My name is Erik Heaney, and this is how at age 30, God called me to be baptized into the Catholic Church.
For most of my life, God was an afterthought. Like many millennials, religion was more something I read about in school textbooks than something that was practiced at home. Despite my secular upbringing, my mother made sure that I knew about our Catholic traditions and faith. She told me about St. Francis and how he became a saint through poverty, prayer, and perseverance. When I was 12, I went to Catholic school for three years, where I learned the Bible, the Catholic liturgy, and the Christian faith. For a short while, God was in my life.
Then my family moved, from California to North Carolina, and again God became an afterthought. I went to school, graduated college, got a job, advanced my career, got married. It was a comfortable life, although I always felt an emptiness in my heart. I thought so long as I chased material rewards – wealth, status, prestige – I could fill this hole. And for many years, this secular, success-driven approach to life seemed doable.
Then the pandemic hit. We were all told to go home. Supermarket shelves emptied, borders closed, streets emptied, hospitals filled, riots started. It was difficult to know what to believe and who to trust. Fear gripped my heart and the hearts of everyone around me.
As paranoia filled the world, the emptiness of my heart became more clear. This emptiness was always there, but now in a time of crisis, I could no longer ignore it. I discovered the truth – that material goods cannot protect me from true suffering. For much of my adult life, I asked myself questions like – how do I get ahead? How do I make more money? How do I achieve success? And to some extent, I could answer these questions.
Now, in this time of crisis, I asked myself – what is my life? Why am I here? What is my purpose? And I had no answers to these questions.
It was at this time God called me back to Him and to His church. I recalled the stories of St. Francis that my mom told me. I remembered that she told me that his life was not a Disney movie – that his path towards sainthood required strength. For the first time since I was in middle school, I attended Mass regularly. Sunday morning I turned on my TV and watched online, kneeling alone in my living room. Soon after, I began to attend Mass in person. By the summer of 2021, I decided to attend RCIA at Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin parish to be baptized and confirmed into the Church.
During Holy Week, I made sure to attend mass for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday. It was so powerful to walk along Christ during His final days and crucifixion, and to celebrate His victory over death and our salvation! During the Easter Vigil, I received the sacraments. How amazing it was to be cleansed of my sins, and if only for a moment, be in a perfect state of grace! This was a moment that I will cherish forever.
Now that I have received the sacraments, the hard work begins. I ask myself now – How do I carry over God’s grace for the remainder of my life? How do I remain steadfast in my faith? How do I stay loyal to His Church? While this will require work, I will remember that this work should be filled with joy. Afterall, God has given me and the world the greatest gift anyone could hope for – His love. I give thanks for His love, His mercy, and His grace. I pray that I can continue to work for the kingdom of Heaven and not the kingdom of man. Finally, I ask that He can bless me and all His followers the strength to live out His message.
God never abandoned me, He was with me in times of crisis and in times of prosperity. I should never abandon him, and always remember to give Him thanks!