Hello, my name is Joe Monte and my wife Gail is seated in the second pew. We were asked to share our resurrection story or journey of faith with you this afternoon. Well actually, we made the mistake of coming to Mass early and Fr. Andrew cornered us. Just a warning for those who think they can give him a simple hello.
Okay so to reduce 60 years of living to 3 minute testimony I suppose we should start with the fact that I came from a family with parents who both had a strong faith that they modeled to us. They made great sacrifices to put us all through parochial schools. I went to St. Isaac Jogues and then Bishop Gallagher. As I look back I’m sure I had a relationship with God at that time but certainly as a youth it was not a mature relationship.
When I went off to college I definitely drifted and found it easy to not practice my faith on a regular basis. Unfortunately, that seems to be somewhat of the norm for that period of life but now there are many good Catholic groups on campuses to help support students.
After college, Gail and I were married and we entered the phase of life where you’re busy starting a family, building a career and enjoying the fruits of those efforts. We pretty much left God on the back burner at this time but it didn’t take long for us to realize that the vacuum shaped hole in our hearts that is intended for God could not be filled with all the material items that we attempted to use as substitutes. Buying faster boats and bigger homes didn’t bring us the sense of fulfillment that we were looking for.
I just heard a quote recently from comedian/actor Jim Cary who said that he wished everyone could be rich and famous so they could understand how meaningless the pursuit of those things really are.
But God tells us if you seek him you will find him so I believe that because we had an open heart and were actively seeking that it was no coincidence that we stumbled across a cable station called EWTN that we began to watch.
While Gail and I had many questions that needed answers we sensed that many of the people on this station had the peace and joy that we desired so we listened intently to what they had to say.
You can’t watch Mother Angelica very long and not see Jesus’ presence pouring out of her and we were especially interested in EWTN’S Monday night program called Journey Home in which guests described their journey to the Catholic Church.
Marcus Grodi, the host of the program, would interview a new guest each week, some that were “reverting” back to their Catholic faith while others that were converting from another faith background to the Catholic Church. While their stories differed, you could see a clear pattern emerging over time.
I learned the main reason that people returned or converted to the Catholic Church was for the Eucharist. Unfortunately, surveys show that a significant percentage of Catholics don’t believe the Eucharist is really the body and blood of Christ. I’ll be honest and say that we weren’t sure what to think either at that time but as we prayed about it we felt God tell us that he’s truly present in a very special way at Holy Communion. Yes, this is a mystery well beyond our understanding but we now have no doubt that we are receiving Jesus in this sacrament because that has been our continuing experience since that time.
Many of Marcus Grodi’s guests also recommended the same books so we began to read many of the apologetic arguments underpinning the different facets of our faith. We eventually came to the point where we were convinced that what the Church teaches comes directly from God, was believed and practiced by the Church right from the time of Christ to the present and that it was in our best interests to follow God’s plan for our lives and not the one we had attempted to devise for ourselves.
Gail and I were very fortunate that we were on similar faith tract at this time and could bounce things off each other. We decided that rather than pursue this halfheartedly we would dive right into the deep end of the pool and become daily communicants and even began attending the rosary that preceded the Mass at the parish we were attending. I remember telling Gail that if we want to make real progress we need to carve out time daily for prayer and scripture reading.
I believe that as we underwent a deepening conversion we felt God was calling us to get involved in different ministries and as we participated in those we began to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives and see Jesus more and more in those we served.
I can tell you from experience that it’s very exciting to see a person’s eyes open to the truth and for them to realize that our faith is real, not just something you go through the motions once a week on Sunday, that God really wants to have a personal relationship with each of us and that this is a journey that will take time and effort on our part for it to unfold over time.
And by no means does having that relationship suddenly make everything perfect, we still will have our individual crosses to bear and there will be difficult times ahead but ultimately this is the only way to achieve the peace and joy that we are all seeking and to fill that vacuum shaped hole in our hearts that is reserved for God and God alone!
So that’s our story and unlike many of Fr. Andrew’s . . . that really a true story.
Joseph & Gail Monte