Somebody once said to me, “If I could read your mind, it would be a short story.” So, when I was asked to write my faith story, I realized that at least my life is a long, long story.
Following our German family tradition, I was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran Church. However, our attendance was irregular, and frankly, church wasn’t very important to me at all. I was much more influenced by the 1960’s pop culture. As an eighth-grader, I vividly recall the ‘invasion’ of the Beatles. Whether it was because of the electrifying music, or the way countless, enraptured girls fainted at their feet, I went straight out and bought a guitar. It wasn’t difficult to find a few like-minded guys, and we formed a band. We became pretty good and were one of the more popular rock bands in the Kalamazoo area at the time.
The whole ‘band era’ lasted throughout High School. During that time I got into alcohol and drugs. In retrospect, I don’t think I was searching for God as much as I was fooling around, exhausting dead-end dreams and false ideas of fame and success. After a bad experience in the summer of 1969 with a serious drug, I was ‘burnt out.’ I remember going to bed one night having the most hollow, lonely sense of hopelessness. I cried out, “God if you are real please help me and give me a purpose for living.” The next morning I woke up with a deep sense of peace. It may sound simplistic or cliché, but something had fundamentally changed – God was very real and present, and I needed to understand what this was all about.
Sometime later I was introduced to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Suspicious at first, I was overwhelmed with the presence of the Holy Spirit and the dynamic love among the members. There I experienced a rich closeness with God in the fellowship, and, because most of the members were Catholic, it just seemed like home and I was received into the Church.
After some time with the prayer community, I went back to finish college, attending Aquinas College in Grand Rapids. There I met a new student, Marcia Lovely, believe it or not, at a prayer meeting at Grand Rapids West Catholic High School. We were married after graduation. For eight years I taught in Catholic schools, and during that time our three children were born. Without going into lengthy details, we experienced disillusionment and left the Catholic Church.
Our time away from the Catholic Church – a twenty-year ‘wilderness’ – was spent in a couple of churches that were contemporary and more given to novelty than substance. The realization of how far we had drifted was realized at a “communion” service where an assistant distributed the bread (which it truly was) and said, “This represents the body of Christ.” My ‘convert catechesis’ was poor but I at least knew the truth about communion. That point was the beginning of our way back to the Church.
Soon after, a close friend brought us a stack of books, which I later discovered, was some of the best Catholic apologetic works available at the time. As I read, my errors, objections, and faulty catechesis were dismantled. The faith had become for me primarily personal, subjective, and experiential – all valid elements, but not when they are placed above objectivity and truth. As I read, the arguments for the Magisterium and Catholic Sacred Tradition were overwhelming and convincing.
Marcia wondered what was happening as I began to experience new freedom and excitement. “I think we are being called back to the Catholic Church,” I beamed. So, we started to attend Mass here at St. John and came home…for good.
~ Deacon Dave