2023 Summer Messenger When Claudio Pasian, an Argentine, fell in love with the California girl who would become his wife,he wrote an unexpected introduction to his future in-laws, “God put your daughter in my way.” He laughs today about his poor English, explaining...
2023 Summer Messenger
When Claudio Pasian, an Argentine, fell in love with the California girl who would become his wife,he wrote an unexpected introduction to his future in-laws, “God put your daughter in my way.” He laughs today about his poor English, explaining that he wanted to say, “God joined your daughter and me on the road of life.”
In fact, Claudio’s life took more than one unexpected turn. He was educated in Argentina, received a Ph.D.in the U.S., and is now a Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University. He is a die-hard radio fan and stumbled across St. Gabriel Radio back in the day when it was still AM 1580.
ANSWER THIS ONE!
“ I didn’t know how to answer most of the questions, even those not requiring theological knowledge! I gave myself an F!”
“I was fascinated by the call-in shows like Catholic Answers Live (6:00 p.m. weekdays) and usually listened as I was washing the dishes after dinner. One day, I challenged myself to a test: to answer the questions posed by callers before the show host answered them. As an educator, I was accustomed to giving and taking tests. As a lifelong Catholic, I felt confident that I would be on top of the answers. To my surprise and dismay, it became clear that I didn’t know how to answer most of the questions, even those not requiring theological knowledge! I gave myself an F!
“I had prided myself on being strong in the Catholic Faith. My ignorance answering the call-in questions troubled me because I had spent six years studying the Faith in minor seminary in Argentina and should have known some answers!” Claudio explained.
“It was in minor seminary that I realized that God had something other than the priesthood in store for me. I discovered that marriage was in my future, so I began a journey in the secular world. I also discovered that it was not easy for me to find a Catholic girl who actually lived the Faith.”
His pilgrimage led him to accepting a visiting scholarship at San Diego State University; marriage with an American girl who actually practiced the Faith; a Ph.D. from the University of California; and finally, 25 years at The Ohio State University.
A NEW DIMENSION IN FAITH
In Columbus, Claudio’s faith took on a new dimension, especially as he took to heart the early lesson from St. Gabriel Radio call-in shows. “The lesson was that, although I had never missed Sunday Mass in my life, I realized how little I knew about something so important. I knew that I needed to deepen my own faith and my knowledge of the Catholic Faith.”
Fascinated by the idea of Catholic radio, he wanted to find out more about St. Gabriel Radio, by this time designated AM 820. He learned about the Radio’s open-house gatherings and decided to attend. Soon, St. Gabriel Radio became an important part of his life. “St. Gabriel Radio opened my eyes, though late in life, to deepen my understanding of the Catholic Faith. I wanted reason to accompany me in my beliefs because faith and reason go hand in hand. The Radio programs helped me to move the practice of the Catholic Faith from lukewarm Catholic to the center of my life.”
On every car that I have owned, I put an AM 820 bumper magnet. Even on rental cars.”
He decided that he needed to support the Radio and became a Sustaining Member, a commitment that he has continued ever since. “On every car that I have owned, I put an AM 820 bumper magnet. Even on rental cars, I put a magnet on the bumper and leave the radio tuned to St. Gabriel so that those who clean the car have a chance to hear about the Faith.
“Thanks to this awakening, I began spending more time listening to Catholic programs, reading about the Faith, and following Church issues. In my parish, St. John the Baptist in Italian Village, with Bob Contino, Dan Pilliteri, and others, I collaborated in organizing a men’s faith group. For example, one year our faith group took a deep dive into the Book of Revelation and the Fathers of the Church. Who were these Church leaders and what were they saying then and to us today? During the Jubilee Year, we studied the idea of God’s Mercy and how it’s inseparable from God’s Justice. Then, as a group, we went to St. Joseph Cathedral and went through the Door of Mercy together with our wives.”
Mother Angelica is another highlight of Catholic radio. “St. Gabriel Radio organized a pilgrimage by bus to EWTN in Alabama a few years ago and gave each pilgrim a copy of Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles by Raymond Arroyo. On the way down to Alabama, I devoured this engrossing book about an ordinary woman who did extraordinary things through the Holy Spirit. Mother Angelica’s life is amazing, taking into account that she had poor health, only finished secondary school, was an average student at an average school, and her family was full of the same problems that plague many families today.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIP
Claudio continues to relate, “Over the years I have modestly collaborated in events as a St. Gabriel Radio volunteer where needed like the Catholic Men’s Conferences, the 2022 program with Fr. Riccardo, and promoting the Radio in a booth at the St. John the Baptist Italian Festival. Through the St. Gabriel Radio community, I was able to develop relationships with priests and other faithful Catholics in our diocese.”
