It was last October, the Red Mass, said on that first Sunday in October just before the opening of the Supreme Court on the first Monday. My wife Judy and I were at the service at St. Matthew’s in Washington, and we were on the way to the Hilton on Sixteenth Street for the lunch following the Mass. Suddenly, and happily, we were joined on the walk by Fr. Arne Panula, whom I’d met years ago at the Opus Dei house in New York. He had moved over to direct the chapel and programs at the Catholic Information Center at Fifteenth and K. In a bantering way, Fr. Arne confronted me: “You, the most notable figure at the threshold, never quite crossing it.” (Never actually coming into the Church.) “What’s holding you back?” I dipped into the repertoire of Bert Lahr from theWizard of Oz: “C-c-c courage! It’s what puts the ‘ape’ in ‘apricot’; it’s what I haven’t got.”
That move deftly got me out of challenge posed here in an affectionate way. But only for a moment. One month later I dropped in to a noon Mass at the CIC and Fr. Arne, in the homily, remarked that “the one thread that connected these two readings today is c-c-c-c courage.” That was the hook that finally worked. We had lunch, we mapped out a series of five or six sessions of instruction, for the decision was finally made. And just yesterday (as I write this), on April 24, I came into the Church in Fr. Arne’s chapel, with Michael Novak as my sponsor.