A number of years ago, my friend, Sean, watched his father, Henry, die. As a pilot, Henry had been a WWII hero and had returned to America after a long stay in a POW camp. When he returned to the U.S., Henry married his girlfriend, Mary, and then proceeded to build his own house in the woods of Connecticut. An accomplished hunter and fisherman, he treasured his time out doors. As the years passed, he and Mary welcomed four children and then raised them well in that home. And on that land, Henry had taught Sean the skills needed to be a man. But now he was gone.
After Henry’s death, Sean’s mother, Mary, continued to live in their family home for a few years, until she decided to move to Florida. Sean helped her clean out the decades of belongings and collections from the family home so she could sell it and relocate. Fifty years of memories had accumulated in that old house.
On the last day of packing up the belongings of that old house, Sean took one last walk-through, just to reminisce on years gone by and also to look for any possessions that might have been missed in the packing. In his parents’ bedroom, Sean noticed an odd screw in the ceiling, an object that had never before captured his attention. Sean knew his father well and knew that the screw surely had some purpose, so he stepped onto a stool to look at that screw more carefully. When he removed the screw, a panel slipped out of the ceiling. Behind the panel rested a Folger’s Coffee can, filled with $500 in cash. The thought occurred to Sean that, if his father had hidden cash in one place, there might well be others. Sure enough, Sean and his mother soon discovered screws, panels, and coffee cans socked away in holes in the wall all around that old house. By the end of the hunt, they had found more than $5000, hidden years before in the old house by a Depression-era man. Instead of using banks, Henry had carefully hidden his treasure in the ceilings and walls of his old house.
Even better, Henry had squirreled away old photos, birthday cards, and Father’s Day notes in those coffee cans. Special memories and moments from the family’s life were all there for someone to discover and experience. In other words, he had hidden all kinds of treasures throughout the house.
For the first thirty-plus years of my life, in my mind, the Catholic Church was just an old house. Having grown up Methodist, descended from at least five generations of Methodist pastors, I experienced the Catholic Church simply as an old house. To me, it was just like other kinds of churches, an old building with old rituals. In other words, the Catholic Church was old and historic, often architecturally remarkable, but never something that attracted my attention in any real way.
Much to my surprise, however, God revealed to me six treasures hidden in the life of that old house known as the Catholic Church. Like Sean and his mother in their discoveries in their home, over time, I discovered and experienced those hidden treasures of Catholicism. They proved so powerful and meaningful that they led me home to the Catholic Church. So much so, that on my forty-fourth birthday, on the Feast of the Epiphany in 2008, I left behind my role as the senior pastor of one of the largest Methodist churches in the world, and entered into full communion in the Catholic Church.
Those hidden treasures changed my life. Six hidden treasures, in particular, I discovered in the Catholic Church, but one stands out most of all. And, as my talk will share, that one treasure is the #1 reason I love being Catholic.