My husband, Steve, is the youngest of five children. He was born to an Italian Catholic family in Upstate New York. Unfortunately, his family didn’t stay together long: when Steve was in kindergarten, his mother became pregnant with another man’s baby. Steve’s father was hurt, betrayed, and humiliated, especially when he discovered that the father of the baby was one of his close friends. He decided to divorce his wife and move across the country with Steve and his four siblings. Steve’s father escaped the shame of his wife’s infidelity, but, having left his thriving business behind in New York, he had to work multiple jobs to support his children. Because the family moved often, Steve never felt settled or at ease. Like his older siblings, he had to grow up quickly in order to take care of himself.
Shortly after Steve received his First Communion, his family stopped attending Mass. Without any faith to guide him, Steve became restless. He spent years longing for something, though he didn’t know what. The one thing that made him feel secure was playing basketball. When his coaches told him he was talented enough to play professionally, Steve dedicated himself fiercely to this goal.
One of Steve’s teammates, Don, happened to be a devout Christian. One day, Don invited Steve to attend church with him and his family. Steve admired and trusted Don, and so he agreed. Don introduced Steve to the Scriptures and helped him grow as a Christian and as a young man. Though a baptized Catholic, Steve soon felt at home in this nondenominational community. He was grateful to Don for introducing him to Christianity and for his friendship, which continues to this day.
Unfortunately, Steve never fulfilled his dream of playing professional basketball because the time had come for him to leave home, become an independent man, and earn a living. Encouraged by his father, Steve went into real estate and began a successful career. Eventually, he got married to a woman named Anna.
Steve remained committed to his faith. He took comfort in Scripture and took time every day to thank God for his blessings. But Anna didn’t share his commitment, and after thirteen years, their marriage ended in divorce. Steve found himself starting over at forty-two years old, with no marriage, no kids, and no real church to belong to.
Maybe it was Steve’s loneliness that led our neighbor Amelia to introduce him to me. She barely knew either of us, and so her suggestion struck me as odd. But I decided to go over to Steve’s house, just to say hello. We quickly realized how much we had in common: we were both from the East Coast, we were both Italian, and we were both raised in big Catholic families. From these commonalities, a genuine friendship grew. Before long, my mom had practically adopted Steve into our family!
I can see now that it was the Holy Spirit Who inspired me to share with Steve my love for the Faith. I told him how important the Church was to me, and I asked him if he would join me at Mass. He thought about it for a moment.
“It’d make my dad happy to see me there,” Steve said. “He’s never said anything, but I think he feels bad about not taking me to church as a kid. I guess I could go.”
Everything in Steve’s life seemed to come together that Sunday. I can still see the look on his father’s face when Steve showed up and sat down beside him. Father and son were bashful but overjoyed as they hugged at the Sign of Peace.
Steve knew God had given him a chance to start over, here, in his true home. He decided to pursue an annulment, which was granted after eighteen months. Around the same time, he told me he wanted to be confirmed. As he went through sacramental preparation, he rediscovered his love for the rich traditions of the Church and Her liturgy.
I was overjoyed when Steve asked me to be his sponsor. When the big day arrived and I stood there before the altar, my hand on Steve’s shoulder, I thanked God for bringing him into my life, if only for this moment. I didn’t know what the future held for us, but I knew I had done my part to bring the Faith to him, to a man who was once a little boy without a mom or a permanent place to call home. And now here he was, in an unchanging, two-thousand-year-old Church that he knew would never abandon him. He had longed for this his entire life.
God blessed us more than I could have imagined. Not only did He give Steve His Church, but He gave us each other, first as friends, and then as spouses. We’ve been married for more than ten years now. Oh, and did I mention that Steve is now a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus? How’s that for adding a bow and ribbon to the story.
Perhaps the clearest way God provided for Steve was through the people he met. At every moment, Steve was surrounded by people who cared for him and gently led him home. Looking back, we can clearly see how the Holy Spirit handpicked each of these people, putting them in just the right place at the right time. When Steve was a restless, lonely teenager, he met Don, who offered him much-needed comfort and guidance in Scripture and prayer. Amelia introduced Steve and me — two people who should never have met — shortly after his divorce. When Steve saw how much I loved my Faith and how much I wanted him to know God, he was moved to return to the Church. Every priest, deacon, and lay leader Steve encountered during his conversion gave him the exact help he needed to begin his new life in Christ.
All this is to say: neither doubt the efficacy of your prayers nor ever underestimate the power of your witness. I encourage you to pray that God will introduce the right people to your fallen-away loved ones. We are living proof that He will answer your prayers. Love will bring the lost home.
Art for this post on Surrender: Cover and featured image used with permission.