HOW IT ALL STARTED
"Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
— St. Catherine of Siena
Byron and Paul worked together for years before they realized they shared the Faith. Probably because Paul was stumbling around in the dark for a couple of decades. Here’s how they each tell their story and the origin of Random Acts Of Catholics:
If our lives on this earth are intended to be one long journey up the mountain of holiness, I spent the better portion of mine nowhere near the mountain or its trails, lost in a parking lot somewhere with my back to the peak while staring at a neon Budweiser sign in the opposite direction. And then, after letting me wallow around and distract myself with all kinds of unnecessary or even downright vile things, He did what He does. He started to slowly turn me back around, and orient me toward that mountain. He used two particular people that were already in my life (He planted them there years ago—of course) to disrupt my comfortable-but-numbing secular existence. With my wife’s strong encouragement and my friend Joan’s beautiful example, the first step was actually a non-step. It was a stop. A cold, hard stop. To embrace sobriety. Then came the turning part. With my eyes clear and my soul stirring, I caught a glimpse of that mountain and began an insatiable search. I read and re-read the Gospels. I sought out holy books and faith-sharing websites. I attended Mass and Confession more regularly. And then the Saints—the glorious, amazing, wonderful, inspiring Saints—came marching into my mind, heart and soul. It started with Saint Faustina’s Diary of Divine Mercy. Her love of Jesus, and His gentle, loving words of unfathomable Mercy set my heart on fire.
Then He dropped Father Roger into my world.
Father Roger was not even a priest at my parish. Nor was he the priest I sought out for advice. But he was recommended to me and so I reached out and next thing you know we’re having an intense discussion over a meal and afterwards we’re flying down the scenic waterfront road in my sports car, top back, Gospel music blaring, Father Roger at the wheel. We were instant friends.
Father Roger and I began collaborating on several faith-based projects. In fact, we had so much going on, I needed help. And so, through a third party (a beautiful soul known as Mary), I reached out to this talented guy at work named Byron that I just had a hunch about. With Byron’s creativity and Father Roger’s guidance, the ideas started flying. The best one, it seemed to us, was Random Acts Of Catholics—a way to invest our God-given talents in the lives of others. Mary and Joan were soon on board and of course, Father Roger’s parish has become the inaugural chapter. I am so blessed to have such loving, faithful people in my life. Gee, I wonder how they got there.
I started as Catholic by default. Like a thermostat at 65. A PC set to Internet Explorer. An elevator set to Mozart. Default. Born into a family of Catholics and baptized only months after. I never had the urge to opt for another faith as I feared the wrath of my Mom who had the special power of bestowing Catholic Guilt with the squint of her eyes. So that left me with going through the motions — feeling like I was playing Catholic. I’d say grace (under my breath) before I ate. I’d pray (mouthed) a Rosary Novena when somebody passed. I’d go to church (begrudgingly) on Sundays, even in college. I gave a performance that Jim Caveziel would’ve been jealous of. I acted Catholic but never really opened myself up to the Lord.
It wasn’t until three things happened: one glorious; one sorrowful; and one joyful that I chose to go all-in with my faith.
The glorious was meeting my future wife, Kathryn. She grew up in a very Catholic household— father a deacon, mother very active in church, a sister who turned out to be a future nun. She often told me stories about growing up going on retreats, visiting monasteries and how her family vacations were pilgrimages to holy lands. She out-Catholiced me on so many levels and the most interesting part was she was into it. She told me about how she lived life guided by the Lord, which surprised me. I never did that. So I knew in courting her, I’d have to get on her level.
The sorrowful came when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. After all, it was my Mom who gave me that default Catholic faith knowing that one day I’d really need to lean into it. She was only in her 50s when she passed a year and a half after her diagnosis, but in that year and a half my faith got me through the sadness, gave her strength to fight and gave me comfort that everything was going to be okay.
The joyful came with the births of my children. Want evidence of miracles and the grace of God? Experience the creation of life. I’m blessed to have experienced it four times. And God has entrusted me with shepherding each one of them into the faith. A tall task but I’m up for it.
Now the story brings me back to how I got together with Paul. It starts by bringing me back to Kathryn’s sister who is actually now a sister. A real sister— Sister Rose. She’s a nun in the Servants of the Lord order. She travels the world spreading the Good Word and is often Skyping us to tell her stories and check in on the family. During one Skype session, amongst the many dotted faces crowded in front of a webcam, she calls me out and just wants to speak to me. The kids are barely in school and they made an “oooooh” sound that flashed me backed to the principal’s office. So Sister Rose and I are somewhat alone on the webcam and she decides to issue me a challenge: Offer up my God-given talent up to Him and see if I can use my skill set to help evangelize. I accepted.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Bay Area, Paul was looking for a partner to help him use his God-given talent to evangelize as well. When the beautiful soul named Mary (as Paul described above) pulled me aside to ask if I was interested in working with Paul on something faith-based, all I could do was smile.