I was baptized at the age of 4 years old and that officially began my journey home. I went to a Catholic School in Blue Springs Mo. called “St. John Le Lande”. I played on the youth sports teams, basketball and flag football. I also participated in track. I still have some of the ribbons we won participating in those events.
I am thankful for the Priests and the volunteers who were outstanding role models for all of us. I credited them by their example, that I never have been drunk in my life, smoked cigarettes, or done any drugs. We moved into a small town called Humansville Missouri. I went to public school there beginning with the 9th grade. This was not like Catholic School at all! The environment was much different. It was very difficult to be accepted there. I was under a lot of harassment and sports were the only thing that helped me through all that.
It wasn’t until my junior year that things began to get better for me. During this period, my faith was there, but it wasn’t strong. The Sunday morning battles were what Church we were going to. I wanted to go to Stockton where they had donuts and fellowship after Mass, and my Mother wanted to go to Humansville because it was closer. I guess, in time, we just quit going for awhile.
By the time I was in college, I was clearly a “nominal Catholic” as I didn’t go to Mass or talk about it. My roommates didn’t know I had a Catholic background for a couple of years. (I think it’s important to state here that this situation was not the church’s fault, it was my fault. It was not my Mother’s fault, it was my fault). This fault would eventually lead to some serious lack of wisdom on my part.
I believe that if I had been active in my faith, I would not have been so gullible. During these years of college, I failed several challenges because I was weak in faith. I was lukewarm about any commitment to Christ. I remember blaming God for my own mistakes, on and off the ballfield. (Jesus warns, “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot or cold, I will spit you out of my mouth ‘Revelation 3:15-16).
One day I called my Mother and told her that I was thinking about becoming a Baptist. She didn’t yell at me and I didn’t hear thunder, trumpets or anything like that. My Mother simply asked me to check out a retreat before I made a decision. I didn’t realize then the punch she had with this retreat. I said, “Sure Mom”! I didn’t know, but my Mother had begun working with this group that produced these “retreats”!
It was called “Cursillo” and I made my “Cursillo” in Carthage Missouri in the fall of 1978. This retreat would change my life forever. I was placed at St. Josephs table and from there, I had the time of my life. I learned about my faith and the foundations where it came from. I spiritually went to confession for the first time. I was a jock who had lost his way home and had found it. I felt so high that I told the priest in the confessional that I loved him. I didn’t even care what anyone else thought.
I was touched with all the prayers that people were offering on our behalf. My Mother slept on the floor for three nights for my soul. I found that out later on when I read the letter she sent in for our intentions. At the end of the retreat, I was given the chance to speak in front of everybody and their friends in how this “retreat” had affected me. I told them that I thanked my Mother for giving me the foundation of my faith. That through her, I was where I am today and I pledged to honor her by learning more about this great faith of ours!
I didn’t know Mom was out in the crowd and I surprised her greatly with my remarks. She stood up and thanked God and felt humbled by what I said. It was a Kodak moment! I came back to college enlightened and I made Immediate changes. I began to go to Mass every Sunday, and freely talk openly about my faith. It is important to note that I was still indifferent about religion in that it didn’t matter to me what religion another person was. I was just happy with my own faith.
My room mates were shocked that I had a Catholic background. They began to show me their concerns with Catholicism. This was news to me as they were introducing comic books and all kinds of “anti-Catholic” propaganda. In the beginning, I was not equipped to handle this. I didn’t have a big brother, a Scott Hahn, or Jeff Cavins to explain any of this to me. I had to fight this battle myself. My last year in college I studied more in religion than any of my classes. It became a struggle.
I would be at baseball practice and there would be five guys waiting for me to talk with me with their King James bibles. I was being told that all I need was a “personal relationship” with God, that all I needed to be was “Born Again”! I was told that I needed to be “saved” and this could not be done through any earthly institution. To them it was not a religion, but a relationship.
I could be in the dining hall and I would have guys gather around me to talk about their faiths and why the Catholic Church was in error. My roommates would invite people over to our room to debate with me which always would go late at night. I was in trouble and knew it. If the Catholic Church was the “Whore of Babylon”, and the Pope the “Anti-christ”, then I had to really investigate this through.
I was studying probably at least 2 hours a day on the Catholic Church and the various “Protestant” denominations. I began to take issue with my roommates who had introduced the “Jack Chick” comic books. I began to see that if the Catholic Church was the True Faith established by Christ, then she had full and complete authority from Jesus it’s founder.
That would mean that those who practiced “Protestantism” grew out of those traditions founded upon men who abandoned the Catholic faith. I became convinced through study that this was the truth. Then I simply began to understand that those people who were attacking the Catholic Church were inadvertently attacking Christ Himself.
We had hours of endless debate until finally after 3 years, one of my room mates decided he needed a change. I agreed based on his decision. I always look upon him with thankfulness and kindness because he was able to help me find the truth.
I began to dream dreams that were so real that concerned the Second Coming of Christ, I was wondering what was going on. They were so real and powerful to me. One particular dream had the greatest impact on me. After a major debate in the room where I took on a number of those attacking the Catholic Church, I went to bed troubled.
I slept hard, but I dreamed that God’s Church, the Catholic Church, was dead. I felt such despair, and sadness I began to cry. I felt that the Church was in ruins and that Christ was sheding tears for His Body, the Church. I never felt such anguish, I cried so much that I woke up out of my sleep totally wet from crying. My pillow, the bed, and the blankets were all wet. I sat up as it took me a couple of minutes to realize it was a dream.
I recalled my Confirmation that took place in Blue Springs Mo on September 23, 1968 by Bishop Sullivan. I renewed my vows and told the Lord that I will be a soldier for Him. I will not betray Him and leave the Church even when people around me do. I will do my best to remain loyal and stand for Him. A promise that I have tried to keep since 1978.
After more than three years, my roommate began to open up to me for the first time that he was a homosexual. I had people ask me about it before, but I never knew, nor did I judge him with it. He had feared me because he knew I was a jock and that I was openly against this lifestyle.
He began to explain to me how he had been sexually assaulted by one of his Uncle’s when he was twelve years old. I did not condemn him, but actually felt compassion for him. He was raised a Protestant and was interested in the Catholic Church out of curiosity from the debates.
I told him that we all need forgiveness, and he could find it also. I also told him he needed to forgive his Uncle. We would continue to study Christianity together and I was there to see him Baptized into the Catholic Church. Thus, the birth of the Catholic Defender!