The Cathedral in the closet

Being born and raised a good Catholic kid in the Roman tradition, Lauren Emmanuel Marano’s religious education had taught him to believe in God and trust in the truth of everything he was told. He was not particularly inquisitive or curious.

Early on, he had wondered why God had tested Abraham’s faith by telling him to sacrifice his son, Issac and at the last moment God had substituted a goat. Then several millennia later the same God allowed his only begotten son, Jesus of Nazareth to be sacrificed for the sins of the world.

A more skeptical and rational kid might have dismissed the greatest story ever told, as a pack of lies, shit and giggles, but not Manny. His best thought was that maybe the words, “Old Testament Christian” might just be an oxymoron and that was the end of that.

Manny Marano had never actually given much thought to why or how his family were or became Roman Catholics. The letter from the Netherlands triggered a flood of questions he had never asked or considered. His infant baptism and eventual confirmation were recorded and part of the archives at the Cathedral of St. Madeleine. It was the largest Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States. If size is important in matters of authority and accuracy of such things, it must be authentic and true.

After the letter, his need to know eventually overpowered Manny’s self-imposed historical ignorance, and he decided to start looking in the Mormon genealogical archives in Salt Lake City. He discovered that the grand tradition of Catholic infestation in the land of the Mormons began in 1871 when one Father Patrick Walsh built the first Catholic Church in Utah and dedicated it to St. Mary Magdalene. More research revealed that Father Lawrence Scanlan arrived in 1873 to become the next pastor who took care of hundreds of Catholic military men, immigrant miners and railroad workers. Small churches, schools, an orphanage and a hospital were built to serve the growing Catholic population. Father Scanlan stuck around long enough to become the first Bishop of the newly created Diocese of Utah.

By the end of the nineteenth century the Catholic community in Salt Lake City had outgrown the small church of St. Mary Magdalene and ground was broken for the Cathedral of the Madeleine in 1899. Construction lasted nearly a decade with assistance from Catholic Mission Societies and cost a small fortune for the estimated 3,000 Catholics living in Utah at the turn of the century.

It was highly probable that Manny’s converted Jewish forebears arrived and contributed to this grand endeavor, in the same manner that a number of Sephardic cryptio-Jews from Spain and Portugal had done for Willhelm of Nassau, Prince of the House of Orange in the 16th century when he unified the provinces of Holland.

After all, they were all considered gentiles by the locals anyway.

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