Many programs continue to draw Claudio in, especially weekday airings like Catholic Answers Live (6:00 p.m.), Fr. Riccardo (weekdays 7:00 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.), Called to Communion (2:00 p.m.), and in general every Q&A program. “The programming is varied and even on those programs that deal with a single theme, say abortion or the Real Presence, the callers’ questions help me see a new angle of understanding regarding what we believe. Catholic radio helps me stay focused.”
A PROMISE OF PEACE
“ Through the St. Gabriel Radio community, I was able to develop relationships with priests and other faithful Catholics in our diocese.”
“It’s easy to get distracted by what I call the Gospel of Nice and the happy faces plastered over advertising. The Apostles Matthew, Mark, and Luke all report that Jesus taught us, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’ The programs on St. Gabriel Radio show how joy and sacrifice transcend the popular ideas of happiness. It’s important to me to remember that Jesus doesn’t promise me happiness. He promises me far more — a peace that surpasses understanding even in the face of difficulties — if I cling to Him and strive to enter the narrow gate.”
Claudio is convinced that Catholic radio has a tremendous impact on culture today. He notes, “Twenty-minute Sunday homilies can teach only so much, and priests are stretched to the max managing their parishes. The presence of religious has shrunk in education as well with the decline in vocations. Fortunately, Catholic radio helps cover the resulting gap and even provides priests and catechists with a new tool for reaching souls and pointing the way to what’s really important: eternal salvation.”
“I always thought about the priesthood,” says Fr. Paul Joseph (PJ) Brandimarti. “Like many men who grow up to be priests, one of my favorite childhood pastimes was playing at celebrating Mass!” Today, Fr. Brandimarti carries out his priestly vocation serving at St. Vincent de Paul parish, Mt. Vernon and St. Luke parish, Danville.
The Brandimarti family has given the Church several priestly and religious vocations over the years. So, it was no surprise that this young man would one day be ordained as Fr. Brandimarti.
When he reached Duquesne University in his home state of Pennsylvania, he applied to seminary. He set his sights on being a chaplain in the military until he learned that the assignment might not be in military service because the Bishops and Church place priests where they are most needed.
Discernment takes a U Turn
He started having second thoughts about seminary as he discovered the excitement of career, friends, and privilege. Like many young people raised in faithful families, he drifted away from practicing the Faith in college. “Faithful life started to seem boring in comparison to the lure of the world,” reflects Fr. Brandimarti. So, he decided to explore a career instead of the priesthood.
As a result, the road to ordination took a number of unexpected turns and even some backtracking. Fr. Brandimarti gives credit to St. Gabriel Radio for helping him get back on track regarding his priestly vocation.
“I kept seeing those bumper magnets on cars. The St. Gabriel Radio signal constantly popped up on my car radio!”
Driving became a big part of every workday as he advanced in a career of retail and consumer electronics, first with Sony, then with Motorola. “I was promoted to manager of a territory in Ohio. At least four hours a day were spent in the car driving from Cambridge to Dayton to Chillicothe to Mansfield and all points in between. I tired of listening to music. Flipping through the radio channels, St. Gabriel Radio kept coming up. The programs pulled me in. I began planning my day around programs like Christ Is the Answer with Fr. Riccardo (7 A.M. and 4 P.M. weekdays) and Catholic Answers Live (6 – 8 P.M. weekdays). St. Gabriel Radio became the only channel I listened to!”
As Fr. Brandimarti tells his story, he emphasizes the importance of relationships in discipleship. “Leland
Thorpe, a semi-Buddhist, atheist and long-time friend pulled me back into the Faith. Leland announced to me one day that he was considering Anglicanism. I saw an opportunity to witness to Catholicism at this crossroads. So, I invited Leland to read the Church Fathers.” Leland did. Next, Leland announced, “I HAVE to become Catholic! Will you be my RCIA sponsor (Right of Christian Initiation for Adults)?” Leland Thorpe ended up entering the Oblates of the Virgin Mary and Father Leland Thorpe was ordained in 2022.
