Gaining Faith in College

Gaining Faith in College August 1, 2020

After 60 posts.

At almost 3 months since we started.

In a new month…

The Catholic Bard presents it’s

FIRST GUEST POST

Welcome

 Jackson Werner

Mark has kindly given me the opportunity to be a guest contributor on The Catholic Bard. I would like to tell my conversion story.

The summer of 2012, I went to summer school up in New Hampshire at a place called Phillips Exeter. The summer, I studied world literature, international affairs, and took a crash course on five languages — Russian, German, French, Arabic, and Chinese.

One day some evangelical folks showed up handing out New Testament pocket Bibles. Most of the other students were angry, saying, “Let’s go grab all of their Bibles and throw them in the trash.” I was bit more inquisitive than the rest. That summer, I read the Bible for the first time in my life. I prayed the sinners pray and surrendered my life over to Jesus.

Throughout high school, I continued to grow in my love for Scripture. I would watch some church services online, but I was a Bible only kind of guy. In fact, I kind of had a reputation as a Bible nerd in high school. I craved silence alone with Scripture. During my lunch breaks my senior year of high school, I would go into the bathroom stall to seek solitude as I feasted on the Word of God. While other kids snuck into the bathroom to smoke cigarettes, I snuck into the bathroom to seek my Jesus high.

My school had a junior prom, and somehow, I ended up talking about Christianity with my prom date the entire ride home. She was Catholic, and I told her to ditch the Catholic faith. I instructed her that it was boring and full of a bunch of traditions that weren’t in the Bible. I advised her to go to a Protestant church where there would be great praise and worship music and fellowship.

All the while, I was still a very insecure teenager. Certainly, a bit full of pride but deep down very insecure.

Our high school’s Bible study club had 4 members, and it quickly fizzled out. I longed for fellowship with other Christians. Somehow, I got the idea that if I worked at a Christian nursing home, the holiness of other employees would rub off on me.

So, I applied and got the job. I was excited — ready to let the holiness rub off on me. Then, I saw a bunch of employees chasing each other around slapping each other in the butt, and I thought I made a mistake.

Eventually, I met Mark. He was a holy man. A humble man. And he changed my life.

“To convert somebody, go and take them by the hand and guide them.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

Mark invited me to share in his life — to share authentic friendship. This is what Jesus did. It is true that Jesus’ many sermons, healings, exorcisms, etc. changed many people’s lives. However, Jesus only invested deeply in 12 men.

Similarly, with the saints, many were converted through friendship.

  • Think of St. Paul, St. Timothy, and St. Titus.
  • Think of St. Ignatius, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Peter Faber.
  • Think of St. Francis and St. Claire.
  • Finally think of St. Ambrose and St. Augustine.

He not only invited my to share in the fun moments, but in the difficult moments as well. Most importantly he invited me into his interior life — into his life of faith. He was very subtle. He would invite me to say grace before eating, to pray the Divine Office at night, and sometimes to attend Mass on Sunday.

He didn’t hit me over the head with apologetics. He left the grace of conversion up to the Holy Spirit — in God’s timing. Both Mark and Kristin know tons of theology, but they were patient with me. They asked questions at opportune times but never tried to overwhelm me. I knew I could ask Mark and Kristin anything because I trusted them.

I think some Christians get so focused on winning the argument that they lose the soul. The problem is that when one is hammered with apologetics, it just makes the person defensive and creates physiological flooding. How are you supposed change someone’s heart when their veins are pumping with adrenaline and their cortisol level is through the roof? This same principle holds true in marriages, when couples spend years arguing about fundamental differences.

Most importantly, Mark and Kristin truly lived out the Gospel. Many Christian’s are only Christian so long as it’s convenient for them.

Mark and Kristin lead very simple ordinary lives but they love others in an extraordinary way. They very much live out the “Little Way” of St. Therese of Lisieux. To these hidden saints, I owe my conversion.

Needless to say, while many other young people go off to college and lose their faith, I was able to gain it. I went to college and was received into the Church on Easter Vigil of 2017. Mark and Kristin were able to be present at the Mass to watch me receive the Sacraments.

 


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