So I'd better answer my question . Why am I a Catholic ?
I am what is termed a "cradle Catholic" . My Catholic parents had me baptised when I was a few days old , so I suppose I should start with my parents .
My dad was baptised as a baby . Unlike his two brothers and two sisters , who were not regular "practising" Catholics , my dad was a Catholic through and through from his baptism until he breathed his last breath just short of his 85th year . I know that he prayed a lot for his siblings , and eventually they did become fully reconciled with the Church .
My mum's grandmother was an immigrant from County Tipperary in Ireland and was a Catholic . She settled in a hamlet on the outskirts of town , quite a way from the local Catholic church . She had two sons and four daughters , one of whom would become my grandmother .
They didn't go to church . My mum used to tell me about how one of the priests used to visit the hamlet and try to persuade her grandmother and the rest of the family to attend church , but his words fell on deaf ears . Of course my mum was baptised and attended a Catholic school but not the Church , unless she went with the school .
When my mum left school she got work as a weaver in one of the many cotton mills . Then in the 1930s came the Depression . There was little work in the mills , so she got a job as a maid in a hotel in the town centre . She had to sleep in the hotel , and be up early in the morning to start her tasks . She shared her room with a young lady who had come down from Scotland for work . I did say that they had to be up early , but that was except for Sunday when they were allowed a lie-in bed . However , not for this Scottish lady . She still got up early on Sundays to go to the Sacred Heart church for 7a.m. Mass . This got my mum thinking . She felt that there must be something in this going to church . So she started to go , and carried on being a practising Catholic until her death , aged 94 .
Not only that , my mum's attendance at church had an effect on the rest of her family . Her parents , her sister , and the rest started to attend Mass . So perhaps the words of that priest had not fallen on deaf ears after all .
Then my dad and mum met . World War 2 came along , and my dad went into the army . They were married at the Sacred Heart church when my dad was on leave .
So I came on the scene . If my parents hadn't been Catholics would I be one now ? That's a question I have often asked myself and I have to be honest and say that I don't know the answer to that question .
My mum and dad were very active members at the Sacred Heart church . Obviously they ensured that I attended Catholic schools .
In my teens , the age when you think you know it all , I was at a Catholic college . It was the time of the Second Vatican Council , and we had priests on the staff who had trained at colleges in Europe where they had already come across some of the thought of theogians who had a big influence at the Council . They were enthusiastic for the aims of the Council . We followed it with great attention . The Council , the greatest event in Christianity for centuries , was covered daily by BBC TV and Radio , and in the UK press . Here were the bishops of the Church , in the most international and representative Ecumenical Council in the Church's history , actually debating the affairs of the Church . This was unheard of in what had become a Fortress Church where all toed the "official" line . We teenagers were enthralled , and how privileged we were to have professors who were priests able to guide us so knowledgeably and eagerly through these exciting years .
One thing came of all this for me personally , and that was I became a questioning Catholic . No longer did I accept teachings blindly . No longer was I one who was unable to criticise the Church when matters deserved criticism . I am still that person .
I can honestly say that there is no fundamental belief of Catholicism that I have not questioned . It has not been easy . There have been many testing times . However , out of it all I can only say that there is nothing I have found in basic Catholic teaching that is not in line with the truth revealed to us by God .
So I thank my parents for planting that seed when I was a child .
I thank that Scottish lass , and I am sure that by now she will have departed this life and will have been welcomed into glory by her Lord and Saviour ; she who opened the door to Christ for people of my family she never knew .
I thank Pope John XXIII who had what he called "an unexpected flash of heavenly light" when the two words "Ecumenical Council" first entered his mind , and had the courage to submit to this prompting of the Holy Spirit .