“True friendship leads to Christ,”affirms Fr. Brandimarti.
Even in his youthful wrestling with the Faith, the would-be Fr. Brandimarti knew that RCIA sponsorship carried a big responsibility. “I don’t do things halfway, for all my flaws,” he admits. Reflecting on his own, pre-seminary lifestyle, he felt that he needed to make some important changes in order to commit to RCIA sponsorship. He decided that the answer to this invitation was to find his way back to the heart of the Church. Then he realized that he never really knew the Heart of Christ!
“Through this journey as sponsor to my friend in RCIA, I came to know Christ twice.” He explains that the first time, he knew of Christ through the cultural-Catholic training that he received in his childhood. The second time was as a mature person with intimate seeking and the desire of knowing Christ.
“My father is the son of Italian parents and my mother is from a German family. Catholicism plays a big role in both sides of my family.” Fr. Brandimarti says that he knew the culture of the Catholic Church as a youngster and that he was always Catholic, but he admits that he was not always a practicing Catholic.
“ I’m a big Italian, a big Catholic, and like most Italian men, I’m big in my devotion to Our Lady.”
As a youth, I was attached to Catholicism because it was part of my Italian identity, like many Italian-American millennials. I was a good cultural-Italian Catholic. I gave up stuff for Lent. I never ate meat on Friday. Yet, the idea of praying was nonexistent. Going to Mass? Only when parents wanted me to. I questioned whether God was there or really cared about me and my life. Yes, I defended the Church but was living as a practical atheist.”
He realized that the next step in answering Leland’s invitation to RCIA sponsorship was to personally commit, “to surrender to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ.”
On his journey deeper into Catholicism, he discovered many truths. Foremost is the Eucharist: he explains that if the Mass were not truly about the Real Presence, then nothing else would matter.
AM 820: Seminary Companion
He was accepted to seminary in the Diocese of Columbus and completed his academic degree and preparations for the priesthood at the Pontifical College Josephinum. “When I got to seminary, I’d already received an excellent foundation in the Church’s teaching through the programs that I’d listened to on St. Gabriel Radio,” he says.
St. Gabriel Radio programs helped him in many ways. Early on in the seminary, he was unsure about just how a priest lives in the world. “Are the kinds of things that I like to do acceptable in a priest’s life?” Sports? Friendships? Music? “On St. Gabriel Radio I heard priests talking who were real people, who talked like me, who did the things that I do.”
Today Fr. Brandimarti firmly believes – through first-hand experience – that St. Gabriel Radio is truly a tool for conversion, whether the first conversion or continual conversion. “We’re blessed with AM 820. The locally produced shows put out a message for those who are discovering the Faith, confirming the Faith, and deepening the Faith.
“On St. Gabriel I heard priests talking who were real people, who talked like me, who did the things that I do.”
“The life of a priest is intense, so it’s not often that I can listen to the radio. When I can, nothing beats listening to Catholic Answers. Through programs like this, I hear what people’s questions are and also the way other faithful, learned minds answer those questions. On a daily basis in my parish, I encounter people with deep questions; Who am I? Where am I going? How do I deal with a particularly difficult problem? Each person I meet is unique, each life is different.
“Hearing a variety of callers on Catholic radio helps me relate to the variety of people in my parish. The topics help me stay up to date professionally and spiritually. The programs allow me to be immersed in the wider life of the Church.”
Fr. Brandimarti reflects that being a priest is much more than exercising a profession or advancing a career. He says that as an example, while the physician’s skill addresses the body, the priest addresses the whole being and more. “The role of the priest integrates the spiritual and physical, the emotional and intellectual. The relationships with people and with the Church in all their aspects are intimate relationships that go to the core of being. Often for my parishioners, I am the bearer of life-changing news – good and bad.”
Invite a friend
“The spiritual dimension of priestly life is awesome! It’s the awe-inspiring reality of representing Christ Himself. Ordination has given me the grace of being united to The High Priest. By virtue of this gift, I can turn bread into God!” marvels Fr. Brandimarti.
Fr. Brandimarti reflects on discipleship in our Faith walk. “The most valuable thing we can do is invite those we encounter.” We can invite the people in our life to take a peek at the Catholic Faith, or a second look, or even a deep dive. He continues, “For parents of children, we must teach them. The volleyball game should not be more important than Mass. Invitation is what matters. Invite a young person or a friend to Mass. Then let the people we invite make their own decisions about whether or not to accept.
