Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.
—2 Timothy 4:2-5
Like many Catholics, I was raised in a home that prayed the rosary nightly, went to Church weekly and on holy days of obligation, attended a public school for my academic education and C.C.D. for my education in faith. And, like many Catholics, that was about the depth of my faith commitment to Jesus Christ and His Church. Looking back on my experience, I now refer to what I did then as “checking the boxes” also known as “going through the motions.”
After serving four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, I attended Modesto Junior College. Junior College provided just the little push I needed to stop practicing my faith altogether. My Western Civilization professor was anti-Christian enough to help me see the “error” of the Christian way and send me packing toward atheism. After wrestling at Modesto J.C., I transferred to Humboldt State University to play football. It didn’t take long for me to truly embrace the Humboldt way of life! Not until I was halfway through my college education did God “get a hold of me” to win back what was His.
After a year in Humboldt, I had a conversion experience. My roommate was gone, the t.v. was off and I felt incredibly lonely. Not accustomed to feeling so, I called two friends to no avail, plopped back down on the couch and realized that the emptiness I felt could only be filled with God. That sounds normal enough, but for a person who understood God as a purely intellectual endeavor that was learned (or not learned) as a child, to think that a “relationship” with God is what I needed in order to be whole was entirely divorced from any personal experience or reason. This epiphany could only have come from God.
I was introduced to a wonderful Christian girl who invited me to a Campus Crusade for Christ Bible study led by a Baptist minister. I fell in love with Jesus Christ and Scripture in those two years. Because of my ignorance about the Catholic Church’s teachings, I believed what I was told about the “uselessness” of the Catholic Church’s traditions. I was told to “call no man father,” to reject the doctrine on Purgatory, Mary, Apostolic succession, and our belief in faith and works for salvation. In fact, the only thing I did cling to was the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture, but only at the expense of Tradition.
After spending a summer in Colorado at the Rocky Mountain Bible Institute, I realized that I could not teach the theology taught by Campus Crusade. I met wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ with spirit and zeal, but with so many disagreeing with one another over whose interpretation of Sacred Scripture was “right,” I decided to go on a quest to find out who had the right to authoritatively interpret Sacred Scripture.
In my journey for this truth I discovered what Apostolic Succession really means, the value of Tradition and the importance of faith AND works–the response of faith! Whereas I fell in love with Jesus Christ in Campus Crusade, I fell in love with both He and His Church through great writers such as Karl Keating, Scott Hahn, Peter Kreeft and others. After much study, I can say with confidence that there are a lot of people claiming to be right, but only the Catholic Church has the most claim to be right when it comes to Christ’s teachings, the Christian community’s worship, and the interpretation of Sacred Scripture. I am indebted to Campus Crusade and so many others who shared their joy in a personal relationship with Christ with me, and then as now, I could not wait to share my own new-found joy with my Catholic brothers and sisters as well.
With this new information, I returned to Humboldt and told the Campus Crusade minister that I did not believe, nor could I teach faith alone for salvation nor Scripture alone for truth. When asked what I believed, I told him that I believed in faith and works, and Scripture and Tradition. With great sadness he admitted to questioning my salvation and told me that if I felt that strongly about it that I could not teach with Campus Crusade and ought to teach Catholics instead. I did just that and am forever indebted to the leadership, guidance and encouragement that I received from him and others in the Campus Crusade for Christ ministry.
After teaching 8th grade for two years at St. Stanislaus Parish School, in Modesto, CA, I was asked to begin an Adult Education & Evangelization program. Two years later I finished my Masters in Theological Study at the Franciscan School of Theology, in Berkeley, and now teach in Catholic schools. I have taught Biblical Literature, Church History, Moral Theology, Sacraments, Social Justice, Christology and World Religions. I now live with my wife, Jill, and sons, Mark and Luke in Turlock, and teach at Central Catholic High School, located in Modesto, CA.
My passion is teaching Catholics why it’s not just okay to be Catholic, but fantastic to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in the Catholic community! I teach how to explain our Catholic Church’s teachings and, most importantly, what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in the Church He started! Please consider inviting me to your parish to share this “pearl of great price” with your parishioners.
Please feel free to post thoughts or comments below. May God bless you mightily!
One night in a vision the Lord said to Paul, “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.