April 5, 2019

Author’s lengthy journey to Catholic faith detailed in updated book

By John F. Fink

Cover of A Closet Catholic Comes Out—and Avoids the Cafeteria: My 40-Year Journey to the Catholic ChurchCatholics have been part of the mainstream in the United States since shortly after World War II, so it can be a bit jarring to realize that many people think of Catholicism as a cult.

That’s what Ken “Sonny” Shanks thought for most of his life. Today, though, he is a Catholic, a guitar‑playing member of St. Joseph Parish in Corydon, the author of religious books, and a sometime contributor to The Criterion’s “My Journey to God” weekly feature.

One of his books is titled A Closet Catholic Comes Out—and Avoids the Cafeteria: My 40-Year Journey to the Catholic Church. That’s a mouthful of a title, but kind of tells the picture.

Shanks published that book several years ago, but he has now brought it mainly up to date since readers seemed to like the book and wondered what happened after it was published.

Shanks was an only child of parents who practiced no religion. At age 10, he discovered a dusty Bible in the home and started reading it, awakening his interest in religion. When he was 12, his parents let him go to a church they nominally belonged to even though they never went there: the Reorganized Church of Jesus of Latter Day Saints, an offshoot from the Mormon church.

That began about 40 years of church hopping as he thought every Christian denomination was about the same. Shanks was told, and believed, that the Church founded by Christ “vanished” in 90 A.D., but was “restored” by the Protestant reformers 1,500 years later.

As for the Catholic Church, that was just a cult. Shanks was told that Catholics were pseudo-Christians who worshiped Mary and prayed to many gods. A few times when he mentioned to a friend that he thought he might check out the Catholic Church, usually after there was a split in the Protestant church he was attending over some issue, he was persuaded that that would be a mistake.

However, through his reading the New Testament and histories of the Church, Shanks realized that the Church didn’t vanish in 90 A.D., and he became dissatisfied with thinking of “the Lord’s Supper” as only an optional, occasional, “communal” meal. So he called the offices of St. Joseph Parish in Corydon and made an appointment.

He went through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at St. Joseph Parish and soon discovered that he had been a closet Catholic for a long time without knowing it. He was finally received into the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil Mass by Father Robert J. Hankee, who has been pastor of the parish since 2010.

The book also tells many details of Shank’s life besides his religious seeking.

A Closet Catholic Comes Out is available from Amazon.com, either as a paperback or a Kindle book, for $8.99. Other books written by Shanks include Heaven in the Bible, Hell in the Bible, Demons in the Bible, Angels in the Bible, Jesus and Buddha: a Conversation and Writings from the Thoroughfares of Life: Past and Present.

(John F. Fink is editor emeritus of The Criterion.)

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