A Foolish Dreamer Awakens in the Church at Last

pray, prayer, praying

Many of you reading this are familiar with much of my journey and story. If you are, you likely know that I have had more than my share of struggles in my pursuit of Catholicism at her core. That core is chasing holiness. To quote the Baltimore Catechism, which I was raised on, in question 6 of the very 1st lesson: “Why did God make you? God made me know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.” Simple and obvious, right? Yet it seems to have somewhat eluded me for over 60 years. Or to be more honest I did much of the eluding, at least in large part.

The original story of my return to the Church in 2005, after 35 years away, is featured elsewhere, as are the struggles which have dogged me on and off for several years even after. In short, I have returned, re-returned, and re-returned yet again. Essentially, I have been converted, reverted, and rediscovered. Okay, you get it. My walk has not been in all cases exactly perfect or consistent. Not even close.

In and Out of the Catholic Church

Prayerfully and humbly I expect that to change going forward. You might ask, as I, in fact, do at times, why I should believe this time to be different. Yet prayerfully it is. In the past, my dalliances were with other forms of what I still considered to be “catholic” Christianity. I would leave for 2-3 months and come repeatedly back. Then after more mind-bending and overthinking, I would step away again. This time though I was determined that nothing and no one would convince me otherwise, and I relied solely on the gift of reason, which is valid if used properly and not in a vacuum, to bring me forward. I stepped away for nearly a year, studying all types of alternative spiritualities, something I have been familiar with in the past but digging far deeper than before, and they made sense to me. Or at least to my brain.

And God let it happen. His gift of free will was not going to interfere with it or with me. It seemed that the struggles I already had with the Church and her authority were done—I simply could not rationally accept them. Truth be told, the greatest apologist for the Faith could not have swayed my mind, as it was already made up. I was buying herbs and crystals, delving deeply into the Tarot and occult magick, and at a breakneck pace ridding myself of all things Christian within my life and home, including crucifixes, statues, and the like. I found myself not believing in Satan, hell, or anything else that might have slowed me down. My intellect was not just darkened, but nearing pitch black. I was blinding myself and leading what was left of my fairly intelligent brain into a ditch of dung.

If you read my bio, you will note I happen to be same-sex attracted. I am not ashamed of those feelings, nor should I need to be. However, feelings are not meant to lead or control, and they had full force begun to. I have been celibate for almost 20 years, but I was hoping in my heart to break that as well. Thankfully I didn’t, but I had participated on far too numerous days and nights in conversations and online events that I am now deeply ashamed of and embarrassed about. Details are not the point here. Jettisoning towards the edge of a cliff with nothing to hold me back however is. For that is where I was fast flying towards.

Dreams of Home

I should specify that I do not intend every article I post here or on my blog going forward to be regarding those topics here mentioned. I share them now simply to give the reader a picture of where I was headed. And it was not a safe place.

A few months ago, things came crashing, and in some very unexpected ways. For weeks or even months, I had repeated and vivid nightmares, 2-3 times weekly, about being back in the Church, or at very least being the devoted Christian I once had been. I would often awaken trembling and sensing such loss inside, missing the only place I had ever spiritually been at home—Christ and Rome. A few of those times I nearly came back to my senses upon waking but after a few moments of brushing the cobwebs away, I reasoned my way out of those dreams and rejected the message and warning behind them. In other words, upon awakening, the pursuit of holiness was not so much.

Honest confusion is not a sin. Most of us have those moments where we simply cannot understand why God allows something in ours or other people’s lives, or where we at least fleetingly wonder about the theology we have been taught, whether as Catholics or Christians of other communities of faith. Sin comes in when we remain in that confusion after God has already revealed Himself to us. Sadly, that was what I was doing, over and over. I had become spiritually frozen or nearly so.

A Saintly Friend’s TV Visit

One night when I was at the point of likely no return, I turned on EWTN for literally old time’s sake. I had crossed the line, cursed and blasphemed our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Mother, and felt absolutely no conscious desire for the Eucharist. Ever. However, one Saint I never could cross was St Padre Pio. In yet one more article I wrote on another site a few years ago, I share the story of how he intersected with my family in some amazing ways. For that reason, he was just a bit too close for comfort. No, St Pio was not going to be crisscrossed by me even at my worst moments. In any case on EWTN that night I saw a guest who had a deep devotion to him, and who was traveling with 5 relics, two including remains of his miracle-laden blood. The display was being taken all over the USA, and I was surprisingly intrigued. Suddenly In the depths of my heart, I wanted to see them in person, and at this moment I cannot say particularly why. Hopping online I found that the exhibit would be just an hour away from me 6 days later, and this would be the only time it would be in my fair state of MN. By the time I finished hearing this guest, I was already making plans to go—and more so, to return to the Church once for all. Padre Pio was again interceding for someone in my family—this time me.

