The Devotion to Christ – A couple of “firsts” in Irondale


By Brian Cook

For those readers who did not read last week’s column, several years ago I visited the Eternal Word Television Network studios in Irondale and attended my first Catholic Mass. Last week’s column ended with the transubstantiation of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. 

There came a moment where time stood still. I realized that those in attendance were about to take Holy Communion. Nothing in their words or actions (and I had repeated as best I could) pointed to this moment being symbolic. In addition, crackers or grape juice or pre-packaged vacuum sealed communion cups were not being used. Everything up to that moment captured the severity of the Upper Room; this indeed was something else.

Those in attendance said in unison, “Lord, I am not worthy for you to enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” which is a direct quote of Matthew 8:8.

I froze.

I knew that story well, and my heart felt those words of “I am NOT worthy!” I had studied enough to know that as a non-Catholic, I was not supposed to partake of the Eucharist, but in the weight of the moment, I wanted to. In fact, I needed to. My head had been made ready through study and now my heart was catching up.

But I was an addict who had been serving two masters (Luke 6:24). And I did “love one and hate the other.” I hated my addiction and hated myself for the lack of self-control. I realized that in fact I was not serving an addiction – I was held captive! I was bound by “the strongman” and needed one stronger to come and rescue me (Luke 11:21-22).

I remembered the story of the woman desperately reaching out to “touch the hem of His garment” in Matthew 9:18-26. Think of the context of this story: in a very public manner, Jesus is on His way to raise a girl from the dead. Is there a more impressive miracle than Resurrection? But on Jesus’ way to the girl’s home, a woman desperate in her condition reaches to touch His garment. There was no precedent for this. Had anyone ever been healed this way?

This wasn’t a picture-perfect moment; it was messy. Maybe the woman was trying to get touched by Jesus, much like the leaper, but could not. Instead of being able to get Jesus’ attention in the crowd and beg for help during the desperate hustle and bustle of the moment, this woman reached from behind Him and out of position. She saw that she was about to miss her chance, so the woman stretched, to do the only thing she believed could overcome anything in this world. She desperately reached out to Jesus, and her heart caught up to her head. The woman stood before Jesus and heard Him – God Himself – encourage her with the words, “Your faith has made you well.” For like us, this woman came to Christ – to The Sacrament Himself – by faith.

In that chapel in Irondale during my first Mass, I wanted so desperately to come to Christ, all the way in His way. I felt equally the burden of my addiction and the longing for the Eucharist. I needed to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and I longed to be healed. But how?

At the end of the Mass, the priest invited all present to come to the Sacrament of Confession if they so desired. He said that multiple priests would be available and that it was literally right outside in the next room.

My heart rate increased. Could a Protestant go to Confession? Could a Baptist confess his sins to a priest? Is this how I desperately reach out for His garment? The woman in Matthew 9:18-26 was “unclean;” she knew she was not supposed to touch a Rabbi. But she broke the rules and reached for Jesus.

And so did I.

As I entered the confessional and knelt, I said, “I’m not Catholic and I don’t know how to do this, but I want to confess my sins.” I could hear the priest start breathing faster. Apparently, he was nervous. He said “okay”, but I could tell that he was still thinking. He said “okay” again, and I could tell he was trying to sort it out (I pictured him pulling out a book to check the rules). After a minute or two, the priest said that the Church allows him to hear one confession, but afterwards, that person must become Catholic.

My heart was pounding and my body began to shake as I started to confess my sins.

To be continued….

Brian Cook is a Cropwell native and a graduate of Pell City High School, Gadsden State Community College and Jacksonville State University. He and his wife Hope have five children. A self-described “on-again-off-again bi-vocational part-time” Protestant minister for almost 20 years, Brian converted to Catholicism in April 2021. They attend Saint James Catholic Church in Gadsden. With no formal training (Acts 4:13), Brian active in the Catechetical training of children and adults. His book “The Devotion to Christ” can be found on Amazon. He is available for speaking and teaching engagements in any parish, church, or group setting. He may be contacted at or

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