Broken Arrow and the Chalice of Dreams

Frederik's (Evangelical Lutheran) Church in Copenhagen

Frederik’s (Evangelical Lutheran) Church in Copenhagen

“I’m sorry, this Church is Lutheran,” said the little lady who was busy organizing books in each pew, “there are only two Catholic Churches in Copenhagen and the nearest is 3 blocks away.”

“Okay, thanks,” I responded, “I traveled in from the States and I was looking for Mass.  This looks so Catholic, sorry,” I uttered in the doorway assuming she was offended.

“Yes, it was originally designed as a replica of St. Peter’s in Rome and is actually being renovated for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in a few years,” she said under her breath, almost at a whisper.

“Oh, wow, I bet you’re excited, are you expecting a big crowd?”  I asked trying to hide my disappointment.

“Well, I hope so, since most people in Copenhagen like to shop on Sunday and don’t go to church anymore.  Hey, I bet you are excited about this new Pope; he seems like a really genuine leader.  Came at the right time I’ll say…” and off she went, muttering to herself.

So it was, in Copenhagen, a Catholic convert standing in a massive Cathedral built hundreds of years ago by protesting Christians to replicate St. Peters in Rome.  I had mixed feelings.  After all, I spent years trying to replicate parts of Catholicism for myself yet keeping the rest at arm’s length.  Rather than a spiritual bouquet of the fullness of the faith deposited by our forefathers, I was feasting at the theological buffet where I could pick and choose what I wanted to fit my needs.   From the shadows of hostile days gone by, where Christians cared so much they fought one another over the Papacy and now, when nobody seems to care, I’m standing in a museum of history alone in my thoughts. In a building that feels like a ghost of the past and is being prepared for a celebration in the future, I just sat there, looking at the cross and felt a need to pray for Christian unity, especially at a time when Christians seem apathetic.

I thought to myself, was it a reformation or a revolution?  Did God allow this protest to bring some good in it?   Why does this Altar seem like a counterfeit, intentionally built apart from the Papal Altar in Rome but yet modeled after it?   Where was the Holy Spirit in 1517 when Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of All Saints Catholic Church (the Castle Church) in Wittenburg, Germany?

I wonder why so many people, including the modern media, are so complimentary of this Pope and so quick to point fault in Pope Benedict?  After all, I came into the Church at the end of Pope John Paul and actually witnessed Pope Benedict in 2007 when he held Mass in Yankee Stadium.  I wonder if the early reports worldwide are true that have shown huge numbers of people returning to the Church since Pope Francis was elected.   Did people really leave because of Pope Benedict?  Is it a popularity contest?  Why don’t people see the beauty of Mass, Christ available for us in the Holy Eucharist, regardless of whether or not they like the current Pope.   I wonder how this Pope will handle the 500th anniversary of a sad moment of division in the Church Jesus built.

Then the lady returned before I stood to leave.   “You know, my family was Catholic, my ancestors helped build this Church and it was their idea to model it after St. Peters.  My grandmother was the caretaker of this Church 100 years ago and told me when I was a little girl that I needed to travel to Rome to see the real one.  Records show that my family was Catholic until my mother married my Lutheran father.  I grew up Lutheran.”  She seemed as if she just unloaded something carried for years, and she told this to a perfect stranger.

As I turned to walk away to find my colleague Wolfgang who was waiting for me, I asked “Well, have you been to Rome yet?  It’s incredible.”

“It took me 67 years and my husband passing away, but I’m going this August for the feast of the Assumption of Mary, thanks for asking…” she was beaming as I thanked her and left walking out to daylight leaving behind a fellow Christian searcher.

Wolfgang, waiting for me at the market café near the water and was asking where I was.  He is a Catholic from Austria where he says “everyone is Catholic but few go to Church.”  He thinks it’s interesting that many Americans, from his perspective, are still passionate about the topic of religion.   He said, “a good glass of wine and classical music is all I need.”  While he spoke, I kept looking back, still consumed in prayer that Mary is bringing one of her own back to Jesus. 


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About the Author

Mike Carlton was born in Buffalo, NY. He married his college sweetheart Laurie and has six children. They were married in Ohio in 1991 and live in a suburb of Atlanta, GA. He is the son of the former NFL football star Wray Carlton. Mike currently works as the Global Vice President of MiMedx, a worldwide orthopedic biologics company in medical devices.

He graduated in 1989 from Miami University, Oxford OH with a B.S degree in Marketing and studied in the M.B.A program at Xavier University, Cincinnati OH. He earned an archdiocesan Catechetical Teaching Certificate for the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta in 2003.

Mike was raised Presbyterian and converted to the Catholic Church in 2002. In 2003, he started the apologetics ministry called “Why Catholic” at his parish, St. Peter Chanel, Roswell GA. In addition, Mike and Laurie help start, with Deacon Mike Bickerstaff, MAC “Marriages Are Covenants”, a ministry outreach program of the Integrated Catholic Life for married couples. He has been interviewed on the Sacred Heart Radio Program, the “Deep in Scripture” program on EWTN radio, and has been an invited guest on the “Journey Home” television program on EWTN. A popular speaker, Mike has given his conversion talk around the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

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4 Comments

  1. I am totally confused. If this lady’s family only became Lutheran when her Mother became Lutheran. It would stand to reason that her grandmother, who was caretaker of this Church was Catholic. Which means it was either a consecrated Catholic Church when it was built as a replica of St. Peter’s, or her grandmother, a Catholic was caretaker of a Lutheran church? What is the name of the “cathedral”?

    1. Hello Mary, sorry for the confusion. The Cathedral as noted above was built Lutheran and has never been Catholic. In the brief encounter, the lady’s Grandmother seemed to be Catholic married to a Lutheran. When traveling in Europe, many families acknowedge once being Catholic tracing their roots prior to 1517. Thank you for being a subscriber to ICL and God bless you. Mike

  2. I was in Copenhagen for 2 weeks late October, and I had many similar thoughts. I thought about how the rebellion of the King of Denmark at the time of the reformation had such far-flung effects, about how one man’s choice made Denmark’s churches more of museums than places of worship!

    It was interesting to look at the architecture and fascinations of the modern Danes in contrast to the churches and history of the city. I often thought that super-modern architecture and emphasis on ikea-like design so prevalent in the city was a the modern temple to nothingness, some sort of reaching out for True Spirituality that was lost at the time of the reformation.

  3. Actually, this church is not a cathedral. There are two cathedrals in Copenhagen, St. Ansgar’s which is Catholic, and Our Lady’s which is Lutheran.

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