Tom and I once got fired from teaching a marriage preparation class at our church.
It’s true. We got fired.
First we got audited—the coordinator of the marriage preparation class sat in the back of our classroom. Listening. Taking notes. Scribble . . . scribble. We thought he was so impressed with our teaching skills that he was writing down all our golden words.
At the time, I was Lutheran; Tom was Catholic.
We said to the engaged couples in the class, “Mixed-faith marriage? No problem! We’ve been married a few years and it works just fine. Listen to each other. Respect each other’s views on religion. Support each other. Encourage each other.” That’s what Tom and I were teaching in our class.
I don’t know what made me think of it again, right now, after all of these years.
They did an intervention on us. After we had taught the class, we received a visit in our home. First someone from the church office called, if I remember right, and said, “We would like to come and have a little chat with you.” The priest and the head of the marriage preparation class wanted to chat with us.
We were naïve. We thought maybe the evaluations on our sessions were really terrific. I think we thought we were going to receive an award—like a Nobel Peace Prize—for being such great marriage preparation teachers. So we said, “Sure!!” Come and visit.”
We had coffee and doughnuts because the visit was on a Saturday morning. I made sure the kitchen was clean. I think I even scoured the kitchen sink with Comet. I made sure there weren’t water spots on the coffee cups. I put folded napkins on the table. We didn’t know they were coming to fire us.
“Come in!” We welcomed them warmly, the priest and the head of the marriage preparation class. It was all polite chit chat and friendly conversation for the first few minutes. I poured coffee. We all sat around the kitchen table. We passed the doughnuts. We modestly waited for our praise.
Then the boom was lowered (as in ‘they lowered the boom’). We weren’t teaching church doctrine, they said. We weren’t in line with the “true church” message. We were radicals. We were teaching acceptance of mixed marriages. We were teaching support for each others’ religion. We were supposed to teach conversion. The non-Catholic needed to become Catholic.
So we were fired.
Well, actually, Tom threw them out. You should have seen him that day when he defended me and all my Lutheran relatives. He told that priest and that marriage preparation coordinator that he thought Lutherans were every bit as Christian as Catholics. And if they thought differently, they could just leave his house.
He threw them out. “Begone, vessels of Satan!!” (He may not have said it exactly that way. He’s not exactly a vessels-of-Satan kind of guy.)
Wow. I hadn’t thought of that in a long time. I think this was nearly 30 years ago, give or take.
In August 2010, we will be celebrating our 37th wedding anniversary. Eventually, I did become Catholic, but not because Tom “converted” me. The guy that was the head of the marriage preparation class and his wife moved away. We heard later that they were divorced. The narrow-minded priest, Father What’s-His-Name, who sat at our kitchen table, was transferred to some parish in outer-Slobovia. Or Mars. Or maybe he runs the Vatican. I don’t know what happened to him.
Times have changed. The priest we have now is very cool. His favorite band of all time is Creedence Clearwater Revival. Once he managed to work CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising” into his sermon. He would never, ever fire us for teaching religious tolerance or respect for other religions. He would probably give us a standing ovation and invite us over for dinner.
I don’t know what made me think of that just now. It had to have been nearly 30 years ago. I just remembered it last night when Tom walked through the room. He’s just a short little guy; but sometimes he forgets he’s short and throws a priest out of his house, defending my honor. Then he’s ten feet tall.