“The beauty of St. Gabriel Radio is that it doesn’t impose. It proposes an invitation.
“I see tons of spiritual fruit coming from St. Gabriel Radio among so many people. It’s edifying to run into people, sometimes the least expected, who comment on something they experienced through St. Gabriel Radio. Sometimes, the result becomes apparent only after years.”
“I was new to Catholic concepts and the teaching on the intercession of saints,” says Amy Voigt. The year was 2016. The place was St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Columbus. Amy was preparing to enter the Catholic Church through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults).
“As part of our introduction to the Faith, our RCIA instructor, Tina Bowie, encouraged us to listen to St. Gabriel Radio.
“At first, I didn’t understand why she would treat St. Gabriel Radio as such a big deal. But later, as I was driving, I turned it on thinking, I guess this is something I need to do to check the boxes and get into the Church,” Amy confesses. Her jaw dropped when she tuned into Called to Communion. At that very moment, Dr. David Anders was explaining the intercession of saints.
“ Our RCIA instructor, Tina Bowie, encouraged us to listen to St. Gabriel Radio,” Amy points out.
THE HOLY SPIRIT ON SPEED DIAL
She discovered that many of her questions about the Faith were answered on St. Gabriel Radio programs like
Called to Communion (2 P.M. weekdays) and Catholic Answers (6-8 P.M. weekdays). In fact, she seemed to hear
answers to her Faith questions sometimes within a matter of hours. “I’m convinced that the timing and logical explanations were not accidental,” she avows. “St. Gabriel Radio became a huge part of my journey into the Church,” explains Amy.
During the Fall of 2016, Amy’s close friend, Tricia Caput from Amy’s hometown in Texas, also started on her own journey of seeking real answers to her questions about indulgences, the saints, the Blessed Mother, and the foundational issue of absolute truth – versus the relativism displayed in the many Christian sects. “My friend’s hangup was the Virgin Mary and Mary’s ability to intercede. I told Tricia that she needed to give the question to God – and listen to her local Catholic radio station.” One by one, Tricia received answers to her questions about the Faith – answers that appealed to her intellect as well as her soul.
“One day Tricia called me in tears. She had been listening to the radio when the Holy Spirit touched her heart. ‘Our Lady was there!’ She said, ‘Mary was there – she was standing at the foot of the cross watching her child die, and at the peak of his suffering, He gave her to us as our mother!’” Tricia was received into the Church in 2017, just weeks after Amy, and is now a faithful advocate for praying the Rosary!
That both Amy and her lifelong friend entered the Church at the same time is “Just the most tremendous gift – an incredible consolation,” Amy says.
“ St. Gabriel Radio became a huge part of my journey into the Church,” explains Amy.
PRIESTS AND SISTERS IN HABITS OPEN MANY DOORS
Amy is a parishioner at Holy Family parish where the Mercedarian Friars make their home. The Bridgettine Sisters also have a convent in the neighborhood and are involved at Holy Family Church. “The priests and sisters give my children great examples of the Faith in action. I can point out to my kids that Mercedarians wear white robes instead of the black cassock of Fr. Stash Dailey. When my boys ask, ‘Why not pants?’ the door opens to conversations with my kids about our Faith.”
“Catholic tradition is full of symbolism. Every part of a priest’s cassock is meant to remind the priest of the life of Christ: black represents death to self in order to rise to serve the Lord, 33 buttons for Christ’s 33 years on earth, and five buttons on the cuff for the five wounds that Christ received in His crucifixion. The Mercedarians wear white robes and carry different implements that have their own significance.
THE UNSUNG HEROES
“I can talk with my kids about true heroism, especially my boys who are hard wired to be heroes. I point out that heroes are not just Ironman and Superman. The Mercedarian example of rescuing enslaved Christians, even risking death in the name of Christ in the process, makes a big impression on my sons. The boys look at those priests with a new level of respect. My daughter has chosen to wear a veil at Mass. She has catechism with Sister Anna who is a cheerful, devout nun from Poland. She sees the Bridgettine Sisters at Mass and around the parish. They all radiate joy, love, and faith. My kids are seeing people around them who are happy, cheerful, living out religious vocations.
“I want my children to consider always what their vocation in life is. The presence of priests and sisters dressed in their religious habits opens yet another door to vocational conversations. Whether you grow up to be a husband or wife, mother or father, priest or sister, there are so many ways to be a hero.”
