I was baptized Greek Orthodox. My father was Catholic, but we went to the Greek church, St. George, in downtown Philly. It was very ornate with large, beautiful icons across the front of the church with the altar behind. There was always an abundance of incense and chanting. Unfortunately, it was Greek to me! St. Bartholomew was the Catholic church in our neighborhood, and I and my brothers went there often. I gave up my childhood faith and became Catholic after I was married for several years. I was touched by the Mass as well as the love I saw among my wife’s large family. I was something of a hippie in college, and yet they accepted me, long hair and all. It was a much different environment than my unstable home with an alcoholic father. It seemed to me that the Catholic faith was something to hold on to, stability in an uncertain world.
The faith also upheld marriage in a strong and unifying manner. My parents separated several times; that was tough on us kids. I guess I was ripe for conversion. The Church was a place to belong and to connect with God and others. The priest who married us, Fr. Bob in Ypsilanti, Michigan, was a robust and jovial character. He was also warm and accepting. I think that I have come to believe in miracles, miracles of an ordinary variety. The miracle of a young man finding his place amid the noise and changing scenes of early adulthood. The miracle of finding a loving person while carrying the baggage of a turbulent family upbringing. The miracle of having a family, raising kids without the disruptive shadow of addiction. For me, God’s voice was a beautiful call, a flower among weeds, the true light breaking through the darkness. It was a place of peace in an uncertain desert. This is the saving grace of God. He takes us where he finds us and gives us hope, love and mercy. And what results is a life transformed, a life saved from ruin, a life brought closer to perfection. He does this in millions and millions of lives. He is the good shepherd, carrying us strays on his shoulders.
“The life of a saint is just an imitation of Jesus Christ.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars