Husband & Wife Articles


 

Pursuing Truth

In Part Two, the author recounts how his wife entered the Catholic Church

By Bill Keimig

I asked Heather to read the two books that had kept me from becoming a prospective Protestant seminary student to embracing the faith of my birth. She did not say no. And she certainly did not say yes. I remember, for the first time in my nominal Catholic life, praying to Mary for help, placing Heather in her arms. It was just a simple prayer while packing for my trip. I didn’t have the Hail Mary memorized.

The Keming Family

And then it was off for me for two weeks’ duty with the Navy in the blast furnace of the Pacific – the island of Guam in August.

Heather was going through her own trial by fire. She was reading the books I’d left her.

In 15 days I came home to mild Maryland to find that my wife had bought a rosary. I was stunned. After 15 years of marriage, I am still happily stunned.

We entered the RCIA, for me to seek my Confirmation and for Heather to enter into full Catholic communion. The class was led by Father Victor Galeone, a model pastor, a model priest, who soon became the bishop of St. Augustine, Florida.

Now Heather’s parents had a problem. Protestant missionaries, they saw her choice of the Catholic Church as a disaster. For many months prior to her reception into the Church, she wondered whether this was the right time to enter, because she hoped that more time would make it more likely for her parents to accept her decision.

Yet she finally decided to enter the Catholic Church as soon as possible for a very good reason. I remember the moment of that decision. I remember the road we were on and the spot we were driving by at that moment. It was night and we were returning from an RCIA session. While driving, she turned to me and said, “Bill, I’ve decided to enter the Church this Easter.” Inside I was rejoicing; outside I was quiet, and then ventured the simple question, “Why sweetheart?” Her answer was filled with love and truth. “I need to start receiving the sacraments, for them.” For her parents.

She understood that the best place from which any soul can love another, intercede for another, and respond in courageous charity in the face of attacks from another, is within Mother Church.

Mother Church would give her daughter Heather what she needed to be love to her confused and angry earthly mother. God the Father would give, from the heart of his Son’s Church, the grace to allow my wife to be love to a hurting and betrayed earthly father.

And so the Church celebrated and welcomed a new daughter into the saving folds of full initiation. And, for Heather and her parents, the hurting years began. So many things were shattered between them, along with her parents’ trust of me.

Five children, a Franciscan University degree, a long tenure at our current beloved parish, and the hurt continues, in calmer, quieter ways. Her parents live as missionaries; we live in parish ministry. And we cannot share with passion those things most important to us and to them.

My wife is the model of fortitude, giving up any deeply substantive relationship with her parents, and willing to suffer rejection by friends. Today she is my Catholic hero; the most Catholic woman I know.

I was born, it turns out, on the feast day of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. She was a convert, a teacher and became a Marylander. Now, as I live in the joy of my life in the Church as a teacher and a Marylander, I find myself often reminded of her last words to her religious sisters: “Be daughters of the Church!” My wife is that.

Like Elizabeth’s courage to become a Catholic at such high personal cost, my wife has chosen the daughterly path of trust. Elizabeth Seton’s five children all died faithful to Mother Church. May my five children, the last of whom is named Elizabeth, be the glory of their mother’s devotion to truth.

Oh, yes, the two books that helped us so much: Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn, and Surprised by Truth, edited by Patrick Madrid. They are highly recommended for anyone seeking religious truth.

Bill Keimig writes from Maryland, where he lives with his wife, Heather (who wrote the Husband & Wife column for May 2011), and their five children.