Do you ever get those moments of wonderment and at the same time joyous clarity over things in your life? I do from time to time. One of those moments happened over this weekend for me. I did something that I rarely do, which was take a day off from work. I didn’t do it for just sitting on the couch nexflixing or anything, but I took it off for religious reasons. During a homily sometime within the last couple of months, the district superior priest for FSSP was visiting our apostolate here in El Paso when he mentioned that when he was a parish priest, he’d tell his congregation to take Good Friday off and spend that day with God. Sure, I had done it in the past at my old neighborhood Novus Ordo parish, but I had never done it in the 3 years that FSSP has been in the diocese. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t for lack of interest in attending Mass or anything like that, but I just always would come up with some sort of an excuse to myself that was work related to get myself to not take that time and give it to God. Without any hesitation I did it this year, though. Quite honestly, I’m very glad that I did.
I’m finding that each passing day I get closer and closer to God. I’ve had quite the journey to get where I am and a funny thing about it is that I’m not even sure, aside from Divine Intervention, about just how I formed such a close connection with our Lord. I say it’s funny because when I look at my family, at least from my father’s side, nobody is Catholic. Sure, my grandparents are in name, but they don’t attend Mass. My father, well… that’s a long complicated story that I don’t think he’d want me sharing, my uncle is protestant, and my sister is protestant as well. All of us were raised in the one True Faith, but as per the norm these days, they have all strayed away from Holy Mother Church. I’ll be honest, even I did for quite a while. Even as far back as my early childhood after baptism and first holy communion, I wasn’t a regular attendee of Mass. Mainly it was because we had no means of transportation to get to the local parishes to make it to Mass. Sure, we could have walked when we me moved to El Paso when I was 11, but we never really did after the parish finally got their land and stopped holding Mass at the school over the wall from my house. I did my two years of confirmation classes, but I’ll tell you right now that I don’t remember one bit of any of it. I wasn’t engaged in my faith at all. I’d even go as far to say that I was an atheist and even read a bit of Anton LaVey’s books that a friend of mine had. I had no reason to be religious. I type that now and cringe, but it was true back then. I wasn’t evil, violent, or anything like that, but I was just a normal teenage guy wanting rebellion for rebellion’s sake. It was stupid. It was only after I had graduated high school that I decided to attend Mass for myself because I wanted to. I’d always run into my first year confirmation teacher and her husband who are now some of my dearest friends in Christ… More about them in a bit. Anyway, I’d always see them at Mass because they’d either be singing in choir or would be leading in some ministry or another at the parish and I’d always felt at peace when I was around them, as if God was telling me to follow their lead. Well, sure enough, my faith would come and go as I’d find more important things to do as a guy in his early 20s would and I’d make rare appearances at Mass.
Now, here’s where I dabbled in Protestantism. When I was 20, my right knee blew out. I tore my ACL and I had a buckle tear in my meniscus. I was laid out unable to move my leg at all because my knee was locked up, so I spent the entire spring stuck downstairs sleeping on the pullout couch. I got to see every minute of MTV Spring Break (which was still pretty cool back then), and I had a lot of time to just sit there with my leg immobilized and think, miss walking, and read. One of the things that I read was this Christian book about coming back to Christ. There was some sort of protestant “come to Jesus” thing at the end of it and it put me to tears. I know what had happened to me was a wake up call from our Lord to get myself on the straight and narrow path that I just decided to dance all around. I went with my sister to her place of worship and found myself immersed in the overwhelming charismatic love for Christ. I was buying in. Why wouldn’t I at that point, right? I never really knew my faith so it had no defense against it. So, there I was listening to these strongly vocalized sermons and I was giving them the benefit of the doubt until I heard about 10 too many Catholic bashings. I couldn’t take it anymore. That’s not what Jesus Christ and His church was about. There’s no hatred about it OR Him, so I bailed out and went back to the church which He founded on the rock of Saint Peter and started my journey all over again.
