The Devotion to Christ – A few surprises along the way

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By Brian Cook

As I mentioned in an earlier column, my wife and I visited an Amish community in Ethridge, Tenn., in 2013. That experience sent me on an intellectual faith journey through every major denomination of Christianity, as well as church history, and culminating in my conversion to Catholicism on April 3, 2021.

However, an intellectual journey is never enough. Conversion and the upending of one’s life is not an intellectual exercise alone. Just ask Nicodemus in John 3. Rather, conversion is a journey of the heart that requires the tearing away of every other “first love” and the casting down of every idol in order to make room for The Lord to reign in one’s heart. This action requires “The Turning,” which is a repentance so painul and so thorough that only a miracle of Jesus Christ can be an apt explanation.

As it turned out, I was on the verge of a miracle in 2018. At the five-year mark of my journey, I was still an on-again, off-again and bi-vocational part-time Protestant minister. I worked mainly with the music and youth ministries along with teaching and preaching responsibilities when needed.

In 2018, after doing my homework and watching every theological objection to Catholicism start to fall, I, much like Nicodemus, was saying with wonder, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9). But though my mind had been convinced, my heart was still very much torn, because I was an addict.

In saying as much, I am not being dramatic in any way. In the sixth grade, I experienced a trauma that wrecked my heart and mind in a drastic and most painful way. I came home from school one day to find my world completely upside down and left in unrepairable shambles. What was worse, without any prior “warning signs,” this travesty had been committed by the one person I loved and trusted the most. Absolutely nothing made sense anymore, and a deep anger and anxiety set in that would follow me throughout my days and would require treatment. A dark evil had broken my home and my heart. I needed professional and spiritual help. Some good men and women tried, but I settled for self-medicating.

While in the 7th grade, I was introduced to [blank]. This is one of those things that I openly share personally and in private. As this testimony continues, you may insert your own [blank] and walk this path with me. [Blank] was my drug of choice, mainly because it completely overwhelmed my anger and anxiety and made it disappear, at least temporarily, and that is indeed very addictive.

That is the trouble with addiction. At first you have It and you control It, but eventually the addiction controls you. Being a Christian allowed me to fight against it, and I did fight valiantly at times, but eventually I realized that this struggle would continue without real intervention.

But what to do?

In 2018, while driving back home from Birmingham and listening to a Catholic radio station, I heard the strangest thing: “The home of The Global Catholic Network and EWTN Studios is located in Irondale, Alabama.” Wait a minute – a global Catholic media network is located in Alabama, of all places?

Irondale was only a few miles away from where I was driving at that moment. Turning that wheel and taking that exit was a major turning point in my spiritual journey. My life was about to change in a pro-found way.

Two miles off the interstate, there it was. What a surreal feeling it was pulling into the EWTN parking lot. The property was not overly impressive and smaller than I expected, but was very beautiful, nonetheless.

Now, where to go? I went to the gift shop, because surely that was a safe place for a Protestant to hide. The bookstore was as full as any Lifeway Christian Store I’d ever been in, but the “stuff”

was very different. While I was looking around while trying to be inconspicuous, it was announced over the intercom that Mass would begin in the chapel in five minutes. My pulse increased dramatically. Dare I attend? Will I get “discovered” as a Protestant?

But when else would I have such an opportunity? My church, my wife, my kids, my work; no one knows I was there, and I was not expected back home at any specific time. I turn towards the Chapel and…

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 thedtc@protonmail.com or thedevotiontochrist@gmail.com.

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