While in Maryland, before moving to Florida, I looked over all the religions and faith systems that I had looked at before. Nothing felt right. The closest to right was the ways I was currently following, that of the Native Americans.
A good job came up that took me down to Florida, and I pretty much dropped the quest if favor of work, but in the course of work, I ran into a lady that captured my attention because of her faith. She lived on the west side of Florida, and I lived on the east side of Florida. We talked long and often about her beliefs. We spent hours on the phone, often late into the night, talking about Catholicism. This drew me even closer to the idea of looking deeper into the Catholic Church.
I dropped my younger brother a line, but never heard back from him.
I went to 5 or 6 Catholic Churches in the Fort Lauderdale area, and pretty much got a cold shoulder as the RCIA (Right of Christian Initiation for Adults) program had just started a couple of months earlier, and no one was wanting to accept new Candidates. It almost chased me away.
I finally made an appointment with Father Francis at St. Henry Catholic Church for after Mass one week day, and went to Mass to listen to him before we talked. After Mass was over, he vanished and I never saw him the rest of that morning. I hung around for about 30 minutes, and the Receptionist saw me sitting in the Church when she came to lock it up and asked if she could help me. I informed her I was there to meet the Priest for an appointment, and she informed me that he had not put it in the calendar, and had been called away for a very sick person, could she schedule me for the next day?
I said yes, but in my mind I thought, “Hmmm, bet that he just forgot and is back in his office.” (I later found out he had in fact been called to the Hospital.) We schedule me to meet with him the next day after Mass.
So the next day I went to Mass again, and after the Mass, we went into his office and talked. During that meeting he informed me that his Church was a smaller Church with an older community, and that they did not do RCIA there, that I should go talk to the Priest at St. Elizabeth’s in Pompano Beach (just up the road). I told him that I had, but that their classes were already in session by a few months (it was only a couple months from Easter) and they felt it was too late to join. We ended on that note.
I went home kinda discouraged about Catholicism and figured my search was still on… And I prayed to God asking where I should be.
A few days later I received a call from Father Francis, and missed it, so he left a message: “Dr. Bell, If you have not found a Church that will accept you as a Candidate, please come by the offices here, and we will talk again.” I called back and left a message asking when I should stop by, late that evening after I listened to the message. About 10 minutes later I received a call back from him and he said come in the next day after Mass.
I went into Mass the next day, and then we meet in his office again. We talked a bit about general topics then he asked how my search for RCIA was going. I told him not so well. He then told me that he would teach me what I needed to know but that he felt I needed to be with other Adults learning as well, so he would insure that I would be accepted into the next years RCIA class, and then he picked up a book and handed it to me. He got up and told me to follow him, in which he lead me to an office across from his.
He said, “Read this, tell me what you think when you are done. No questions till you have finished it. This is your office, come as you want to use it.”
I ended up using that office 5 and 6 days a week for over a year, reading books he recommended and books I found on my own dealing with the Philosophy, Theology, and the Doctrine of the Catholic Church. We had MANY GREAT conversations about God, faith, and the Catholic Church.
I purchased my first Rosary a few weeks later and began saying the Rosary daily. A few months after that, I purchased the 4th volume of the Liturgy of the Hours (a 4 volume set that changes based on the time of the year, and we were currently on the 4th volume) and started doing the Liturgy of the Hours seven times a day.
One day I decided to find a case for my Rosary as it kept breaking in my pockets and getting tangled up in things, and I found a Catholic store that carried them locally.
I walked in and looked around. I ended up talking in length with the proprietor who was a Brother in an Order who’s habit was EXACTLY like my dreams years earlier! (Yes, I bought a case and some other items that day!)
To be continued…