed.
Years later, after our youngest was born, and we still were not attending a church as a family. We had 'tried' many, so many (15?). But always there was something not right (actually, a lot not right, but I did not know what I was missing.). They would want us to leave our children elsewhere, or let strangers teach them. The service would be entirely focused on the End Times, or it would leave the sacred out entirely and focus only on the mundane. The music would be too much the focus. We went to some churches where they actually employed fake fog machines and spotlights. I had almost given up.
Actually, in those years before our 4th child was born, I really did almost give up. I went through a period of what could be called agnosticism, or perhaps even atheism. I read books like God's Debris and felt very alone in a pointless universe. I was applying my logical mind to questions that simply cannot be answered with logic. It felt terrible. I still tried churches, but I was resigned to attend with the knowledge that God, if he existed, did not actually care. Writing that seems so foreign, but at the time it was true for me.
Then my best friend Phoebe suggested Catholic Mass to us. At the time she was offering it as a church option that would embrace our children as people and not annoyances. We took her suggestion and had a wonderful first exposure. Phoebe and I began to talk more and more about religion. I realized that I trusted her opinions and that they always made sense to me. I discovered the Roman Catholic Church as a thinking, feeling, living church- very unlike my Protestant upbringing. A church for intelligent people who need more than "The Lord works in mysterious Ways." This is how I saw it, and I still do.
We attended Mass but were unable to start RCIA because in our isolated part of the US there was only one group and no childcare. We waited and hoped. And then, we moved! We moved back across the country to California where there were many Catholic churches and I confess this was one of the most exciting prospects of the move. I even found a church before we arrived, St. Margaret Mary in Oakland.
St. Margaret Mary was perfect. They offer the Extraordinary Form Tridentine Mass there, so beautiful and transformative. We attended Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve with our children in tow, fresh from the move and awed by the beauty of all.
This is the ensemble that sings at St. Margaret Mary.
As soon as we arrived here, other Catholic friends invited us to an intimate gathering for Family Rosary night, held every month at a home nearby. We met many more families and felt nothing but rightness and purpose as we approached Catholicism. We made friends and learned that a good instructor for RCIA was on mission out of the USA and that we should wait for the next group when he returned. I was frustrated by the delay but wanted to allow things to unfold. Family Rosary Night has been an beautiful blessing for our family. Not only have we met many friends but we have felt a sense of belonging. Everyone accepted us as non-Catholics and encouraged us. I always say now when people ask why we are drawn towards Catholicism, "I like Catholic people a lot!"
How do I say this? "Then, something happened." sounds too dramatic. But, honestly, something happened! One of the families we became friends with at Rosary Night was not Catholic but Eastern Orthodox. I remember sort of dismissing this difference intellectually as something about which I did not know (or care). I guess I thought since they were at Rosary Night with us, it did not matter. In truth it didn't. We were friends, our children played together-- Jeanette and Anthony.
Here's what happened: One Rosary Night before Easter, we were all chatting over the splendid potluck that follows the Rosary. I was excitedly sharing about how after Easter, the new RCIA groups would form and that we had been waiting for this for over a year. How I felt that as much as I read, I felt I needed more, and couldn't wait for real interaction with the Church. Anthony joked "You haven't been to our church yet." And I thought it was funny but immediately realized he was right. We had not even given it a thought. So when they approached us later and invited us to come, we accepted. I am not sure if they expected us to actually follow through.
We first attended St. Nicholas in San Anselmo on Palm Sunday. And here, my clumsy attempt at storytelling can't even suffice. I feel very deeply that this was meant to happen. Our inquiry into Catholicism, the friendships we have been blessed with, the delay in RCIA groups and ultimately our arrival at St. Nicholas. This journal is an attempt to capture in words and images what we are living as a family.
*I have come to learn that I was Baptised in a Pentecostal church.