by David Scott Klajic
One More Deployment
Shortly after, I was deployed again for six months. I attended Catholic mass (they had no Eastern Catholic presence there) and tried my best to be a part of the congregation. During Pascha, a navy Orthodox chaplain came to visit and I asked the Catholic priest there if it was OK for me to attend the liturgy on Pascha. He said it was fine, and in fact appeared to know nothing about the Eastern Church. The navy chaplain (Antiochian) gave me a chotki that he told me was very special to him. It was hand made by monks in a Serbian monastery.
I started reading voracious amounts of church history. The canons, the encyclicals, the arguments leading to the great schism. It seemed, in the context of what I wrote earlier about “originality and authenticity” that becoming Catholic was simply not going back far enough.
The Eastern Catholic Church is broken down into Sui iuris churches which are aligned to an Eastern Orthodox counterpart. When an EO converts to Catholicism, they are, by canon law supposed to be enrolled into that corresponding church. In my case, this would have been the Greek Catholic Church of the Former Yugoslavia. The Ruthenian Priest who took my confession did not perform the rite properly, nor did he make any record of it, and therefore the diocese of my assigned jurisdiction did not recognize the conversion. I was still ‘Orthodox by rite.’
The entire time I was deployed, worshipping at the Roman Catholic church, I felt something was off. As if this was not the end of the story, and clearly it wasn’t. Again—I cannot explain any of this other than through my faith–that I was being pulled toward Orthodoxy and my interest in the Eastern Catholic church was my own clouded diversion. The truth is, I did not trust in Him enough to ask my wife “would you be interested in becoming Orthodox?” so I used the “I want to be in communion with my wife” excuse to convert to a facsimile of Orthodoxy to keep the peace. I should have just asked her.
There is some back story on the way things were handled in the case of my misguided attempt to convert to Eastern Catholicism. While I was deployed, my wife was in contact with the Eastern Catholic priest and was trying to arrange for things like the chrismation of our children. She kept trying to engage with him, sending him polite, serious questions about the conversion. He would never get back to her.
We did not wish to be a ‘bi-ritual’ family, so she was diligently trying to learn about the Byzantine rite. Canonically, it is appropriate for the home to be primarily identified with the rite of the husband, (it he wants it that way) and she wanted to help me raise our kids with just one ritual. The priest was a very political/social justice minded fellow and my wife and I are very traditionalist or “conservative” for lack of a better term. It was starting to become clear that he didn’t really want us in his congregation because he thought we were “mean right-wingers.” There were a few conversations on social media that made it sound like there was a requirement for us to hold certain political views in order to be in his grace.
Those issues were weighing heavily on my wife’s heart and she agreed to start looking at some Orthodox Churches in the area. And wouldn’t you know it, there was a Serbian congregation within an hour of us—in Texas of all places.