Mandeville, LA – (This interview originally appeared on 09 September, 2015, while I was still on SiriusXM Satellite Radio) The following interview appears now at St Augustine Center website Catholicism.org, the online home for Brother André Marie’s New Hampshire’s St Augustine Institute. The interview will appear in the October/November PRINT edition of their magazine Mancipia. Thanks to all those who work and serve so selflessly at the St Augustine Institute for honoring Mike with this interview request.
This is an intense and inspiring interview between two friends of Saint Benedict Center, Mike Church, the one interviewed, and David Simpson, the interviewer.
David: Mike, can you give me a little background on yourself, your faith life, and the recent developments in your spiritual life and how it has impacted your daily life?
Mike: I was born 1962 in New Orleans. I was baptized properly about six days after I was born at St. Augustine Church on Governor Nicholls Street. My first two years of schooling were Catholic. I went to Christ the King Elementary School in Norfolk Virginia. Then my mother fell away from the Faith and became a Protestant, evangelical, born-again, and took us away from the Faith. I did not go back to the Church until I wanted to get married to a very Catholic woman who was from a very large, Catholic family. I went and took the RCIA program at St. Christopher’s in Metairie, which I think is still there. I was confirmed Easter Vigil in 1992. I was a pretty regular Novus Ordo Mass goer until about 2000.
I only went to church intermittently after that and then moved back here to Louisiana. I had been moving around for various radio jobs. I started in New Orleans in ‘96, moved to Raleigh in ‘97, moved to Miami at the end of ’97. I moved to Huntsville, Alabama in ‘99, Charlotte, North Carolina in ‘99 and 2000, San Francisco in 2001, Lake Charles, Louisiana 2002 to 2004, and then back here in Mandeville, a suburb of New Orleans. I have been with Satellite Radio since then.
Through all of this, I had been going intermittently to Mass. I didn’t go every week, maybe on holy days of obligation. Then around 2010 or so, I met you, David, and you introduced me to the Latin Mass, the reverence of which impressed me very much.
After my father died in June of last year, 2014, I had an epiphany moment. That’s when it really sunk home: “Mike,” I said, “there is an end and you’re not prepared for it.”
During this time I had also met our mutual friend, Steve Cunningham. I guess I had become one of his crusade targets because he sent me CDs of homilies from FSSP priests. I had never heard anything like this. It was actual catechism for the first time in my life. My intellect was screaming at me: “Mike, that’s truth. That’s the truth. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
By August or so of 2014, I had made the conscious decision — I’m sure heavily influenced with a lot of grace — that I needed to start going to Mass every week, and I did just that. I missed one Latin Mass Sunday since that time, and I hope I don’t miss any in the future. In the interim, I am actually joining the Schola for the Latin Mass Society. I’ve started to learn Gregorian chant. I have the whole experience now and it’s been very rewarding and very good for my soul.
David: Mike, you mentioned being a Novus Ordo Catholic and a traditional Catholic. How would you characterize the two episodes in your life?
Mike: Before I started going to the Latin Mass religious observance was perfunctory. It was something that was just done out of habit. The highlight of the Novus Ordo Mass, the one I was going to, was the priest’s jokes as he processed out at the end. Of course I am being a bit tongue-in-ckeek, but also honest. You have the Consecration of course, which should be done with great reverence, but the people act like they are not aware that there’s a Real Presence there. It is not acknowledged. That’s a huge, huge issue between the new and the traditional rite. When you have the Real Presence there, with the Sacrifice, when the bell rings the second time in each Consecration, and the priest lifts the Host as he gazes upon It, then genuflects after saying, “Hoc est enim Corpus meum,” you can feel the reverence due to the Real Presence.
David: The solemnity, the reverential attitude?
Mike: Yes, all of that.
David: I’ve been around and watched this sea change in you. It’s a special grace that you’ve been given and you need to acknowledge it as that. Not everybody is given that grace, nor are they given the ability to assimilate it so rapidly and successfully.
Was there any person or thing outside the Latin Mass, any person or thing that brought these changes on and made you amenable to them?
Mike: I can’t give you his name because he likes to remain anonymous, but yes. I would say that the pastor at that parish in Fort Worth, at Mater Dei Parish in Fort Worth, if I had to identify one man, it would be him. You know I’m a historian, an amateur historian; semi-pro. I play semi-pro historical ball. His sermons are laced with history, that means I can look it up. Everything that man ever said I looked up and said: “Yeah, that happened. Yeah, that happened, too. Yeah, it went in that order.” You not only get the history, but you get the dose of the history as seen through the eyes of the Church.
David: Why does that matter to you? What does history add to your understanding? What value does that add to you?
Mike: I place a lot of emphasis on history because history informs our tradition. We can’t be traditionalists if we don’t know what the tradition is. It does form the tradition, but it also informs us of the past and we see that people have dealt with the same problems that we’re dealing with today.
David: So it becomes more real?
Mike: Yes, it becomes more real. Even if you wanted to take the ecclesiastical spin off it, it is possible to do this without going to war. You can negotiate a settlement that’s possible. There’s a way to do this without having a bloody revolution. History is useful for that. The past can inform the present. When you tie that together with the Catechism, then the Catechism becomes real. This particular priest would talk about the lives of the saints. The Catechism lesson then becomes that this saint lived an incredible life. He’s not just telling you about it and then telling you that you ought to do it. He said: “Look, it was done.” It was done by a poor little girl from Lisieux, France, for example, or a man that was born to very wealthy parents in….