Sunday, November 9, 2014

For a token Protestant, high times with the Flyers

From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

What I know about Catholicism you could wrap up easily in a rosary bead. On a descending knowledge scale in my brain, Catholicism comes right between ice hockey and atom splitting.

This could be because I am a stupid person, but it could be because my dad was a Baptist preacher and because I was raised in South Carolina, where Catholics were rare. They might be standing wall-to-wall from Clemson to Myrtle Beach today, but back then, if Dillon County were Mercury, the Vatican was Pluto. You could find a Yale graduate or a moon rock in our neck of the woods before you could find a Catholic church in the Piedmont.

Not counting television shots of the Pope or all those people in “The Godfather,” I was a teenager before I even saw, to my knowledge, a real, live Catholic person. It was weird; they were sort of just like me.

So I was as surprised as anyone when I ended up as the invited token Protestant at Loyola College Prep’s 2014 Hall of Honor Banquet recently at East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport. Whoa…I was hungry, and they fed me. Just like the Baptists I grew up with! What a break!

By luck of the draw, I have become in my “adult” life knee-deep in friends who are Catholic. We don’t go to church together, but we’ve played ball together, gone to funerals together, worked together, eaten together, raised children together, fought together and played golf together for more than 30 years.

A while ago I even dated Catholic girls, and learned that they were just like Protestant girls in most ways – this is a very good thing – and that I did not, after going to mass a few times, have either the rhythm or stamina to convert. (I also learned that while we Protestants have them beat in music, they have hit the tape first in the edifice category, and it’s not even close. They have much more depth at statue and marble, and in candle, than we do.)

For the most part, Catholics have Protestants beaten at proper names, too. I don’t usually sit in the same pew with Baptists if their name sounds foreign or has too many vowels. But among my Catholic friends are Tony Rinaudo and Johnny LeBlanc. Tony Catanese and Wade Gautreau. Pous and Cordaros. People with names from a European phone book. Vowels and whatnot. Lyrical. And some of my favorite people in the whole world.

Because of faithfulness and willingness and dedication, and because of a willingness to compromise and check egos at the door and serve the common good, Loyola Prep has survived and thrived through the years when other Catholic schools in the area did not. It has a family feel to it, something you can’t deny if you have developed friendships with its supporters and alumni. I have, so I wouldn’t have missed the banquet, even though there was a baseball postseason game on television; that’s how much I love the Flyers. (Note: Catholics are not any better at scheduling special events than Protestants.)

Many congratulations to Glenda Erwin, Robert McGowen, John James Marshall, Camille Meehan and Keith Todaro, the Class of 2014. I’m lucky to know each of them a bit and some of them really well. Robert and John James and I got to coach our Little League boys at the same time, and Camille should be in the Hall of Honor just for the yeast rolls she makes. Like me, Glenda is a non-graduate of the school; unlike me, she has given years to its support. Todaro’s experience is an example of how a thread runs through the best organizations and binds families together, whether they are related by blood or faith or education or by all of those.

Their secret? The Flyers are well grounded. So while I’ll never be a Flyer, I’ll always be a fan.