We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).
When I interviewed popular Catholic evangelist, Gary Zimak, I wanted to know just exactly how God totally fired up a man who, by his own description, was a "lukewarm" cradle Catholic, with very little knowledge of the Faith—a dissatisfied corporate professional who avoided public speaking, and a married homeschooling dad with too much on his plate already.
Yet, in a few short years Zimak has morphed into a dynamic and faithful speaker with a couple of great books to his credit, several regular gigs on radio, and a very busy full-time mission to bring the life-giving, faith-restoring truths of Catholicism to parishes all over the country.
So, Gary, how did God prepare you for this work?
I don't know if you can ever be prepared for this! I was a cradle Catholic with twelve years of Catholic education. However, I was very lukewarm. I did not know my faith, and didn't care about it. In 2004 I came down with a mystery illness and I panicked, thinking, "This is it. I could be dying. I could be judged! I should be close to God." And that resulted in a big reversion. I suddenly had a great desire to learn as much as possible about the Faith.
I began studying, never intending to get into radio or blogging. It's funny, I made my living for thirty years in technology, but I didn't know what blogging was, and I never wanted to write!
I really depended on EWTN radio and TV, and I started praying the Liturgy of the Hours. These were the initial beginnings of growing and having a personal relationship with Christ, which I had never had before. This experience gave me the knowledge necessary to share the Faith with others. As for my mystery illness, it disappeared with no diagnosis ever being made. The Lord definitely knew how to get my attention!
What made you so sure God was calling you into ministry?
Not only did I begin to love my Faith, but I now had a desire to share it with others. I knew that there were many other lukewarm Catholics out there who didn't understand their faith, and I wanted to help them.
And of course, I prayed a lot, and asked for guidance. God closed some of the doors I tried to go into. My initial desire was to become a permanent deacon. I thought that was what I was supposed to do, that I needed to be ordained if I was going to fully live and profess my faith. But my kids were young at the time and a priest said, "I don't know if that is really right for you." It never fell into place. I realize now that holiness is for everyone, not just the clergy and religious. Lay people are also called to learn, live, and share their faith.
I started getting more involved online, and God used me to reach out to more people than I ever thought possible. And my main goal still is to present the teachings of the Church and help people come to a personal relationship with Christ.
You're getting a lot of work as a speaker. How do you see God's hand in that?
Funny thing is I do a lot of public speaking, now, but in the past I dreaded it. In fact, I hated it. But now I really have this desire to do it!
Right before talking, I'm not nervous. My main concern is that I never want to mislead anyone. I do everything I can to do the best talk that I can. I want to reach people and communicate the Lord's message. I always pray, "Lord, please give me the words." I do my homework and prepare, but I don't use notes, just an outline—and let it flow.
When I go and do my talks I realize this is not me, it's the Holy Spirit. I remember when Matt Swaim contacted me for my first interview on EWTN radio. Before the interview, I told my wife, "Well, I'll do this one, but I will probably never do another one." I remember praying, "I don't know how to do radio, Lord. Give me the words," and it flowed! And the rest is history. I've been a regular on EWTN and Relevant Radio ever since then. My radio career still amazes me because it's just a radical departure from my natural style and personality. For most of my life I've been an introvert, but working for the Lord has certainly changed that!
How would you describe the beginnings of your apostolate?
The Lord was very good to me. I created the Following the Truth website in 2008, and he let me go on working as a project manager until 2012. I was in ministry part-time, did a lot of radio and writing, but without having to worry about making a living with Catholic evangelization.
I absolutely hated my job in the last several years, and I would pray, "Lord, what's going on, here? I seem to be doing a lot of radio and writing, people seem to like this; but why am I still at this job?" I couldn't understand why the Lord still had me working in the commercial world, but I knew He had His reasons.