Friday, March 15, 2013

'I Became a Catholic and Found Happiness'

This text was written by my father, Arnold Brandt in 1959 at the time he converted to Catholicism and just before he received the sacrament of Confirmation at the Church of St. Joseph on Pacific St.. It was published in The Tablet, the Catholic faith newspaper of Brooklyn. This article was transcribed from a yellowing proof version that I found among his possessions after his death in 1996. 

In one of his last acts as pope, Benedict XVI designated the Pacific Street church as co-cathedral of the Brooklyn Diocese – sharing responsibilities with the smaller St. James Cathedral Basilica in Downtown Brooklyn. The churches will house the chair of the bishop, and split duties hosting major diocesan events. Read more about this church in the NY Times...


Arnold E. Brandt

This coming Sunday, May 25 (1959), I will be one of the converts to be confirmed at St. Joseph's Church, Brooklyn. Last Saturday I received my first Holy Communion when my six-year-old daughter (Sigrid) received hers. Anyone who has received these Sacraments knows what a happy week this has been for my family and myself.

Both my parents were born in Sweden, but they were brought to this Country when they are quite young. Living in a small Connecticut city (Hartford), they first met when they joined with other young people of Scandinavian background in a program of building a new church. The church, of course, was Lutheran, because the Swedes have been Lutherans for many centuries.

My father (Eric Brandt) at one time had though of entering the Lutheran ministry. In preparation for entering a seminary, he finished two years of college. But then he decided not to go on for the ministry.

Worked for Government

The home in which I grew up with my brothers and sisters was a religious one, which mirrored the deep faith and devotion of both my parents. Sundays in my family mean attendance at church service. And among my earliest recollections are the small cookies, tasting vaguely perfume, which my thoughtful mother would slip from her purse, to quiet a small boy who sometimes squirmed in the pew when is concentration on the services began to waver.

My mother died the day after I graduated from high school (Hartford Public HS). With her death and my preoccupation with finding a career, I gradually drifted from any steady religious practice.

After moving from job to job, finally I was accepted for a government post in Washington, D.C. Anxious to improve myself, I applied for admission to Georgetown University while working in the capital. Previously my attempts to enter other schools had been frustrated by lack of money. The Jesuit Fathers at Georgetown raised no such barrier.

This new effort to continue my education was applauded in many quarters and, in particular, by one of my fellow workers (name?) who himself resigned to take "a better job." He entered the seminary and is now a priest.

War interrupted the cycle of work and education for me. After the war, however, I was back in the same pattern. As I continued At Georgetown, I learned a great deal about Catholicism.

Upon graduation, I received a very fine promotion on my job, which brought me from Washington to New York. My first date in New York was with a beautiful girl (Marcella) who worked in the same office. This wonderful girl was a graduate of a Catholic college. We continued to date. We often discussed religion. And I talked and talked over again about the Catholic Church.

Well, we were married by the priest (Rev. Philip Shannon). We have been blessed with three wonderful children.

Early in our married life we attended Mass together. But with the arrival of babies it seemed a pleasant arrangement for me to stay home and take care of the family while my wife went to church.

Our oldest girl entered a Catholic school. I was impressed with the training she is receiving. I knew that soon she would be receiving her first Holy Communion. I decided that I must receive mine along with her.

Accordingly, I made the special effort required to get to early Mass on Sundays, so that I still would be able to take care of the little ones when my wife would go later. I learned to follow the beautiful action of the Mass by use of a missal which my wife had given me. I read the Latin. A language which I first had been able to decipher almost forty years earlier when I stumbled across a Latin grammar among my father's old books.

Thought I already knew quite a bit about the Catholic religion, I realized that I still needed some systematic instruction. And so, I attended one of the instruction centers of the Diocesan Apostolate. Happily I became a Catholic in time to make my First Communion the same day my little girl received hers.

I have many friends who have been Catholics all their lives. I had to find my way in the Church for myself. With my heartfelt thanks to those many friends, who prayed for me, I now can tell them that at last I have found way into the Catholic Church. I have been helped to this complete conversion by the grace of God, the good example of my wife and the blessing of my children.

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