But I just knew I was there for a reason. For the first time in my life I was teachable. I knew both churches were filled with a richness that God had not revealed to a guy like me yet. It would come, just like today as I wait to experience the gifts of the sacraments, I just knew it would come. The readings were in context. I had become skeptical of people like I had been in my past that would rattle off one line from the Bible to prove their point of view. And as I drew closer to the Catholic Church I immediately discovered there was no deep, dark secret hiding what they believed. All of it was available to anyone who wanted to know.
I took comfort in that...
But that certainly is not how I have always been. My journey to Catholicism is quite the rocky road. When I was young, I was told the Catholic Church would not baptize me since my father had been divorced. I spent a good twenty-five years with hate in my heart. I had a special dislike for Christianity, but nursed my resentment for Catholics on a daily basis. The fairy-tale, mythical creature in the sky is just one of many ways I explained the existence of God.
And then it happened. Or finally I opened myself up to the power. It was in the midst of the darkest dawn of my life. I was alone. I was scared. I was out of people to blame for the mess my life had become. It was at that moment I realized I was to blame. Tough medicine to take when living a life based on self-reliance. I was lost.
Kneeling for the first time in my life, I prayed a prayer I can't remember to this day. It wasn't very long, yet I remained on my knees long after I finished. A power covered me like a warm blanket as I let go of those 'old ideas' that were killing me. Touched by the love of God, I wept like a child. It was quite profound. Once I lifted myself up, I no longer doubted the existence of God.
That was about as much as I knew at that point. it was my first step towards the Church, however, I certainly didn't see it that way at the time. In fact, there wasn't a church, religion, or spiritual journey that ranked below becoming a Catholic, but I did know one thing for sure; I had some forgiving to do. I also needed to make right the vitriol I had spread over the years about the Catholic Church. It was the right thing to do.
So how did God see fit to make this happen? He sent Father Mark to the business I owned at the time. No need to enter the church. It appeared to me that the Power I had tapped into wasn't making too big of demands of me. I should have added 'yet.' It seems along this journey that He gives me exactly what I am willing to do at the time. He was willing to take the baby steps needed to win over someone like me. Humbling. More so each day I realize the love God has for me. His Only Begotten Son... overwhelming when you think about it.
I love the words of Father Mark once I had the opportunity to sit down and explain what I was doing. "Well," he started, smiling a beautiful smile that shows a deep love of God in his life, "first, Anthony, you could stop talking bad about the Catholic Church. That would be nice, " we both chuckled.
"I can do that, Father," I said without hesitation.
"I would also like you to come to Mass, just once," he continued. At this, well, I just nodded. I would do it, but I figured I didn't have to like it! I did as I was asked checking off of my list one of the many amends I needed to make.
Little did I know that seven years later I would take a job that required I go at least once a week. Just in case you didn't already know, God does have a sense of humor.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. It wasn't as if I started attending Mass every Sunday or even knew who or what God was at that point. But I had learned that priest and pastors were just people. Father Mark may not remember the next time we got together at the Catholic Church in Black Hawk, but it was at that meeting that he shared with me a prayer I read over and over again. He said it reminded him of me. It was as if God was putting yet another human being in my life to show me He cared and loved me.
At this point, I was attending a church on a regular basis. The Catholic faith was right there, but still a million miles away...
Until next time... God Bless...