Not too long ago Mariah and I shared our re-conversion story in a two-part series on ArchAngel radio. We shared it in hopes that many other people that walked a similar path as us would hear it and help shine some light on the path they were traveling before they grew further away from Christ. For those of you that didn’t hear it, here are Parts I & II:
Here’s our story in a nutshell:
Both Mariah and I grew up in Catholic families going to mass every Sunday not really knowing why, but only because that’s what we were supposed to do. We also both attended Catholic schools. She attended a Catholic school all the way through high school and I attended one for four years from 5th to 8th grade and then another four years in a Catholic college. You would think that with all that Catholic schooling and attending mass with the family on Sunday and by being alter servers that we would’ve had a great understanding of why attending mass was so important, except that we didn’t. We actually didn’t until after we were married.
To be honest, as a child I despised going to mass. My mom would have to basically bribe me by telling me that if I didn’t go to mass then I wouldn’t be allowed to go eat with the family when we dined out after the 7:00 p.m. mass. If you know me well, then you know I LOVE food! So I went, but that was the only reason. I thought church was boring. The music was terrible and mostly all on an organ, which didn’t help. There weren’t many people there my age and pretty much everyone there was already collecting social security. I had a tough time staying awake and keeping my eyes open during the readings, the Gospel, and the homilies. It also didn’t help that the church we attended was where it seemed all the priests were sent to retire. They were all old… very old. To stay awake I would talk during mass to anyone that would listen, therefore, I didn’t pay any attention.
Then I went to a Catholic College. While there I played guitar in the church band and that may have been the only reason I went to mass with the exception of a few other times. I’m not sure why I decided to play in the band, but I did for about a year. During my college years the Catholic church was hit by a flood of priest sex abuse scandals, which didn’t exactly help my faith in the church. I thought, “If you can’t trust a priest, who can you trust?” There were so many things that I never understood. I never understood confessing to a priest, why we took the Eucharist, transubstantiation, and many other parts of the Catholic faith and I don’t feel like it was taught, or at least not well, while I attended Catholic schools. I do have one small caveat: I have always had a short attention span (pretty much major A.D.D.), which could’ve lead to me not paying attention when certain things were taught.
I graduated from college in 2004 and after I received my bachelor’s degree in Theology… just kidding, it was in Graphic Design, I decided to go to law school. During those three years I can probably count the number of times I attended mass on two hands. I took a break from going to church for a while… a long while. It wasn’t until the end of my third year that some friends invited me to a non-denominational church service. For some reason I definitely did not want to go. Something inside of me was telling me that I was not doing the right thing by going, but I went anyway and I liked it. The band was great, the preacher was great, the people I met there were all great, but something felt missing.
I had attended that church service, or “worship service” as many people like to call it, several more times for a little over a year and then began going to another non-denominational church service for another couple years. I felt great! I was finally feeling like this is what church was supposed to be like and this is how I’m supposed to live in communion with Jesus. I would come out of the service “on fire” for Christ. I’d be so pumped up that I just wanted to talk to everyone about Him and live out my life the way Christ did. I wanted to read more of the Bible and get involved in Bible studies, which I did. I began learning more and more about Scripture. Man, this was great stuff! So you may think that this is where my journey ended and remains today. That couldn’t be farther from the situation.
Something kept pulling me back to the Catholic Church. So although I felt like an outsider and possibly an outcast after attending non-denominational services for so long, I began going to both non-denominational services AND mass in the same day. Guess what… after all these years of not going to mass, nothing changed. It was the same old mass except this time I did my best to follow along with the readings, the Gospel, and the homily. I had to tell myself that although the music may be just as terrible as I remembered, that wasn’t why I was going to mass.
I did the dual-church thing for several months all the way up to the point of my marriage. At that time Mariah was also attending a non-denominational church in Baton Rouge. We discussed all the commonalities in our faith and religious walks and couldn’t believe how similar they were. We were engaged soon after we met and began planning our wedding. Then the question came as to where we would get married, as in which church. Just like something started pulling me back to the Catholic Church before, something was pulling me back there once again. I had to get married in a Catholic Church. I could not articulate why, but I knew that I would not get married if it wasn’t in a Catholic Church. So that was the plan. We went through the marriage prep and met with the priest that would preside over our wedding and promised him that we would live out the teachings of the Catholic Church including being open to children (which I don’t think anyone could say we have been otherwise since Camille was born before our one year anniversary) and we promised to go to keep holy the Sabbath (A.K.A. go to mass every Sunday).
