11 Jun TALES FROM THE JOURNEY HOME: “The Sixties Happened To Me”
Q. How old are you?
A. 61 — Old enough to have served the Mass as a boy in Latin (and Greek for those who always bring up the Kyrie as not being Latin)
Q. What do you do for a living?
A. I am a seeker of the Truth, our Lord, Jesus Christ. I am a husband, father, grandfather. My profession is in the field of nursing, I have a Master’s in Nursing with several national certifications. I am retired military.
Q. Where do you live?
A. In a house, by a big river
Q. How old were you when you left the Church?
Q. Why did you leave the Church?
A.I joined the City of Man, and became ‘everyman.' I spent my teen age years in the late 60’s, and joined “the in crowd”. I was popular (so I thought), and sinful. I was Mr Big among my so-called friends. The rest is, as they say, history.
Q. When and why did you return?
A. I went to a CINO (Catholic in name only) University for grad school. For some strange reason (grace I now know) during grad school, I felt an urge, a tug, a desire to go to a Mass.
I sat in my car for three weeks in a row, outside a Catholic Church, but I could not go in. Finally, the fourth week, I went in, but, it was a different Mass then the one I served as a boy. People were holding hands, shaking hands, standing for Communion, taking the Eucharist in the hand.
I started going more often to Sunday Mass, yet I felt strange. I felt nervous when it came time to say the Our Father. I found myself going to the far corners of the Church so that I did not have to hold hands during the Our Father. I did not go to Communion nor Confession for years, I just went to Mass (I did not feel worthy enough to go to Communion, and I knew the state of my soul).
At that time, I believed the Eucharist was but a symbol, not the Real Presence). I had already read Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, and other secular philosophers. A therapist (yup, therapist who was Catholic) suggested I read Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.” I started reading St Thomas Aquinas, St Augustine, and the early Church Fathers. I also started to read Fr Frederick Copleston's “A History of Philosophy.”
Then, I began to pray privately. I still had not gone to Confession nor Communion for 8 years, but I went to Mass. 911 and world events changed my life even more. My Army Reserve unit was activated in 2003 for parts unknown (we knew). I thought it best to go to Confession and get into the state of grace before I went overseas into harm’s way (quite the motivator). Fortunately, the Army had other plans for our unit, and I believe God was looking out for me. My unit I was assigned to duty stateside. I continued going to Mass where I was stationed, and finally started going to Confession and Communion often.
Q. How did you find the Latin Mass?
A. I eventually heard a wonderful choir singing the prayers. I smelled the incense. I no longer was nervous awaiting the Our Father. I understood The Real Presence. I bought a Latin/English missal.
Q. How would you describe your journey?
A. My journey was not smooth, it was a long twisted road. My guardian angels I am convinced kept me out of serious trouble. My dear mother, God rest her soul, I believe, never stopped praying for me to return to the Church. It was 25 years of my hedonism and destructive ways before I sat outside the Church those 3 weeks. Another 8 years of going to Mass before I went to Confession and Communion. I came home to God’s loving arms. I believe He accepted me for the sinner that I was, and am. I am sure He shook His head many times at some of the things I did. In know I do. And I am grateful to God I lived this long to come back to Him.
Q.. What advice would you offer to someone who has left the Church?
A. Get on your knees. Pray (talk to God). Read the early Church Fathers if it helps (it did me). Realize, it is in God’s time things happen, not our time. Find a good friend, Catholic mentor. Go to Confession and Communion. Thank God every day for the gifts He has given you. Happiness will come, from within once you enter the City of God.