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The Journey to Freedom: Reconciliation

10/13/2006 - 8:06 AM PST

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By: Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
Catholic Online

Some time back, I had lunch with an old friend who is a law professor at a local evangelical institution. A wonderful Christian, he has been living his Christian faith outside of full communion with the Catholic Church for a number of years. He has, in his own words, had "problems" with "the Church." He called and invited me to have lunch to "discuss some things."

I was not sure what to expect.

Though raised a Catholic Christian, my friend, like me, had fallen away from the Catholic Church as a teenager. It was during his twenties, while in College that he was once again presented with the claims of Jesus Christ within the context of a dynamic campus outreach run by a well known “para-church” evangelical outreach.

Since then he had "wandered", in a sense looking for the "perfect church". He has been through the "non-denominational" approach, the "we need to rebuild the "New Testament" church” approach, the “we need to restore the five fold ministry approach” and so many other of the enthusiastic groups that sprung from the “renewal” movements of the latter part of the twentieth century .

He had also “wandered” through many of the churches, ecclesial communities and movements which descend from the protestant reformation. He had most recently begun down the "Canterbury trail" toward the promised “Via Media” or “middle way” of the Anglican Communion. None of these encounters were satisfying his hunger. They were not the destination and resting place that his journey cried out for. He was being drawn to the Catholic Church again.

An article that I had written, entitled "Church shopping", had helped him on this journey. Also, a book entitled "Surprised by Truth" (a wonderful compilation of faith journeys back to the Catholic Church) had grabbed he and his wife by the heart and they could not shake the effect. He wanted to take me to lunch and ask a lot of questions. How well I understand the pilgrimage.

Struggling through Catholic "issues", this friend is clearly being drawn back "home" to the Church into which he was baptized- the Catholic Church.

He sought me out because he heard that I had returned to Southeastern Virginia from Northern Virginia. He had a lot of questions and wanted to share his story. Some of what he told me has become familiar over the years but it is always new and fresh.

One of the topics we discussed was the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance) It was clear that he was ready to revisit the Sacrament and he asked for help in finding a priest to "hear his confession".

It was a wonderful lunch. I needed the inspiration and welcomed the opportunity to help another pilgrim along the way. I heard again the fresh love story that continues to unfold in this new millennium, as more and more of the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church "come home."

His story made me reflect on my own pilgrimage and in particular on an event that was a part of the process, the day I discovered the beauty of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance). I shared it with him and now I share it with you.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday.

The sun drenched retreat grounds stretched out before my young eyes. I was eighteen years old, a new “revert” to the Catholic faith and living in Florida. I had registered to attend a spiritual retreat featuring a Benedictine Monk speaking on how to develop an intimate relationship with the Lord through prayer. I was ready.

A priest I know well coined the term "revert". He uses it to explain what has occurred in my life, and the lives of countless others. Though I never "officially" left the Catholic Church, I had certainly lost my commitment to the faith and the Church into which I had been baptized.

My return to a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ- and my knowing, mature decision to embrace the full teaching of the Catholic Church -was an extraordinary event - a genuine time and type of conversion story. It is a journey being played out in the lives of thousands in our day.

The ancient Catholic Church is coming alive with the sons and daughters who are either rediscovering her beauty and depth or discovering both for the first time. Her sons and daughters coming home are founding new movements, ecclesial communities, ministries and works. Everything old is new again!

An experience of a return home, a personal conversion to the Church often characterizes the journey home of many Catholic Christians. Even those who have similar encounters and choose another Christian church- often later come back to the Catholic Church. There is something about the Catholic Church and about coming home.

I had wandered far from the faith of my childhood during my adolescence and my ...

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