The next day after the EWTN program, I made the most difficult sacramental confession of my life—and the most freeing. I confessed my wrongdoing in detail, and in the next several days began to “re-Catholicize” my home. It was a bit like being on autopilot, but I was certainly aware and making the conscious choice to yet again face all my former colleagues in the Catholic world, and to mend some gigantic fences. I had a lot to make right. I still do.

God, however, had made me an offer I could not reasonably refuse, while ironically giving me that very choice to do so. I said yes. I would follow the dash towards holiness once for all. In the past, when I did so many times of “back and forth,” I would question and fear and wonder if I could make it, even shortly after my many returns. Truth again be told, I cannot. Not by a fleshly power at least.

 For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13 AMP)

This time is different, though, in that I believe it was totally the grace and mercy of God beyond all my deductive logic. Reason has its place to be sure, particularly when mixed with faith, and I do not plan to bury my head in the sand or any other convenient place as I again move forward with this thing called Catholic Christianity. But apologetics and intellect alone are not enough. At some point, it takes a sovereign move of the Holy Spirit upon the unplumbed caverns of our hearts. And that is what I believe happened to me. Since that time, I have not looked back—not for a millisecond. And the nightmares ended. As the late Keith Green said:

Like a foolish dreamer trying to build a highway to the sky
All my hopes would come tumbling down, and I never knew just why
Until today, when you pulled away the clouds that hung like curtains on my eyes
Well I’ve been blind all these wasted years and I thought I was so wise
But then you took me by surprise
Like waking up from the longest dream, how real it seemed
Until your love broke through
I’ve been lost in a fantasy, that blinded me
Until your love broke through
All my life I’ve been searching for that crazy missing part
And with one touch, you just rolled away the stone that held my heart
And now I see that the answer was as easy, as just asking you in
And I am so sure I could never doubt your gentle touch again
It’s like the power of the wind
Like waking up from the longest dream, how real it seemed
Until your love broke through
I’ve been lost in a fantasy, that blinded me
Until your love, until your love, broke through

Songwriters: KEITH GORDON GREEN, RANDY STONEHILL, TODD FISHKIND © EMI Music Publishing. For non-commercial use only.

Another Keith Green song speaks of being asleep in the light. I am pretty sure he was writing to describe me in both because it is important to see and avoid, the process I went through during each of these transitions. First, I was back in the arms of Holy Mother Church and did well for several years. Somewhere in that period, though, the honeymoon phase had ended.

I had slowly become wearied by inconsistencies I saw, not in the teachings of Rome but in the actions of other Catholic people, and, to use another metaphor, my eyes started to look down into the murky waters below rather than into the face of Jesus, who the entire  time had been holding me up from those ugly waves, something like what happened to St Peter when he walked on the water with our Lord but began to drown when he looked away from Him. It is at that point, and we all hit it from time to time, that a choice must be made, or re-made. I can look up or continue to drown in my doubts, anger, fears, cares of life, and the like.

Too many times I have chosen to keep sinking. In my case, it is the utter mercy of Jesus that I did not drown totally, but I was closer to doing so than I care to admit as I write this. My biggest prayer is to implore each reader not to follow in that inept example and to instead move our gazes upward. If we do, He will indeed look back and we will find ourselves back into the boat with Him, as well as Peter and the other Apostles. That boat is very simply Christ and the Catholic Church.  And she will take us to the safety of shore if we allow her to. If we do not, what was once the ocean of mercy can become some very volatile stormwaters, and we can sink to the bottom faster than we ever expect. I do not know what would have happened if I had not mercifully been given an unexpected moment to say yes one more time and then done so at last. I do not wish to find out. Please don’t do so either. I am so glad to be on the shore, finally. And I wish to see you there with me. Drowning is not an option for any of us. Neither is foolish dreaming.

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6 thoughts on “A Foolish Dreamer Awakens in the Church at Last”

  1. Thank you Peter! Sometimes it is hard to trust in God’s Word, but if we do not then something else will come along and take our attention. I have learned this in a not so easy way, but I am attempting to listen. Pray for me and know you are welcome here anytime. God bless!

  2. Pingback: TVESDAY AFTERNOON EDITION – Big Pulpit

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