One Little Phrase Changed Our Life

One Little Phrase Changed Our Life

I want to share with you a single phrase that has only been spoken once but that has changed the course of my life, the life of my husband and family, and ultimately, the life of the Church.

But, before I tell you about it, I need to give you some background.

My husband, Deacon Jerry, and I were both raised in the church. We received our sacraments of initiation, attended Catholic grade school, and attended religious education while in public high school. Then, like many young people, we left the Church… not to go anywhere else but just stopped living our Catholic faith, mostly out of laziness and pride. Personally, I was typically hungover Sunday mornings and wouldn’t get out of bed, and I didn’t want anyone to tell me what to do or how to live my life.

Jerry and I met, fell in love, got married and had 2 beautiful daughters… although not in that order. But we did meet first. We were both raised “old school”, which meant that even though we weren’t practicing the faith ourselves, we had a responsibility to get our kids baptized and send them to Catholic school; which we did.

When our oldest daughter started 1st grade, her teacher reminded us that missing Mass was a mortal sin and that if we didn’t take our children, we incurred that sin on their behalf. On the way home, our daughter started crying in the back seat begging us to start going to Mass so because she didn’t want Mommy and Daddy to go to hell.

We took her to church that Sunday.

And for the next few months things were kosher. But it didn’t last; while I continued to go to church weekly, Jerry stopped going.

A few things were changing in our family. Jerry got a new job and started working 7 days a week. We had our second child, and we were looking to purchase a home with property in the country.

Things were looking up financially, but we were struggling spiritually. I used to beg Jerry to come to Mass with us, but his answer would always be,

“I work 7 days a week any time I have free is for myself.”

This would be our life for many years.

My parents were very strong Catholics; they still are. When our daughters were about 12 and 3 years old, my mom and dad gave me a very special gift for my birthday – they took me with them to a Steubenville Conference at Franciscan University called, “Defending the Faith. It was there that I encountered the power of God in a profound way; I also had a mystical experience of the Blessed Mother. I met people in the church during this weekend that set me on a path that hasn’t really changed – people like Scott and Kimberly Hahn, Jeff Cavins, and Fr. Benedict Groeschel. I experienced this wild thing called “Praise & Worship Music”, and the Lord touched my soul to the very core through Eucharistic Adoration – where heart speaks to heart. I was on fire and could not wait to go home to share what had happened to me.

Returning home, as soon as I walked through the door I was met by my husband and I pretty much word vomited how awesome my time was, the people I met, the things that I learned, and I wanted to play for him one of the Praise & Worship CDs I bought from the weekend. But, and I’m not sure if these were his exact words, but in my mind I heard:

“I’m glad you had a good time, now what’s for supper?”

I could tell that he was he not interested in the details & I was annoying him. I went to bed

that night and cried.

“Lord, why would You give me this experience when I have nobody to share it with?”

For the next few days I was sadder and lonelier than I’d ever been. I had this incredible encounter with the Lord but the person I loved the most, my husband, didn’t want to hear about it.

That same year, we moved to the country and started home schooling. I learned so much about the church and Jesus through teaching the faith to our girls. The encounter that I had in Steubenville was now being fueled by discovering Who God is. I was falling in love with the Lord. Which was a problem because this new love was causing a spiritual divide in our marriage.

The church was starting to become my home – I started to work for our little country parish as a director for religious education, started a youth ministry program, Vacation Bible School, and even a women’s bible study. Jerry wasn’t even going to Mass. His lack of Mass attendance was compounded by problems that we were having with our new home.

Upon moving in, we discovered that our well had collapsed. Immediately a well-driller was called, 3 wells were dug and drilled but no water was found. Each night Jerry would leave work, go to his sister’s house, fill several large coolers with water from her outdoor spigot and use those to refill a temporary water tank in our back yard. This went on for two years. [we finally got water… but that miraculous story is a different post]

Over those two years I watched my husband physically deteriorate – his work and the problems with our home were taking a toll on him. He wasn’t happy anymore; I rarely saw him smile. He even walked hunched over as if the weight of the world was on him. Our girls and I could tell that he was absolutely defeated. We were all walking on eggshells because we didn’t want to upset him.

I thank God that I had my faith during this time. Although we were undergoing serious trials, I could still find great joy in my life. I had a strong support system: I had surrounded myself and my daughters with great friends who were well grounded in their faith. I had also taken St. Monica as my new bff and sought her intercession daily as I prayed for the conversion of my husband.

