Sunday, July 24, 2016

How a Pious Jew Entered the Church, and What He Found

I was a practicing, pious Jew, with all the fervour of which a young man is capable.  I loved the Law and clung to it as the vine to the fig tree.  Yet I was assailed by a terrible doubt:  we, the Chosen People, seemed pathetically faithful to the Covenant; it was God who seemed faithless.  Away with the thought:  His faithfulness endures forever!  Yes, that was the basis of all my piety:  God’s faithfulness endures, whatever the human appearances.  Then one day, suddenly like lightning on Lebanon, it struck me (not as ideas strike but as lightning strikes) that if the Covenant had been voided it was because God in His faithfulness had Himself filled the void.  If the Sacrifice of the Covenant had been abolished it could only be because God in His faithfulness had sacrificed Himself.  In a flash, as a Jew, I found myself a Catholic.  I am a convert to the Sacrificial Presence of God Incarnate in the Mass.

    I was in the Midlands at the time, working in a small factory which belonged to an uncle.  I knew no Catholic priest.  I called round at the presbytery and took pot luck.  The priest who instructed me was an astonishing fellow, although I did not recognize it at the time.  I thought all priests were as like peas in a pod.  He disapproved of the mass media, took no paper and possessed neither radio or television.  Although a man of immense culture, he paid not the slightest attention to what was going on around him.  His instructions were magnificent.  I was duly received into the Church on December 8th, 1963.  I stayed on in the Midlands until the New Year.  It was a month in heaven.

    But could I tell my family?  How could I bring shame and sorrow on my dear father’s head?  I decided to change my name and lose myself in London where nobody knew me.  I chose the name ‘Glauben’ partly because it sounds Jewish and I am proud to be a Jew, partly because it is the German for faith.  Thus I arrived in London, penniless and nameless but with the Faith.

    It did not take me more than a month in London to discover that I had not been received but deceived into the Church.  The God of my Midland priest have been the God of Israel, totally transcendent, totally “other.”  The Covenant was, is and ever shall be the Incarnation.  The Incarnation was consummated on the Cross, is consummated at Mass and ever shall be “the Lamb to whom all saving power belongs.”  All this I could understand.  It is the apotheosis of Jewry.

    And what did I find in London?  I found an idolatry worse than that of Baal or Moloch, which were at least “other” than man; a faithlessness worse than atheism, which at least knows what it denies.  I found the Catholic Church rotten with the nadir of idolatry and the zenith of blasphemy: religious humanism, the identification of God with man.  No transcendent God, no Covenant, no Incarnation, no Mass.  And they talk about ecumenism, when even a totem-worshipper would not accept such faithlessness.

    I had rejected the Synagogue one month; the next I was rejected by the Church.  I did not lose my faith. We Jews are used to exile.  I simply hung up my harp, as it were, by the waters of Babylon.

— from Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Crook, 1979, pp. 67–68.