My friends were happy to see me, and I even got involved in groups studying encyclicals and books of the Bible and started to attend Mass regularly. All the while, I was still living a crazy life doing stupid things that I’m not proud of AT ALL, but I could never really see the consequences my actions were having. Years past with a few wake up calls from Christ here and there, but the one HUGE wake up call I had was in February of 2008. I did something very stupid, but was lucky to escape from it unscathed. Well, physically unscathed at least. But this event finally woke up dumb ass up and got me to embrace our Lord Jesus Christ completely. I made it a point to go to confession at least monthly, and became even more involved in prayer groups with my friends there at the parish. I became so involved that I was even able to convince my mom to go with me to Mass. I’m so grateful that that happened in those short 4 months because my mom ended up passing away in early June of that same year. I’ll always have that happy thought with me, that my mom saw me finally turn my life around and give it completely to Christ.
That brings me to one of the points I wanted to make and I thought about. I know some people of know of a lot of stories about where people lose their faith because of the loss of a close loved one. I had the complete opposite effect happen to me. Yes, I cried my eyes out as I told my mom how much I loved her as she slowly transitioned from this earth to purgatory… and even typing that out brings me to tears now… and I cried and cried when we got back to the hotel we were at in Lubbock where she passed away that night and did the same thing when we got back home and I saw her bedroom. Heck, I’m crying right now as I take myself back to those moments and type it out here, but never for one minute did my faith waver. All I cared about was getting a priest over to her ASAP to give her the anointing of the sick and to give her absolution so that I’d be assured she would be safe in the life after this one. Once I knew that was taken care of, I left the rest in God’s hands. Let His will be done. At her viewing/Rosary and at her funeral Mass I felt sad (of course), but at the same time a resolve to make sure that I remained close with God. There was never even a question about whether or not my faith was going to go under any test. If it ever did, I passed it with flying colors.
In the nearly 9 years since my mom has been gone, I have grown more and more attached to God. Thanks to His grace, he brought the aforementioned FSSP to El Paso and thanks to a Lenten retreat the year before that, I was able to experience the Traditional Latin Mass beforehand. Me being able to experience that the year before FSSP came here was thanks to those friends I was talking about earlier in the blog post. This couple, who are my parents’ ages have pretty much become like secondary parents to me. For sure, I’d say true Godparents. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have the strong faith I do now. They have enlightened me to many a things in this beautiful church we have and because of them I have learned a great deal on my own. With that said, I’ve found that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (as it’s also called) and the Traditional Catholic lifestyle is what I’ve always needed in my life. Everything about it is so moving. There is reasoning, history, and biblical meaning behind every single thing. 2000 years of tradition will do that, I suppose. Attending Mass at Immaculate Conception Church has also helped me grow in and actually learn my faith even more than I already did. I’m nowhere near apologetics level, but at least I know why certain things are the way they are and I know why things are done and the reasoning behind them. It’s so funny because a few of my friends from work ask me why we do things from time to time and because of that, I’ve heard this from a handful of people now (or a variant of it), “Have you ever thought of becoming a priest? You are so smart and are so kind, peaceful, caring, and understanding. I could totally see you as a priest.” Sometimes that last part is omitted, which I should start following up jokingly “why do you say that? Because I’m a single guy?! Might as well join the priesthood because I’m not married?!” hahaha!
All kidding aside, maybe these people have a point. Maybe God is calling me to the priesthood. Maybe my sometimes insane journey these past 36 years has lead me on a lifepath to be a great priest. That’s not what He’s told me in my heart, though. My heart tells me that I’m supposed to get married and raise children. At this point, better late than never right? Honestly, I’m not holding out much hope. I think years carry baggage and inherently being my age with no kids and never been married is a real turn off, I’m thinking. Or perhaps the opposite sex thinks that I’m some sort of philandering d-bag just looking to get what gets looked for these days, if you catch my meaning. A few… err… a WHOLE MESS TON of bad apples really does spoil the whole darn bunch.
I should just shut up about things now, but close by saying that in short, I am in love with my faith, Jesus’ church, and specifically the way I practice it within the traditional Catholic lifestyle. If I can recommend one thing that I wish everybody could experience, it would be experiencing the Easter Tridium Masses, the Christmastide Masses, and the Requiem Mass (that is offered with a couple of variances on All Souls Day). They are beyond words to describe the beauty of them. I’ll also add that I’m by no means perfect and I still have a very long way to go, but I think that I am well on my way on the path that God intended for me all along. Good things do come to those who wait.