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                 The Reactionary Utopian
                    February 28, 2008

by Joe Sobran

     When I was in my teens, I fell in love -- with every 
pretty girl I saw, with Shakespeare, and, most abidingly, 
with the Catholic Church. Oh, how glorious she was! And 
also how intimate.

     My childhood world had been Catholic; my father's 
immigrant parents' house had been full of crucifixes, 
sacred pictures, and rosaries. One of the strongest 
memories I have of those early days is of my fat little 
Grandma Sobran saying her beads. It was a mystery to me. 
But it was somehow the world I belonged to.

     Both my mother and father had been raised as 
Catholics (her parents had sent her to a Catholic school, 
which she never spoke well of to me, and at my father's 
funeral I learned, much to my surprise, that he had been 
an altar boy), but neither was pious. Yet I envied both 
of them.

     They divorced and both soon married others. Mom's 
new husband was Jerry Fox, a big, handsome, genial man -- 
a veteran of World War II -- whom I loved at once. He was 
the sweetest man I ever knew; everyone liked him. I 
called him Pop.

     I also hit it off with his parents. They accepted me 
as a grandson right away. Grandma Fox was a librarian, 
and she brought me countless old books the library was 
discarding; one was a tiny dictionary I studied all the 
time. Grandpa Fox had a wonderful sense of humor, and Pop 
had obviously inherited his warmth from him.

     The Foxes were also Catholics, very devout ones, 
their home full of rosaries, crucifixes, images of the 
Blessed Virgin, and Bing Crosby records. Too bad they 
never met my father's parents. (Or are they all together 
in heaven now?)

     Having been divorced and then married a divorced 
woman, Pop was a fallen-away Catholic; but unlike so 
many, such as Mom, he held no bitterness against the 
Church. Just the opposite. He loved the Church deeply. He 
taught my brother and me to make the sign of the cross 
and to say grace before every meal. I still pray for his 
soul. If not for him, I wouldn't be a Catholic today.

     In my mid teens, at the age when boys are usually in 
rebellion against their parents, I was studying the 
Baltimore Catechism, with no sense that I was "against" 
my family. It was one of the most blissful times of my 
life. Father Maurice Decker instructed and baptized me, 
with Grandma and Grandpa Fox serving as my sponsors on a 
brilliant August Sunday afternoon.

     We lived only a few doors from the church, so I was 
there often, pestering the young Father Leo Broderick 
with my countless queries. He always found time for me. 
He was as kind and genial as Pop.

     Over the next few years I lost my faith, left the 
Church, married and divorced twice, and finally found my 
way back. A couple of months ago a friend found me Father 
Broderick's phone number; he was retired in Michigan, not 
too far from where I knew him. Out of the blue I called 
him one morning and we spoke for the first time in about 
forty years.

     Words could never express my gratitude to this holy 
man. He sounded exactly as I remembered him. I thanked 
him as best I could and sent him a photo of me (in a 
white beard I didn't have forty years ago) with my 
great-granddaughter Christina. I wanted him to know how 
much I owe to him and his unbroken fidelity to our Lord. 
I try to say four rosaries daily now.

     I have learned one simple truth in my long life: the 
more we give thanks, the happier we are. We can never 
fully repay all those we are indebted to, but we can 
acknowledge what we owe them. My debts to Pop and Father 
Broderick are virtually infinite. What can I do but pray 
for them?


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