Growing up a reporter’s daughter, I always felt my future profession was cut out for me. Whatever Dad did both fascinated and inspired me and I cannot remember a time when I didn’t want to write — to be just like him. A combat photographer in the South Pacific during World War II, he earned a journalism degree from Kansas University on the GI bill to complement his photography skills, and eventually headed up his own public relations and advertising agency.
Marriage followed close on the heels of my graduation from high school, as did motherhood. Writing opportunities were sparse in the early child-rearing years. But, as the kids grew, I chiseled out blocks of time for my writing here and there, and Dad critiqued different articles I would later write in exchange for free subscriptions to religious publications. Then came the big break – a real paying job at a community newspaper in south Texas. He really enjoyed the fact that I landed that gig, coaching me from out of state, and cheering me on.
In my brief time as a Catholic school student in the 1950s, early 1960’s — shortly before and after the death of Pope Pius XII — I learned to know and love the Latin Mass and teachings of the Church, the stories of the saints and martyrs, Catholic history, and Catholic culture in general.
As a young teen, I watched that same Church torn apart — the parish churches becoming ugly caricatures of what they once were, the Mass stripped of some of its most beautiful prayers, feast days eliminated or reassigned, and saints deleted from the calendar. At one point, I thought I might have a vocation to the religious state. But, priests and nuns were leaving the Church in droves following the Vatican II changes. So, where could a troubled Catholic adolescent seek advice and guidance in the turbulent sixties?
I had just begun to learn Gregorian chant, and had memorized parts of the Mass in Latin. When they placed their bare-table altars in front of the beautiful marble altars of the churches — exactly as the Anglicans had done during the Reformation — to celebrate their “new” mass in the vernacular, my mother announced the Communists had infiltrated the Church, and marched us out, never to return. Our Catholic heritage died that day just as the music died in the American Pie song. Some believed it was written as a farewell to the Church of Pope Pius XII, and the “music” was Gregorian Chant.
Nothing replaced what I had treasured as a child. No more prayers, no Confession, no Sunday Mass, no processions, no May Crownings, no Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and no Midnight Mass at Christmas, my favorite time of year. I managed to be married in the Church, but was refused the Latin Mass I requested. For much of my early married life, I sought out churches and pastors who preserved the old ways, to no avail. In desperation, I lingered once to attend the new mass for a brief time, only to leave more disillusioned than before.
In the 1970s, I found what I believed at that time to be the old Latin Mass and the remnant Catholic Church, only to discover such groups were nothing more than schismatic sects and their “priests” were not authorized by the Church to minister to the remaining faithful. This is when I began writing for “traditional” Catholic publications, and asking questions. I did not like the answers I received. Where to go? To the libraries, my childhood refuge, to answer those questions.
I began buying books at Catholic seminary libraries, and studying like mad, eventually amassing a private library of some 4,000 theological works. Here were the missing pieces to this spiritual puzzle that had defied completion, the answers that had slipped away for decades. I did not find all the answers then and I don’t have them all today, but I learned.
And, even after authoring several e-books and numerous articles, the revelations keep coming. Community newspaper work is still my “day job,” but religious writing was always my first love and attraction. My spiritual odyssey led me through a maze of “Catholic” cults, a plethora of modern errors the Church long ago condemned, a host of impostors, posing as clergy and popes, and straight into the wilderness foretold in Apocalypse (Revelations) 12:6. It was there I wrote The Phantom Church in Rome.
Here I stand, sinful and sorrowful, in the company of Christ’s Blessed Mother. And still searching, after all these years.
About The Author
Teresa (T. Stanfill) Benns is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and an award-winning community newspaper reporter. She has several published books to her credit. A lifelong Catholic, her religious articles have been published both nationally and internationally. Visit her website at www.betrayedcatholics.com.
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