Sunday, December 19, 2010

Three Year Anniversary of Coming Home

"In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke15:10)

December 24, 2007 is a date I won't forget. This upcoming Christmas Eve marks three years since I made the official decision to return to the Catholic Church after some 15+ years away. It was my conscious effort to follow Christ and his Church - my "Yes, Lord".  Beginning with several notable occurrences in the prior year, I made the decision to attend Midnight Mass by myself at the local Mission. I chose this place for several reasons. It was close,  I had been there for a wedding in 2006 and lastly, I was baptized there as an infant, so it is a special place to me. Why not a rebirth there? I had not been to a Catholic Church (outside of funerals or weddings) on my own accord since my confirmation in 1992. In fact, I more or less feared setting foot in a church as it wasn't something I was comfortable doing. Add to that comments from many and society's labels and it is almost taboo. When I would drive by a Catholic Church, my conscience always nagged at me, but I would tend to find some excuse. I had always known that I would return one day, however my answer was "later", "sometime", or "not yet". That time was now.

You see, my return to the faith was because I asked for it. While I fell away from practicing the sacraments after Confirmation, through the grace of God I prayed every day since my catechism as a youth. The Lord was always subtly knocking at the door (Rev 3:20), but it wasn't until I asked in prayer that he revealed himself in powerful ways. Much of my return is due to private revelations and powerful experiences that I cannot explain with any reason other than faith. Essentially, I asked the Lord to show me he was real through the help of other individuals as instruments, and in return I would glorify him in everything that I do. Supply those instruments and events he did!  Then it was my turn to do my part, as I had promised.

Part of my return to the church was through exposing me to 'Christians' who attended protestant churches (anything other than those in communion with Rome). Others brought me to Non-Denominational churches several times, which are truly what showed me what the Catholic faith has. While many of these churches promoted some truth in their teachings, I felt an emptiness the several times I went. Alas, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist they lack. Without experiencing events at these churches, I would not have researched the Catholic faith as much as I did and came home so powerfully. In fact, it lit a fire underneath me, because it became apparent that the majority of Catholics don't know their faith, nor can they defend it. I sought out to know, live and defend the faith. I wasn't going to be lumped in with the Catholics who said "I don't know, Fr Whatever told me". We're all called to be informed about our faith.

My experience at Mass that Christmas eve is familiar with many others out there. I sat in the pews (actually chairs, will touch on that in a later blog post!), stood, kneeled and went along with everything that the rest of the laity did. But, I knew I could not receive the Eucharist. I needed confession first. I had made the first step that evening, saying "Yes" to God, but I still had to fully examine my conscience. At quick glance, finding a place to confess on Christmas eve was not that easy, nor was it likely a prudent idea. I had been looking at different parishes. Some offered confession at limited times during the week, others only on Saturdays or by appointment. One parish offered it before EVERY Mass. Yes, EVERY Mass. That seemed odd in comparison to the others in the valley, however that parish is where I had completed my sacraments.

A week after Christmas, something happened at work that triggered me to call that local parish and inquire about confession times before heading over. I was literally shaking when I made the call and an elderly lady picked up the phone, welcoming me to the parish.

"Hi, do you offer confession today as it says on the website?"

In a scratchy voice "You mean the Sacrament of Penance, why Yes. A bit before Mass starts, a priest will be there".

"Yes, Penance. Ok, Thank you very much".

That was it. I got in my car, drove over to the parish and parked. After sitting in the car for a minute, I took a deep breath and went in, finding the line for the confessionals. It was like a time capsule. The parish had not changed much in 15 years. It was as I remembered it. In fact, it was 10 minutes before Mass started and I was worried I would not get in the confessional. I took "before Mass" literally thinking the priest would leave before Mass started. This "literal" lesson would later play into many experiences of understanding the bible. Luckily, the priest would offer confession until the consecration, so I had plenty of time.

The Lord did guide me that day. The priest that I got for confession was perfect for my situation.  I mentioned it had been 15 years since my last confession and that I wanted to again receive the Eucharist, he mentioned excitedly, "God Bless you! Wonderful, I will remember you in all my Masses. God Bless you". After naming my sins and receiving some counsel, I heard those wonderful words "I absolve you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen. Go in Peace. God Bless you, I will keep you in prayer". At that moment, I know the Angels were rejoicing as Luke 15:10 says.

I received the Eucharist for the first time in some 15+ years that day. It was an amazing moment to kneel at the altar rail and receive the Eucharist.

Needless to say, I walked out of Mass that day with a new look on life and felt like the cloudy stain over my eyes was washed away. Sort of like cleaning a really foggy pair of glasses, or even the windshield on your car. This day started a wonderful journey.  However, little did I know what lie ahead. It was just the beginning of the Lord placing people and events in my life, not to mention the cleansing process of 15 years of worldly influences.

As I reflect on where I have come from, I am reminded where the Lord has taken me in three years. I am scheduled to be the lector at Midnight Mass and a Christmas day Mass this year. Three years ago, I was a lapsed Catholic, returning to Holy Mother Church. Today, I attend Mass close to daily, I am helping teach Catechism at two parishes, give talks to youth at retreats, and are a lector at one of the largest churches in the area. I told the Lord I would glorify him, and indeed he has provided the opportunities for me to say "Yes" to. To be given the honor of teaching Catechism and proclaiming readings at Mass is nothing short of an honor.

I recently found some pictures of my Confirmation in 1992 and then took a current photo in front of the same Mary statue after Mass. My, how much I've grown both physically and spiritually.

Then and Now
It is my hope with this blog to share with readers many of my experiences and resources that I have come across the past three years and share more of my story (there are MANY stories).  Some of you are out there in the same position as I was. Where do I start? How do I meet fellow Catholics and live my faith? What does being "Catholic" mean? Am I crazy with all these beliefs in today's world? What do I look for in a Catholic church? Etc,etc,etc...  But, as Jesus told the disciples when he walked on water "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."(Matt 14:27) 

If  you are thinking about returning to the church, take that step and go to talk to a priest, visit a Mass and reflect. Most of all, Pray. They have heard it all, and would gladly welcome you home. In fact, take a visit to as this site has a tremendous amount of resources. One of the other great resources that popped up during my return to the church was local Catholic radio. Immaculate Heart Radio ( launched the month I returned to the church. I remember all the billboards that appeared and constantly reminded me to turn on the radio. Thanks to those behind these great ministries!

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to meet you! Thank you for your comment and thank you for your witness.