The Deacon's Bench

These crazy youngsters. You do your best to raise a non-believing secular humanist and he just turns around and goes all Presbyterian on you:

In April, Bob Sweeney’s son, Ryan, 13, suddenly announced he wanted to start going to church. While Mr. Sweeney had been quite religious once — in his 20s he’d taken an oath of celibacy with plans to spend his life as a Roman Catholic brother — he’d stopped attending church 40 years ago, and he and his wife had raised their son without religion.

“I said O.K., fine,” Mr. Sweeney recalled, assuming this was a whim. “We let the conversation end without coming to conclusions or decisions.” But later that week, on the ride home from middle school, Ryan said, “You know what we’re doing this weekend, Dad?”

“No,” Mr. Sweeney said, figuring he had forgotten one of his son’s track meets.

“We’re going to church,” Ryan said.

Ryan had been inside only three churches for a total of five times in his life — for two funerals and three Christmas Eves — but he picked the one he thought was most beautiful, Union Church, a small stone Protestant chapel in the hamlet of Pocantico Hills, 15 minutes from their home. “We’d driven by it many times,” Mr. Sweeney said. “It fit his idea of what a church should look like.”

He did not want his mother to come. Dianne Sweeney, 50, a customer service manager for PepsiCo, had grown up without religion, and a few times when Ryan had mentioned the pope, she had rolled her eyes.

“He thought I didn’t have the right attitude,” Ms. Sweeney said.

“It was more a father-son thing,” said Mr. Sweeney, 61, a guidance counselor at Mamaroneck High. “Like going to a Mets game.”

Mr. Sweeney suggested attending the earlier service, at 9, so he could get on with his day. On Sundays, he writes college recommendations for his students, reads the newspaper and does yard work.

As the weekend approached, the father hoped the son might lose momentum. But that Sunday Mr. Sweeney saw a vision almost as miraculous as a statue of the Virgin Mother weeping real tears: a 13-year-old boy who got up on his own at 8 a.m., put on a shirt with a collar, brushed his hair and was ready for church.

Check out the rest. The Times seems as baffled as the kid’s parents.

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