Monday, August 26, 2013

A Single Prayer Can Make All the Difference

I didn't grow up in a church.  My parents, coming from different religions, decided to let us find our own route. In 2001, when I was 13 years old, my 11 year old brother asked me to attend a group called "Cool Christians" on Wednesdays after school.  It was a fun and social event that roughly 100 kids from my middle school attended. We played in the gym, had snacks, and spent 30 minutes listening to worship music.  It wasn't long before my brother made the decision to attend church there with some of his friends. I went with him.  Six months later, the rest of my family followed, and my brother and I were baptized.

After a few years, I became upset with the direction of the church, and I left. I found my new home at Northland Cathedral Assemblies of God. I loved it.  However, when I left for college, finding a church that felt the same seemed impossible.  I tried a new church every week for four months.  Finally, I decided to settle with my girlfriend's (she's now my wife) church, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Newman Center in early 2008.

It was boring, and I disagreed with their theology.  There weren't doughnuts, live bands, testimonials, or Sunday School classes.  I went for the community, which I was sorely missing.  Although I often disagreed with them, they respected my beliefs and were always willing to discuss our differences. I was a part of their community without being a part of their Church.

Three years later, in 2011, I spent a weekend at a regional Fellowship of Catholic University Students conference in Minneapolis. On the Saturday evening, in the middle of a talk, I had an urge unrelated to the talk to begin a research project examining the beliefs of the early Christian church.  I thought, if anybody knew what Christ wanted, it would be the people who lived near the time He lived, right? It made sense to me, the practices of early Christians ought to reflect most closely what Christ intended.  I spent several months reading more than 100 documents written by early Christians.  In the middle of Against Heresies by Irenaeus, I realized that early Christians did not believe what I believed about the Eucharist. Irenaeus spelled out, explicitly, the modern Catholic teaching on the Eucharist.

I remember thinking, literally, "Shit, I'm Catholic."  I called a pastor back home and pleaded with him, "Help me, I think I'm becoming Catholic."  We talked through my reasoning about the church fathers and then through what Irenaeus had written. He didn't have sufficient answers for me.  As I continued reading writings of other early Christians, it became more apparent which church they most closely resembled--the Catholic Church.

I converted in April 2012.

But why did it happen? What caused my overwhelming urge to read the church fathers? What started my year-long intellectual journey to Rome?  Why couldn't I stop reading them--even in the middle of law school classes?

The answer shocked me.  I attended the Minneapolis conference with Miranda, my girlfriend of roughly 10 years.  On the Saturday of the conference, hours before my obsession began, Miranda prayed for the very first time that I would make the journey into the Catholic Church.  Over the next year, she never expressed this desire in person.  I never felt pressured by her to join the Church.  She merely prayed for me.  After making the decision to join the Church, she told me about her prayer. I had no clue.

Here's the deal folks, I strongly believe that without her prayer earlier on that Saturday, I wouldn't have begun reading the church fathers.  That single prayer, started my journey home.

Pray for the conversion of souls, it works.

P.S.  Thanks, Miranda! I wouldn't be the person I am today without your prayer, love, and support.