It was also my honor to share - for the first time ever - the story of my reconversion to Christ as witness to His power at work through Relevant Radio.
In June of this year, when Christopher Pundzak and I had arrived at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, we bumped into a young lady who was intrigued by our pilgrimage and invited us to tour the Relevant Radio studio and headquarters there in Green Bay. As we walked and talked, I mentioned that I had been a cop and used to listen to their radio station while on patrol. It was then that she invited me to consider sharing my story.
Now I must confess... I have heard God speak in my heart many times over the years since my reconversion, but have never (until now) truly responded to His call to share my story. I can't lie... I'd rather hoped that the young lady might forget that she'd asked. After all, several months would pass before the night of the award banquet... But God had other plans.
Here is what He inspired me to share...
Christ brings hope.
Yes... He does.
Christ IS hope.
And Relevant Radio brings us CHRIST!
This morning, as I read and reflected upon today's Gospel reading (Luke 1:26-28), I was reminded that it is God who makes the first choice. On the day I was baptized, He CHOSE me and called me by name.
I was only 17 years old when I graduated from high school. A couple of weeks later, I "graduated from Religious Ed... I was confirmed. On that day, God again called me by name and gave me a mission. Sadly, it would be many years before I would hear Him and open my heart to receive the LIVING GRACE of that sacrament.
I had not yet turned 18 when someone inflicted a very deep wound on me. A couple of years later, the law caught up with that man. There has been much healing, but God still allows me to carry the scars as a reminder of the HOPE that lives in me now.
As the years went on and I trained to become a law enforcement officer, I was determined to overcome the lies that man had spoken. It's strange how I could hear him, but I still couldn't hear God. I struggled to find healing. I struggled to find God... a God I thought I'd known, but now questioned.
I still went to Sunday Mass (when I wasn't working... and I worked a LOT). I still considered myself "Catholic," though I'd only seen the inside of a confessional twice in my life. The truth is... I really didn't understand the faith of my childhood. I didn't even know yet how lost I really was.
After graduating from college, I threw myself ever more deeply into the job. But even as God allowed me to help others heal through my work, I still struggled to let Him heal me and the darkness just got deeper.
It can be difficult to put words to the questions we carry in our hearts. Even if we find the words, we may have no one to ask. Such was the case with me. Years earlier, I'd made a choice to forgive someone who'd committed unspeakable crimes. My family did not agree with my choice. For years, I wondered how forgiveness could be wrong. After all, isn't that what Our Lord calls us to do??
So in 2001, as I patrolled the county roads and city streets, I was haunted by questions that seemed to have no answers. God was trying to speak to my heart, but in my pride and roundedness, I just could not hear Him. It was around this time that a friend told me about Relevant Radio.
How do I describe Relevant Radio and its impact on my life??
Well... Relevant Radio helped me to HEAR Christ.
A much beloved priest of this diocese often tells the story of a "big, red barn" on the farm where he grew up. During the day, he would play in the barn, but at night it grew dark and scary. He was afraid to go inside. One night, his dad took him by the hand and walked with him into the barn, so that he would know that there was nothing inside that would hurt him.
As much as I hoped he could be, my dad simply was not able to walk into the darkness of my own "big, red barn" with me. It seemed that no one could.
As I sat with the questions in my heart and listened in my squad car on some very late nights and long days, Relevant Radio (in many ways) became that companion.
The show hosts on Relevant were unlike any I'd heard before (and, I'll admit, I'd been listening to a non-denominational radio station in the area). The hosts on Relevant met people in the darkness. They didn't hang up when someone expressed a view that was confused or set apart from the teachings of the Church. Instead, they LISTENED and then - with a sort of firm gentleness - shared the wisdom of the Church in LOVE and walked WITH the caller.
I was reminded that I am NOT alone... that God really DOES love me. It was difficult to listen at times, as my own errors in belief had also to be challenged and overcome, but God gave me the grace to KEEP LISTENING. I found that I had a much bigger family than I'd ever known and it lessened the sting of separation from the family of my birth. They also gave me - for the first time in my life - a COMPASS... the Catechism of the Catholic Church!
Everything began to change.
In August of 2003, by God's grace, I made my first confession in 11 YEARS... He brought me HOME!
Praised be Jesus Christ!
So... THANK YOU, Relevant Radio, for walking with me into the darkness. Thank you for helping me to finally HEAR Christ. Be encouraged in your mission. (There are a lot more "me"s out there!) God is working MIRACLES through you!
I was also blessed to have a moment to thank this man...
...for the gift of HOPE that he has also brought into my life.
(a story for another time)
Congratulations, Cardinal Burke, on receiving the "Christ Brings Hope" award. May you be blessed!
Praised be Jesus Christ!!