“ The presence of priests and sisters dressed in their religious habits opens yet another door to vocational conversations,” Amy observes.
Amy grew up in a Protestant environment in Texas – a background for which she is grateful. “My father and mother modeled total commitment to Christ and a deep love for Scripture.” Through marriage and jobs, she moved to Columbus. She is mother to four children and spent almost 20 years working in the fields of graphic design and conservative politics. “I began to find the assignments unfulfilling. I wanted the opportunity to live the Faith and make a real difference in a more practical way.” But that wouldn’t come without a big change.
RESPECT AND LOVE OF SENIOR CITIZENS
A year ago, Amy left her profession of graphic arts and took training in the most basic level of health care as a nurse’s aide so that she could work in home health care. “My heart was broken over the situations many seniors experience in their own homes and nursing facilities. Now I visit people in their homes. I love senior citizens. I see my work as a way to make a difference. I can help these elders in a way that makes them feel respected and loved. Whether I’m helping with a bed pan or a bath, ‘I love you and you make Christ present to me’ is what I want to say through my actions.
“ Whether I’m helping with a bed pan or a bath, ‘I love you and you make Christ present to me’ is what I want to say through my actions,” Amy shares.
“I am a convert and my kids and I often talk about conversion,” continues Amy. “But really, conversion isn’t a one-time thing. There are some big moments of dramatic conversion, but also as Catholics, we experience little moments of conversion all the time.”
Home health care professionals drive a lot and Amy is no exception. She spends hours of every day driving from one home to another.
“A few months ago, I started complaining to the Lord. Before this new job, back when I first entered the Church, I had time to pray in the evening. I complained to Our Lord that now I have no time to pray! I’m surrounded by the demands of family and work. Jesus answered me, ‘What do you mean you don’t have time? You have hours in the car, every day, driving. There you can pray!”
CONVERSION IS MORE THAN “ONCE AND DONE”
“It takes up to 30 minutes to drive from one patient to another, so I get to listen to Mass on St. Gabriel Radio at noon (Holy Mass at 12:05 p.m. weekdays). My hours in the car – choosing to listen to Scripture, St. Gabriel Radio, or pray – are an ongoing conversion. Music isn’t bad, but even better is contemplating my faith, listening to Mass, or hearing faithful people talk about Scripture. Day by day, hour by hour, this is conversion. This is my recent journey. Realizing that instead of complaining about time in the car, it’s really a gift.”
Lifting up our priests and our community in prayer is another facet of St. Gabriel Radio that Amy appreciates. “When I hear prayers for our priests on the radio, it gives me goose bumps! Love, love, love to hear these prayers. I work with seniors who have many life issues. So many times, I turn on the radio and what we’re praying for in the ‘family prayer’ lines up precisely with the needs of my patients. The Holy Spirit intervenes in our lives and is totally involved in directing these movements.”
She also enjoys seeing the St. Gabriel Radio bumper stickers on cars as she travels from home to home. “I get in the car after a difficult day. A car passes me with that sticker and it reminds me of the bigger picture. As a Catholic, I feel reset.”
Truly, Amy joins us in praying, “May the blessing of the Lord be upon you.”
Julie, who was looking for Answers, asked, “Why do these Catholics have to tell me about their radio station?” She had seen the St. Gabriel Radio bumper magnets often in traffic. They annoyed her – until she stumbled onto Dr. Ray and Mother Angelica at a time when she desperately needed a lifeline.
WOMEN OF DEEP FAITH
Perhaps Mother Angelica reminded Julie of her grandmother and attending holiday faith ceremonies together. “Mother Angelica is very believable. I love her no-nonsense approach to right living. Like my grandmother, Mother Angelica tells it like it is. And, like Mother Angelica, my grandmother was a woman of deep faith. My grandmother played such an important role in my life,” Julie reflects as she talks about her fatherless home and alcoholic mother.
“I grew up in Akron. At one point, I attended Mass with a childhood friend. The Mass with the kneeling, communion, and ceremony struck me as foreign, esoteric. Later, as a teenager, I discarded what I had learned about faith from my grandmother and decided that I was agnostic. I couldn’t reconcile an all-powerful, benevolent God with my own family experience and the chaos I read about in the news. I wasn’t yet willing to make the effort to seek Truth.”
“ Like Mother Angelica, my grandmother was a woman of deep faith.”
