One day my mom came home from work and announced that we were becoming Catholic — we were previously nothing. The RCIA classes I attended were at 8 am on Saturday mornings. You can imagine how much a 17 year old club kid enjoyed that. But I listened to my parents and was welcomed into the Church at the Easter Vigil on April 18th, 1992.
I’m sure some of the people in my small southern community were wondering why a goth raver was coming into the Church, to be honest, I was probably wondering the same thing. The people were all very kind, but I definitely felt out of place.
It didn’t really matter though, I woke up Easter morning with mono and didn’t get out of bed for a month. It was a long while before we ever made it back into a church.
I used to be quite the procrastinator when it came to Christmas. I worked in retail at my mom’s record store, so the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas were always a bit busy, and I milked that excuse as long as I could.
I was in a panic one year because I was leaving work on Christmas Eve to go to our company party, which was really just all my friends at my house since everyone worked at my mom’s store, and I had absolutely no gifts.
Traveling home along the same road I’d traveled nearly my whole life, I noticed a tiny antique shop I’d never seen before — and never saw again. Amazingly, it was still open late in the evening on December 24th.
I went in and quickly found some of the craziest and most perfect gifts ever. Seriously, every single gift was a hit. Antique vases, candleholders, some cool Asian thing, an elaborate wooden box, and for my mom, a great gag-gift that was a reminder of that one time she made us become Catholic.
I had my mom open her present last because it was so gaudy and over the top. As she opened the present, this dazzling flash of gold practically blinded everyone in the room, especially since we were all wearing black clothes with various shades of purple and burgundy hair. It was probably the brightest thing any of us had seen in ages.
The gift was a painted icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in a brilliantly gold painted wooden frame. And she absolutely loved it.
That gift changed our lives. My mother took it as a sign to get her family back into the Church, which she did. This time, though, we went all in.
My mom then spent over 20 years working in youth ministry as the Director of Religious Education at our church, my dad has been the Music Director there for 25 years, and I’ve lead thousands of people on pilgrimage over the past 17 years.
There’s writing on the back of that icon that mentions it was touched to the original miraculous icon located in Rome, at Sant’Alfonso right across from Santa Maria Maggiore. I now walk by that original Roman icon nearly every single day and it’s a constant reminder of how God worked in my life.
I’d say it’s crazy how things work out, but it’s not crazy, God knows what He’s doing. So if you ever feel out of place or like you are being pulled away, remember that God has a plan for you. But if you ever stumble upon some mysterious pop-up antique shop, do go in, because His plan could include a not-so-subtle miraculous icon.