When I was 24 years old, I was a wreck.
I mean a serious wreck. Working as a cocktail waitress, fresh from an extremely unhealthy relationship, and oh, by the way Mom and Dad, no longer enrolled in college so I could take some time to 'find myself.' What that looked like on a practical level was lots and lots of partying and nights of memoryless alcohol-fueled recreation that left my spirit (and my bank account) very, very empty.
I thought I was being prudent by discontinuing my already expensive education at this point, since I had no idea what I wanted to 'be' when I grew up. In practice, all I was actually doing was prolonging my own eternal adolescence. And earning beer money.
The Spring semester of my senior year rolled around and I found myself in a kind of limbo. A heated exchange with my younger sister over Christmas break had resulted in my defiant acceptance of a 30-day challenge to refrain from drinking, and as the days of that long month slipped away, so did all of my so-called friends, one by one, until I finally found myself alone one Tuesday night, quite without any social opportunities of any sort.
Now, there is only so much time one can spend alone on an elliptical machine, especially when one is not in game day shape. So eventually, I had to broaden my non-partying horizons. Enter an embarrassingly titled little website that may or may not still exist (okay it does, I just checked) called Catholicity, which was patronized almost exclusively by little old ladies and parish priests, I believe. And my mom. And me, one boring Tuesday evening, when I impulsively clicked 'purchase' on a cassette tape (I swear this was only in 2005) copy of "A Protestant Minister Converts" for the reasonable price of $2.99 for shipping and handling.
I had all but forgotten about my impulsive foray into scary church lady land until about a week later, when a manilla envelope arrived on the doorstep of my cute Boulder party house. Having yet another open night on the 'ol calendar, I waited until my roommates had finished pre-gaming and had departed for Pearl Street before sequestering myself in my attic room with somebody's ghetto blaster and pushing 'play.'
My world was rocked.
I've mentioned before on the blog that John Paul II was instrumental in my reversion to Catholicism. There was another guy who played a pretty big part in the story too, and that night as I listened to his story for the first time, I had no way of knowing how very different my life was about to become.
After the tape clicked to the end, I reached down and hit 'rewind' and immediately listened again. By this time my roommates were back from the bars and were jokingly and drunkenly pounding on my door, begging me to come out and join the after party. I wouldn't. I listened to that stupid cassette tape 3 times in one night, and the following weekend during a visit home, I snuck a copy of "Rome Sweet Home" off my parent's shelf and read it cover to cover in a single evening.
If JPII was the patron saint of my conversion, than Dr. Scott Hahn was my personal trainer. Less than a year after I'd heard his story for the first time coming through my roommate's boom box speakers, I would be sitting in class listening to him teach in a crappy little town called Steubenville, Ohio.
Fast forward another year and I'd end up working for his apostolate, the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, where I eventually managed the office staff and had my very first taste of getting paid to write things. He was my favorite professor, and he become my favorite boss. At the goodbye party the SPC staff threw for me, I finally told him the dumb story about the cassette tape, and his eyes moistened as he enfolded me in a fatherly hug.
Last night I slipped out of the house after the boys went down for the night and drove to a parish not too far from our new house. I sat with a thousand or so other adoring fans and listened to him speak about his latest book, 'Consuming the Word,' and on the New Evangelization and our role as laypersons and families. It was completely awesome.
I slipped in to say a quick hello as he was taking off his mic and was rewarded with a guffaw and a bear hug. "You're pregnant, what a joy!" and then "I saw the picture of your son getting kissed by the Holy Father, I had tears in my eyes."
Me too Dr. Hahn, me too.
Chalking another happy day in Denver up to Divine Providence and God's good, good plan for us. For each of us.
Something he said last night stuck with me, and it was this: "Family life will save the culture." I truly believe that, and I thank God for my own little slice of Heaven here at home with Dave and our boys, and for my larger, worldwide family, the Catholic Church.