“I SWORE I NEVER WOULD . . . ”
Julie headed to Columbus and The Ohio State University for college. “I had sworn that I would never fall into the grips of alcoholism, yet I fit right into the college party and drinking scene. Now I see that the college experience was a failed attempt to escape from my family.”
Julie set out on a road that repeated her own childhood experiences: a broken love relationship, broken home, inability to parent her own daughter, and difficulties staying employed.
In her deep suffering, Julie’s heart told her that there is Truth somewhere. A deciding moment came about when a serious accident landed her grandmother in the hospital and Julie witnessed a 180-degree change in her grandfather. Julie took her two year-old daughter with her to visit her grandmother in the hospital. “To our surprise, my grandfather, who had always treated grandmother poorly, was at his wife’s bedside with devotion, and a notebook to follow her treatment by the medical staff. He lavished such kindness, such caring on my grandmother! I knew that only God’s hand could accomplish such a profound transformation! At this turning point, I realized that agnosticism was not for me.”
Julie set out on a road that repeated her own childhood experiences.
Julie was deeply shaken by her grandmother’s trauma. “But even this experience with my grandparents didn’t change my dependence on alcohol or the way I was living,” Julie admits.
Then, in 2009, Julie found AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). “At first I wanted to believe that the AA 12-step program was the definitive solution. In reality, AA gave me so much more than a self-help technique. It turned out to connect me to the powerful hand of a loving God! AA brought me face to face with God, into a relationship with Him. Now I had to start talking with God, confessing my faults, taking a moral inventory, and opening myself to receiving God’s graces. I stayed in AA for a year and stayed sober for all that time. Then I believed that I was done! So I left AA and held on to sobriety by my fingernails for another five months.
“In the fall of 2011, I fell again. It was the perfect storm: legal, financial, social, and emotional problems brought me to my knees. I was facing eviction. I began praying, meditating, examining my conscience (through moral inventory), and trying to make amends. I really began working the AA program. But I was still in the ‘waiting room of Christianity’ as C. S. Lewis would say. I had never gone to church during the past years and I recognized that I needed a concrete belief – that I needed to discover and enter a specific church, not just any church. I needed to enter The True Church.”
ST. GABRIEL RADIO LIFELINE
This is when Julie discovered St. Gabriel Radio and St. Vincent de Paul. “I am so grateful for the help of St. Vincent de Paul. Tom and Maureen at St. Vincent de Paul helped keep me in my home and pay the rent at that turning point in 2011.
“Around the same time in 2011, I began hearing about how to live life from a Catholic position on St. Gabriel Radio. The apologetics programs explain the why of the Faith to the non-Catholic callers. In all the time of listening, I could never reach the conclusion, ‘That’s NOT the Truth!’”
Julie continues, “Each person acquires information in different ways, and the variety of St. Gabriel Radio programs can appeal to many ways of learning. I like the station’s wide variety of programming because I have a short attention span! Whatever is going on in my life, God uses St. Gabriel Radio to hit me with the right words at the right time. I like the constant exposure of people and ideas behind the Faith.”
“ God uses St. Gabriel Radio to hit me with the right words at the right time.”
Almost a decade later, in 2020, the seeds planted through AA, St. Gabriel Radio, and St. Vincent de Paul flowered. During the long, world-wide shutdown, Julie searched the internet to find out how to join the Catholic Church. She was looking for a parish that offered the RCIA program (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) in person at a time when many parishes offered online video conferencing only.
Julie needed the presence of people on her journey. “Determined to continue my goal of entering the Catholic Church, I discovered that St. Mary’s parish in Delaware offered RCIA in person.” Julie entered the Church at Easter 2021 at St. Mary’s, now Julie’s home parish.
Julie has taken immense comfort in learning the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet devotions through St. Gabriel Radio. The constancy and repetition of the prayers inspire her. “I usually listen to St. Gabriel Radio when I’m driving. Catholic radio changed the atmosphere in the car and kept calling me back! The spiritual messages seemed to come through without my being consciously aware so I have absorbed Catholicism at a deep level, by osmosis. The familiarity of certain hosts’ voices seemed to guide me to an understanding infused beyond human reason.” Julie refers to Teresa Tomeo (Catholic Connection, 9 A. M. weekdays) and Dr. David Anders (Called to Communion, 2 P. M. weekdays).