But with all of this came a heaviness. You see, God intended men to be the spiritual head of the home; the women are the heart. I was carrying both. Wives who are in similar situations know what I’m talking about.

My pastor and I would speak often about my concern for Jerry who was not going to Mass no matter how much I asked him to. He told me to quit nagging and that one-day Jerry would find his own way. I couldn’t push it.

“The Holy Spirit converts”, he would say, “not us”.

Our pastor was also the spiritual director for many of the Cursillos which were held quarterly in our diocese. Jerry and I would often joke that we were the only couple in the parish who hadn’t made it. I can’t even tell you how many times we were invited and strongly encouraged to attend but said no. I came to the conclusion that I would never make a Cursillo. For those of you who don’t know, the husband has to go first – Jerry wasn’t even going to Mass!

Then, one Sunday after Mass one of our good friends gave me a fresh copy of the brand new Cursillo registration form. She simply said, “this is for you”. I smiled, took it, shoved it in my purse along with the bulletin, and didn’t give it another thought. I threw it on the coffee table when I got home.

Later that week, my husband said to me,

“What do you want for your birthday?”

I hadn’t given it any thought; it was weeks off. We were in the living room relaxing – he on the recliner, I was on the couch, the coffee table was in between. For some reason, known only to God, I picked up the form from my friend, handed to him and said,

“I want to make a Cursillo”.

… Now … he knew what that meant – he would have to make one first.

Time seemed suspended as I held my breath and waited for his reply. In those moments which seemed an eternity, panic set in and I tried to think of how I was going to get out of my request… I’d make a joke of it when he said no and I’d tell him I wanted a new pair or shoes or a new dress.

Now, here comes that phrase that I told you about when I began my story…

Jerry looked at the paper, looked at me, and said…

“Fine, hand me that pen.”

That phrase changed our life.

Jerry attended that next Cursillo and returned a completely different person.

There was joy in his eyes, he was smiling, and he was standing up straight. Things I hadn’t seen in him in over 15 years. He was happy

To be honest, during that entire weekend, I was literally on my knees begging the Lord that Jerry wouldn’t hate me when he got back. God heard and blessed my prayers. The opposite was quite true.

Over those next few months following his Cursillo, Jerry started asking deeper questions about the faith, reading the bible, attending Mass, and evening singing.

After I made Cursillo we started praying together every day. Our marriage became stronger because our love and friendship was now based on faith. Jerry became a more patient father and the spiritual head of our home. All was at it should be.

God blesses those who are faithful and when we sit in prayer and really listen to the Holy Spirit we will hear a call to holiness that we won’t normally hear with all the noise. Jerry began to listen really well. It was not long after our involvement in Cursillo that Jerry asked me a question that stopped my heart,

“What does a deacon do?”

After a period of discernment, he entered the diaconate that following year and was ordained to the permanent diaconate in May of 2017.

Up to 4 months ago, I had been working full time in youth ministry for the past 25 years. I’ve been a volunteer, paid employee, I’ve worked in parishes, on the diocesan level and active in Region 3. I loved youth ministry, working with teens and young adults, building teams, directing retreats and camps, and networking with other professionals.

But, when Jerry entered the diaconate, my prayer became,

“Lord, let me decrease so that he can increase”.

Again, God answers the prayers of the faithful. The Holy Spirit called me, painfully, out of a ministry that I loved very much and into retirement. I’m now supporting Jerry where I can. I’m listening to the call of the Holy Spirit and he’s directing me to new paths. Retirement has even opened my calendar to come to Alabama to share my heart with you.

Although the Holy Spirit dwells in the baptized, He moves us to greatness when we listen to His call, if only in the smallest part of our hearts; and that can change us in powerful ways.

We were made to be holy. This means that we not only need to listen to the call of the Holy Spirit, but we also have to pray for the gift of courage. The courage to answer the call with great humility and joy. When we put our own wills aside and replace it with the will of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, it is only then that we can become what God has created us to be.

He is calling each and every one of us tonight to be part of something bigger. Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “I am not called to do great things, but to do small things with great love.”

  • The Holy Spirit moved my friend to give me a registration form.
  • He moved my heart to invite my husband.
  • And, he moved my husband to ask for a pen.

Please pray for me as I pray for you.

 

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