When folks want to hear my conversion story, they are always particularly interested in how I grew up without any religious affiliation. Over the years, however, I've realized that it wasn't as if there was no religion at all. Even though my family didn't seem to have any religious self-attributions or practices, there was a lot of religion in the surrounding landscape.
Various neighbors were overtly or at least obviously religious in different ways. There was a Catholic college, Albertus Magnus, just a block away. (Was the Universal Doctor praying for me the countless times I read his name above the entrance?) The best hill for sledding in the neighborhood was at the Yale Divinity School. A student there was one of my Cub Scout leaders. I think of him from time to time. He's a Cranmer scholar now, among other things. There were churches, too. The preschool I attended was in the lot behind the mysterious building of the Unitarian Universalists. When I was little I thought that the Presbyterian church was the coolest building in the neighborhood. My Boy Scout Troop met in a Lutheran church hall. A Congregationalist church stands at a corner I turned on every walk home from high school.
Most of all, sometimes I just think of all the tabernacles that surrounded me as I grew up. I didn't know it, but the Blessed Sacrament was reserved humbly and quietly all around me. And He was always calling, always inviting, patiently working out my salvation. Surely the Blessed Sacrament was reserved at the convent of Dominican sisters on the far side of Albertus Magnus, only a couple of blocks away. I used to deliver their newspaper. I suspect that there was also a tabernacle at St. Thomas More chapel downtown, not far from a lot my teenage haunts. And the Presence was reserved in the middle of it all in the tabernacle at St. Mary's, the first Catholic church where I ever prayed and knew I was praying. He was there all the time, and I knew it not. He was the desire that I didn't know how to name, and that I hardly understand even now.
I once read that when John of the Cross was made superior, the only privilege he would accept for himself was the cell closest to the Blessed Sacrament.