As the soon-to-be “man of the family,” I knew that I would have to be the faith leader. So I began to listen to educational talks on CD. I learned more about my faith on those CDs than I had in all of my Catholic school years. I continued to listen to them up to the date of our wedding and soon after. We had gone on a weekend engagement retreat to a monastery where we grew closer than ever as a couple and were forced to confront many possible issues that may arise in our marriage, such as where we would take our children to church and where they would go to school. We both decided on homeschooling or Catholic schools for our future children’s education and both decided on taking them to mass on Sundays because taking them to both services may be confusing. I’m glad that wasn’t a foreseeable problem for us and came to that decision on our own and together.
We went on our honeymoon the week after our wedding and then came back home and went to mass. After being home for a week, in my eyes, the worst possible argument topic that could come up in a marriage presented itself. It was 10:30 at night and Mariah and I were both in bed. I could tell that something was bothering her, but was afraid to ask. I didn’t have to because she wound up telling me. She asked, “when are we going back to the non-denominational church?” That hit me like a ton of bricks. I was at a crossroads. Do I do what I believe God is telling me to do or do I put my wife first before God and do what will make her happy? That was an easy decision for me, but it didn’t make the pain I felt after giving her my answer any easier to deal with. I turned my head, took a deep breath, turned back to her and my exact words were, “We’re not.” She immediately began to cry. Two weeks into our marriage and I had my wife in tears. I thought to myself, “Way to go bud! Now your wife is going to cry herself to sleep.”
As hard as it was to give her that answer I actually felt peace about it. Although I felt peace about it, I knew that my two word response that we weren’t returning to the other church was not going to satisfy my wife. I felt like I owed her more than that, but at that time I could not articulate why we weren’t going back. So with my wife crying in our bed I walked to the back of the house into the office, popped a CD into my computer called “Set All Afire” and began to listen. It was a compilation of seven talks by seven different speakers. I prayed that through that CD God would reveal to me how to articulate my reasoning to my wife. I didn’t just listen to the CD once. I kept listening to it for 4 straight hours until 2:30 a.m. After 4 hours of listening to the talks I decided it was time to go to bed. To my surprise, Mariah was still awake and still crying. So I was not looking forward to the next morning. I knew if I could get Mariah to listen to what I heard on the CD that the message would be received much better than if it were coming from me. So I circled four of the seven talks and pleaded with her the next morning to listen to them. Thankfully I have an AMAZING wife who was open to doing just that. She listened to all four the next morning while I was at work.
I had to travel later that day and asked Mariah if she wanted to join me for the ride. I thought she’d most definitely decline since she wasn’t happy with me after the previous night, but she did come along. I asked a friend if he had anymore CDs that would help me with the issue we were dealing with and he gave me 5 more, 3 of which we played to and from our destination. It was on that car ride when our journey began. I asked Mariah if we could listen to the first CD my friend recommended. She said that was fine and I put it in the car CD player. We listened to a talk called “True Worship” by Father Michael Schmitz. He’s both hilarious and captivating. He also likes to explain with analogies or parables, which is how I also like to explain and learn things. Although hilarious and captivating, his talk was so powerful that it absolutely broke me. I came undone and felt extremely convicted listening to it. It was a good thing I was wearing sunglasses that day because if there’s one thing that can get me emotional it’s the feeling of God working in my life and how great He is. “True Worship” is to this day the most powerful talk I’ve ever heard. When it was over I told Mariah that she could plug her phone and play from her iTunes or listen to the radio if she wanted, but she surprisingly asked if we could listen to another talk on CD. That was it. Everything changed after that. We began to learn things we never knew or have ever heard about the Catholic faith we grew up with. Our journey back Home had started.
I plan on writing exactly what it was that brought us back to His church and what we learned that somehow we missed after over 2 decades of Catholic upbringing. Now that we know what we were missing, His church and His love have become extremely beautiful to us and become more and more beautiful every day.