Catholic geek, Catholic hippy, Catholic freak; call me what you want. I know my reputation. Call me Catholic friend. With Jesus as my best friend, others follow. Hey, if Jesus was called a geek, hippy and freak, it’s cool having an affiliation with him in this way.
My mother, a spiritually weak Lutheran, was widowed three months after my birth. She remarried a great man whom I call Dad. After Jesus, I know he is the best example of a good Catholic.
My geeky, hippy, freaky me started at a Catholic grade school with daily Mass. With other kids tickling, teasing and fooling around in church, I avoided them to feel the holiness surrounding me. Doesn’t it seem a little sophisticated for a third grader asking if he is worthy to receive Communion? I couldn’t sleep; I didn’t want to mess up. A scared, little kid? No, that wasn’t me. Curious and obeying God’s plan was me.
He had to use some tough love to get me to turn and face Him.
Two weeks before my scheduled First Communion, I had the guts to walk to church by myself and take the Eucharist. I didn’t go to church with that in mind, but a gentle nudge from Jesus got me to my feet and in line to receive Him. Is there another kid today receiving before he is officially ready? A few weeks later I made my 2nd Holy Communion with my classmates. This secret stayed safe between me and Jesus because in no way would my parents or my teacher know.
From preteen to early adulthood my geeky, hippy, freaky lifestyle defined me. I know Jesus had my back. I heard him say, “Turn around and face me. Look at me.” I never did. Why? I thought I had to be without sin, worthy and clean and that was not typical of me. You would think that a man in his twenties would understand his relationship with Jesus. He had to use some tough love to get me to turn and face Him.
Is there such a thing as a little bit of trouble? In my thirties, I kept getting in deeper and deeper. My parents were mortified as they saw me fall into mortal sin. I broke all the Commandments that applied. Anger, covetousness, greed, lust, gluttony and pride would have been an honest way to begin confessing my sins had I gone to Reconciliation. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” were words I didn’t say. Satan was winning.
I didn’t know that Jesus was still protecting me. I could face Satan but not Jesus. Shouts of disappointment from my family and hearing them say, “You’re killing us!” started suicidal thoughts. I could end my wasted life and stop the stress. With a well-rehearsed plan, I knew the time, place and day, making sure it was not a holiday, a family anniversary or a birthday. The day arrived. I got up early, showered, cleaned the apartment and left a suicide note. Stupid me! I forgot something. After a quick trip to the store, I was ready except for a strange presence. I was not alone. “Who’s there?” Then, I felt God’s hand on my shoulder. “This is not my plan for you, Mike.” I fell to my knees, turned my head to face a crucifix and decided to look at Jesus in the face and never, ever turn my back on him again.
Tough love turned to tough commitments guided by Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I had to stop my sinful ways, forgive many and accept Jesus’ intentions. When a good buddy asked me to go to church, I understood Jesus’ plan. He planted an earth-buddy in my life to keep me from returning to Satan, my hell-buddy.
I recall a series of steps to strengthen my faith.
A) I attended church once a week.
B) I let the music move my emotions. “Here I am Lord, it is I Lord. I have heard you call me in the night.” What a powerful song steering me back to Christ. I wept for months hearing these words.
C) I started a good job. Facing Jesus with an open heart and mind is one way to find a good job.
D) I read the church bulletin, learned about RCIA, received Confirmation and pledged to be a good soldier for my King at 35 years old.
E) I agreed to be a Eucharistic minister at Mass and for shut-ins.
F) I totally immersed myself into preparations for the priesthood. I attended a retreat asking for guidance about the priesthood; then Delia appeared on the scene. What irony! I had not dated for five years preparing for the seminary. God’s plan: take the sacrament of marriage instead of holy orders.
G) I joined the Knights of Columbus. Having men filled with the love of the Lord wasn’t only nice, it was a necessity.
H) I attended Cursillo, a remarkable experience to affirm my faith.
Today, when people ask me how I am doing, I frame my answer around my life as a holy person. My neighbor asked me why I started going to church on Thursdays. He implied that if I was going on Saturday and Sunday, that should be enough. “There is never enough in a faith-filled journey because Jesus has a plan for me and I want to follow it.” I explained that a group of guys meet after Mass on Thursday, and we talk about our love of Jesus. “I don’t think there is any hope for me. I’m going to Hell!” he said. With a friendly tap on the shoulder, he heard me say, “That’s one reason why I go to Mass. It’s for your soul and salvation.”
I feel God’s grace. I show my love for Jesus. I ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. I hope my story will inspire other men to stray toward Jesus.
Note from Alice: After his experience in attempting suicide, Mike is confident he will never try again.But, he knows that it could happen and that it is too easy to succumb to society’s pressures to be sinful. Following his example of taking steps to strengthen his faith is noteworthy. I just don’t get it when people say they are waiting for the right time to practice their faith. How about right now? Anyone reluctant to get closer to Jesus can take Mike’s plan of action to begin. Good luck, and remember to look at Jesus face to face.
Biblical Note: Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps, God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. 2 Timothy 2:25-26 (NLT)