The Devotion to Christ – Revelation in a parking lot

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By Brian Cook

To keep those readers who did not read the past two week’s columns, up to speed, 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 a desire to receive the Sacrament of Confession.

So, while in the confessional, I confessed my sins as best I could and with all my heart. If I recall correctly, it went something like this: “I am addicted to [blank] and have been so since junior high school. I am a Christian and I fight against my addiction. I’ve often fought valiantly but there were times when I did not fight it at all. Ultimately, I feel that my addiction has me. I know that it can no longer coexist in my life and in my heart with Jesus. I ask Him to forgive me and I believe He can free me from this addiction, if it is His will.”

The priest asked if there was anything else that I wanted to confess. I had to admit that even though I was sure my sins were many, my addiction was the greatest burden of my heart. He directed me to say The Act of Contrition that was printed on a card right in front of me. How I meant every word as I read:

“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all my sins…. I firmly resolve, by the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.”

The priest then proclaimed the absolution of my sin through the power of Jesus Christ and by the authority of the Church (John 20:21-23).

And then it happened.

Both spiritually and physically, I literally experienced the breaking of a stronghold and the lifting of my burden. My emotion changed in an instant. I went from experiencing a heaviness and a heart-pounding sorrow and embarrassment to a light feeling of awe and renewal. Something was broken off my shoulders, and forcefully thrown upwards. It was as if 30 pounds was lifted off my bowed back with such immediacy that it took my breath away and almost carried me from my knees to my feet!

In breathless wonder I exited the confessional and floated back to my vehicle. All the noise of addiction was stilled. Something brand new had filled that space. As I walked to my car, I remember saying out loud the lyrics of a Phillips, Craig and Dean song: “This is how it feels to be free, this is what it means to know, I’ve been forgiven!”

I sat behind the wheel in the parking lot of EWTN and said out loud and with joy, “I’m going to be Catholic!” To ignore the scriptures that I had so carefully studied would be to rob my mind of the fulness of the faith, but to ignore the New Testament power I had just experienced would indeed be a spiritual crime of the heart.

My heart was recalling the story in John 9 where the blind man is healed in a very unconventional way. When intimidated and questioned by the Pharisees, the man replied, “One thing I know: I was blind and now I see.”

Like that blind man, my heart was screaming, “I may not be able to debate all the Catholic vs. Protestant stuff and I may not fully understand all there is to know, but I walked into that confessional burdened and broken, and I walked out whole and healed!”

James 5:16 promises, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed…..” I had just experienced this verse in miraculous fashion. I was forgiven, the one great miracle, and to demonstrate that, I was healed, just like the paralyzed man in Matthew 9:1-8 is being healed physically as proof that “the Son of Man has the power on earth to forgive sins.” The next verse says that the people “marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.” I sat in the car marveling as well.

But what to do?

I decided to follow Jesus “All the way, His Way,” which took me directly to the Catholic Church. After convincing my wife (which took three years) and taking the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults classes, we officially converted on Easter Vigil April 3, 2021. We were home, but I had sent my heart on ahead that great day in 2018. Thanks be to God!

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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