IT IS THE BODY OF CHRIST
“In my two years of Catholic journeying, the most compelling reality that I have discovered is the Body of Christ in the Host. In Holy Communion, He gives me the means to grow in His likeness. I’m especially grateful for the practice of examination of conscience and the Sacrament of Confession.”
Julie is also grateful that the Good Lord has spared her own daughter from the physical and spiritual scourge that Julie underwent. “It is by God’s grace that my daughter escaped my negligence and could rely on the love and care of her devoted father. Yes, God is still working miracles. My daughter graduated from high school and went on to receive a bachelors degree with honors from Otterbein University. God’s gracious love is demonstrated in my daughter.
“ The most compelling reality that I have discovered is the Body of Christ in the Host.”
“I feel like the miner whose pick axe hits gold, then learns that he has just struck a mother lode that is infinite and will pay dividends for the rest of his life – but only if he insists on giving it away,” concludes Julie. The mother lode of gold that Julie has struck are the Spiritual Treasures of the Catholic Church.
THE BOOK, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, known as the “Big Book,” defines alcoholism as “an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.”
There are three principal points of contact between AA and Catholic doctrine: (1) the analogy between AA’s understanding of alcoholism and the Catholic doctrine of Original Sin; (2) the emphasis in both AA and Catholicism on understanding man as a unity of body, mind, and soul; (3) the consequent need for a redemption or remedy embracing both body and soul and effected by God Himself since only He can do it.
The Holy Spirit can use anything to bring light to a person. A conversation with a friend at work introduced Eric Melvin to apologetics. “The friend was not Catholic, but apologetics really set me on the path toward the Catholic Church. Even before I discovered 88.3 FM, the St. Gabriel Radio station in Portsmouth, I became a fan of Fr. Mike Schmitz and Bishop Barron.”
Eric enjoys music – whether he’s listening or playing guitar and piano. He says, “I used to listen to music on the radio – a lot, but I lost that joy of music when I lost several people I loved.” Into that musical void stepped St. Gabriel Radio. It became a companion on this path when Eric saw a radio banner outside the office of Fr. David Huffman at St. Joseph church in Ironton, Ohio.
“I saw that 88.3 FM sign and decided to check it out. During my commutes, I started listening more and more. The programs lifted me up. On my lunch breaks, I listen to Take 2 with Jerry and Debbie (noon weekdays). I enjoy hearing the callers’ questions and conversations. I feel compassion for what’s happening to them and pray for them.”
“WHAT CAN I BELIEVE?”
Eric is a husband and a father to a 3-year-old. Many husbands and dads ask, “What can I believe? Who can I trust, especially in relation to marriage and raising a family?” The early afternoon programming on St. Gabriel Radio helps Eric connect the dots on many of these questions. “I especially like what I learn from Dr. Ray on The Doctor Is In program” (1 P.M. weekdays).”
“Father Riccardo is authentic. You know that he really believes what he’s saying.”
Eric says, “I grew up a Baptist and Methodist and drifted away from faith throughout college.“ There, a number of atheist friends challenged his wavering beliefs.
“While searching for the Truth of Christianity, I read many great apologists. First, I read Protestant Josh McDowell, then C.S. Lewis, and G.K. Chesterton shortly after. Even the fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien spoke truths to me that pushed me closer toward The Church.”
In 2013, Eric decided to attend Mass. “I still remember how strange yet reverent this first Mass seemed to me. The priest, Fr. David Huffman, introduced himself to me and invited me to RCIA. I began attending Mass and RCIA (Right of Catholic Initiation for Adults) regularly.”
Eric also discovered the work of Bishop Barron (Father Barron at that time) and Bishop Fulton Sheen. He began listening to St. Gabriel Radio programs like Fr. Mike Schmitz (4 P.M. weekdays). “These folks gave me logical reasons to hold onto my faith. I listen to Fr. Riccardo’s Christ is the Answer, (7 A.M. weekdays) often in the morning. He’s authentic. You know that he really believes what he’s saying.”
After steadfast reading and prayer over several years, Eric became Catholic. The turning point was in RCIA where he asked himself, “What do I really believe? I realized that this is the true Faith. I realized that the Eucharist is in the writings of the Church Fathers. I accepted that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Christ and that I wanted to receive Him. I thought, ‘Where else can I go?’
“I AM THE WAY. . .”
