After I came home, I attended First Baptist Church. After about 5 years there, I felt like I had never fit in. I had intended to find a new church home, but never did. In fact, I stopped going to church altogether for several years. From time to time God would move in my life to remind me that he was still with me. I was working, first in retail and then in the Audio Visual field. Then in September of 2003, I was lost my AV job. I was unemployed for a little over a year. I was finding bottom fast.
But, as he so often does, God was using this difficult time in my life to get me ready for something new. As he says in Isaiah, "I will lead the blind by ways they have not known; along unfamiliar paths I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them and make rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them." (Is. 42:16)
Eventually, I came across EWTN and "The Journey Home" and "Life on the Rock." "The Journey Home" is hosted by Marcus Grodi, a former Presbyterian pastor now a Catholic. Each week he interviews either a convert to Catholicism or someone who has returned to the Church. In the first half hour Marcus interviews the guests about their spiritual journey. In the second half, they take questions. In closing, Marcus Grodi's question is always "How has becoming a Catholic strengthened your faith in Jesus Christ?"
There are two things that keep coming up as reasons the interviewees become Catholic, the Eucharist and Church history--especially the early church fathers. The Eucharist because they come to believe that it's more than a symbol; it's the Real Presence of Christ. The church fathers because their writings reveal a faith that "sounds so Catholic".
"The Journey Home" got me thinking about returning to the Catholic Church. "Life on the Rock" also provided a great example of real Catholic faith. Even though I am not the target demographic (it's for "young people"!), the humor and good-natured faith of Father Francis, Father Mark and their guests is a powerful invitation to Catholicism.
I started researching some Catholic websites that deal with apologetics and doctrine. (see below). I continued to read. Over the course of several weeks, I read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I was also reading some of Scott Hahn's books, especially "Swear to God" and "The Lamb's Supper." Even Garry Wills' books "Papal Sin" and "Why I Am a Catholic" were ultimately helpful!
I stopped by my parish church. The plan was to spend some time in prayer. The church was nice and quiet. I selected a pew near the front of the church since the Tabernacle is behind the main altar. I started to pray--the Our Father, the Jesus prayer, some other bits and pieces. I hadn't prayed like that in quite a while. I began to feel like something was happening, like I was getting through--a little taste of God's presence.
It occurred to me that I should spend some time listening! It's very hard to describe what happened next except to say that the feeling of being in God's presence intensified! The Lord said so much to me. He told me of his love, of his presence both in my heart and in the Tabernacle, that he was with me, that I could trust him, that I was forgiven--so much love! Somewhere in all of this, I confessed my sins. I let the tears fall.
I decided that I needed to go to a mass. I knew I couldn't receive the Eucharist yet. But I wanted to see what I mass was like after all these years. I had already stopped by the church when it was not in use to see what the building was like.
The mass I went to was on October 31, 2004, the eve of All Saint's, the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time. Father George was saying the mass. Although it had been about 25 years since I had been to mass, I felt at home. The Gospel that day was from St. Luke's story of Jesus meeting Zacchaeus. Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Lk. 19:9-10)
After that, I spoke a couple of times with Father George. I kept going to mass, longing to receive the Eucharist. My problems with some Catholic doctrine faded as I realized that the key to understanding Church teaching was incarnation (more on that later!). Finally in December I was able to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I was back in the Catholic Church. I was home.