One of the things that I vividly remember after coming back to church after such a long hiatus, was the lack of men out in the pews. It’s not that I didn’t see any men but the men that I did see out there were the older men, our fathers and our grandfathers. So, where were all the younger men at?
I was 45 years old then. I am 48 now. That’s not much older but you’d be surprised how much you can learn in the span of three years especially in regards to the faith. Now that’s not to say that I did not know anything about the faith prior to that, however, I’ve learned so much more it seems in these past three years than all the prior years.
Through the years, I’ve had many a conversation with some old men. I particularly remember a conversation that I had with an old man prior to my return to the faith. He said, “Without God, nothing is possible.” He also told me that I should thank God for my business (I’m a small business owner) and that God may continue to watch over it. I thought to myself, “Ha! I’m the only one that can determine if my business succeeds or not.” However, I would always catch myself telling him “Yes. I will.” That Old man and I had many conversations throughout the years and most of the time I disagreed with him, especially when it came to religion.
From stories that he told me about his youth, I knew that he grew up Catholic and was a practicing Catholic until he joined the Navy. Like most men in their 20s 30s 40s and 50s, he lived a completely different life that rarely if ever involved his faith. In his later years he made it a point to come back to his faith and to tell others about the Catholic Church and tried to get them back to their faith as well.
Almost every time that I saw him, he would tell me that I need to get back to church and that I should take my family and be that example for them.
I would always catch myself telling him “I will” knowing full well that I wouldn’t. The way I saw it, I was doing a good enough job taking care of my family! As a matter of fact, I bought more stuff for my kids and my wife than I ever saw him do for his family! I remember how rambunctious and sometimes out-of-control that old man was back in his 40s and 50s and how much hell he put his family through sometimes. But all of a sudden in his later years he finds God… how convenient.
I continued living my life for the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I. I continued to put myself before my family, before friends, but most importantly before God and this old man saw that. Still, that never deterred the old man from talking to me about returning to the Catholic Church. I did have to give the old man credit. He didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk. He would always attend Sunday Mass and would try his best to attend daily Mass. I started noticing how he would place God first, then others, and lastly himself. I thought to myself “this old man might be onto something there.”
Little by little I could feel God starting to chip away at that stone which was once my heart. All of a sudden I started to care about being things I didn’t care about before. I started defending the pro-life movement when I never used before. I even started reading bits and pieces of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. God continued to chip away at that hard exterior and the even harder interior of myself but I could tell I was still resisting.
That old man passed away on January 18, 2012. He and many other people had already planted the seed of faith in me before he passed. However, I believe that his death kick started the journey of me returning back to the Catholic Church or at least it kicked it into overdrive. I was there when he passed away and saw how God works with my own two eyes. As a matter of fact I was the one that helped him to cross over and head towards heaven. He had been unresponsive for three days prior to that morning that I went to go see him. I remember telling him that his loved ones would be okay and that his time to leave was now. The part that I distinctly remember were the last words that I said to him, “Jesus is up there with his arms wide open waiting for you.” At that moment he opened up his eyes, took one last breath, and passed away peacefully.
“Jesus is up there with his arms wide open waiting for you.” Where did those words come from? I know that they came out of my mouth but those weren’t the kind of words that I would normally use. It was the Holy Spirit that guided me and helped me to talk to the old man and guide him home. My conversion back to the Catholic faith happened a few months later in November 2012. It was a glorious feeling. I was overcome by so many emotions but I felt the love of Christ pouring into my heart most of all.
My walk with Christ has been an awesome journey so far and I know that it will continue to get better each and every day. I will always be grateful to that old man who never gave up and persevered to talk to me about Christ and about our beautiful Catholic faith. I love you and I miss you, dad…thank you.