“St. Gabriel Radio has helped me when I have been trying to figure out what I believe. The programs definitely helped to move me towards the Church.” Fr. Mike’s evening radio spots and Catholic Answers (6 P.M. Sunday through Friday) are particularly helpful to Eric. “Fr. Mike thinks about these things deeply and then makes them relatable. Catholic Answers covers a broad spectrum of questions about the Church’s positions on dogma and social issues. This is helpful especially for people who are thinking about becoming Catholic – and helpful for even atheists.
“ My Catholic view has changed the way I approach these relationships because the Sacrament of Marriage is a source of grace.”
“All my family and friends are Protestant,” Eric continues. Fortunately, his wife, a Baptist, respects his decision to convert. “Initially, my mom worried about my conversion but there is no friction from my family.”
Eric’s wife has become very supportive ever since she realized how important the Catholic Faith is to him. “She realizes that it’s not just what I believe, it helps me become a better person. She helps me free up time for Confession. I can go to Confession when I’m struggling, and I like to get advice from the priest. Her spiritual journey has been different from mine. She has always been a woman of faith, close and connected to the Baptist church. She talks to the priest at St. Joseph and wants to be involved in the Catholic community of the parish. My wife and I try to go to Mass as a family with our son who is three. We do night-time prayers, and our son tries to repeat those prayers.
“Listening to St. Gabriel Radio has made me a better husband and dad. I prayed for my family before my conversion. Now I pray more. My understanding of marriage, family, and children has deepened. For a Baptist, marriage is viewed with reverence but it is not sacramental. It seems that society in general no longer values these relationships. My Catholic view has changed the way I approach these relationships because the Sacrament of Matrimony is a source of grace.”
On January 6, 2018, one month after his son was born, Eric’s dad passed away. Then, within several months, he lost a dear great aunt and his grandfather, followed by a beloved cousin who took his own life. “I struggled with grief and faith for a long time. I was even angry with God for a while. I met with my parish priest several times just to talk about it.”
GOD’S PLAN IS VAST AND FULL
“I remember the night in February 2020, talking to the priest at my parish and a Dominican priest about the loss and grief I had been through. I remember them praying with me and then blessing me. I remember going home that evening with a sense of peace that I did not have before. It reminds me now of the moment that Jesus appeared in front of the disciples after the Resurrection and said, ‘Peace be with you.’”
Eric explains, “I learned so much throughout the process of grieving those losses. Like so many other people, I tried to understand why God allows so much suffering in the world. I realized that there is a point at which we can’t fully understand the entire picture of God’s plan. God told Job, ‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?’ I realized that, like Job, the vastness and fullness of God’s plan is just too great for a human mind to comprehend.”
Eric added, “We believe God allows suffering and evil because He can bring about some good from it and often we might never see or understand what that good is during our lifetime. But then comes God, The Son, Jesus Christ. God Himself came not to take away suffering, and really, not even to help us understand why we suffer, but instead suffers for us, and with us. Jesus transformed suffering, so that now we don’t suffer alone, but we can unite our suffering with Christ and, somehow, He can use that to bring about a greater good.”
The idea of redemptive suffering changed the way Eric grieves. “Because when you turn grief, or any kind of suffering, into a prayer – when you offer it to Christ – He uses the suffering in ways that are too amazing for us to fully understand this side of the Kingdom.”
GRIEF OPENED THE DOOR TO JOY
Eric entered the Church on the Epiphany of Our Lord. The official feastday is January 6th but in 2021, it was celebrated on January 3rd. “January 6th is the date my dad passed away. So now every year, I get to celebrate coming into the Church twice during Christmastide: on January 3rd and on The Epiphany, which will usually fall on the day of my dad’s passing.”
It resonated with Eric when his priest said the day you die on earth can be like your birthday in Heaven. “So, while I’m celebrating entering full communion with the Church, I am also praying for a celebration of my dad’s birthday in Heaven.
“ And when the days are long and it all falls apart don’t grieve like the lost, because there’s hope in your heart.” – Eric
“Throughout this journey, especially the last three or four years, listening to St. Gabriel radio has really helped me. I thank the radio station for all for the work that it does. I could talk about other things but the grief of the losses I went through and how Christ has healed so much while on my faith journey toward the Church is such a big part of my life.
“I didn’t even realize, until just this moment, that perhaps choosing that day to enter the Church, and forevermore celebrating as such, this might just be one way Christ has transformed suffering and brought about a greater good. Glory to Jesus Christ.”