Get Up and Walk

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 11.28.53 AM

Sometimes I write scripts and something special happens.

I originally wrote this script to introduce the “sacraments of healing”: Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. We decided to tell the famous story of Mark 2:12 because it includes both the forgiveness of sins and a physical healing. This Gospel story beautifully shows how the two go together.

I wrote it as a period piece. The film’s producers were going to try to recreate the look of Galilee 2,000 years ago. Quite a challenge!

But then the movie, “Son of God” came out. And the fear was that the script I wrote was going to look too similar to that film. So Becky Groth took that script and modernized it to be a contemporary look at the Gospel story. I think the end result is pretty cool and more fun than a “straight” retelling of the story, especially because those versions already exist. This is something new, makes you look at the story from a different way, and I’m proud to share the story credit on it.

I like this video because it’s punny

2

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 9.13.50 AM

Puns make me happy. Why else would I release a CD titled, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice”? Truth is, I get excited when I come up with a pun because I don’t think of myself as a very good “punster”. This script I wrote has some good ones in it. The kind that make you hurt.

More importantly, it also has a good message. I wrote this for the VCat series on sacraments. Its an overview of the sacraments of service: marriage and holy orders. Its a challenge to write scripts like these because you have to find the right blend of entertainment and education. I think it really came together well and is one of my favorite videos Outside Da Box has made so far. Great job, guys!

Feel free to share with your friends or anyone you know who could use it for ministry. That’s why we’re making them!

The Mercy of God

1

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 10.17.32 AM

Though I’ve been delinquent in updating the site, Outside Da Box and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston are doing a great job by creating new videos every month to help teens understand a different element of the Catechism, and I’ve the honor of writing the majority of those scripts. I really loved this last one they did. It’s a “whiteboard” video about how to go to Reconciliation, and the emphasis is that it’s not just about confessing your sins—it’s about what you do before and after that is equally important. I hope you’re blessed by it!

But one of my favorite scripts ever brought to life was the “Palm Sunday” video I wrote for Outside Da Box a couple years ago. And since that’s coming up this Sunday, it seems a good time to re-post that as well.

Feel free to share these around the Interwebs! And have a blessed Easter!

Crazy. Busy. Good. (With cool video at the end!)

1

 

Life. Is. Crazy. But in many ways, crazy good. Bobby just got out of surgery yesterday for his leg. Those who have followed by blog might remember that in February he broke his femur because of a weakened bone. So they put a rod in his leg to augment it. Not fun, but we’re grateful that the surgery went well, and thanks for all your prayers.

IMG_2710

 

I’ve also gotten back on the road. I had the chance to speak to the youth ministers in Arlington and Richmond. I shared the Gospel with the folks at St. John the Apostle in Virginia Beach, VA and at Holy Spirit Parish in Kennewick, WA. And I spoke at a men’s conference in Greensburg, PA. Hello to everyone I’ve seen over the past three weeks! It was a blessing to be with you!

School is back in session, and I LOVE teaching at Franciscan. But that keeps me busy, as you can imagine.

“The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice” is getting nearly done and it sounds AMAZING. I can’t wait for you all to hear it! Thanks to the over-the-top generosity of my Kickstarter backers, I was able to fly Katie Rose from California to help with the vocals. What a difference she made! And it’s always fun hanging out with her.

IMG_2664

Aidan is over two months old and is COMPLETELY adorable. If you doubt me, take a look:

And, in all my spare time, I’m still writing video scripts.

 
Screen Shot 2013-09-14 at 1.35.31 PM

This is the latest video in the VCat series, “Forgiveness of Sins.”

I wrote it as a spoken word piece and originally I was going to be the one doing it. But then someone knew of Fr. Anthony, a priest from New York who also does hip-hop. When you see how well he does it, you’ll laugh thinking of me doing it! He owned the material so well, my first impression was that he must have ad-libbed some of it to fit his style and personality. But then, as I pulled up the script I wrote, I realized that it was almost verbatim to what I had written.

I was pretty humbled by that, as I’m sure this guy could improv stuff better than I could write it (and you can hear some of that at the end of the video.) As always, I’m just grateful to be working with the amazing people at Outside Da Box who make such great films.

So life is crazy busy, but also crazy good. Hope you enjoy the video.

Hey, Youth Ministers!

1

SowerLast week was the St. John Bosco Catechetical Conference and it was such a joy to see people from America, Canada, England, Ireland, and even Australia come together to celebrate the faith and be equipped to pass it on more effectively.

Of course, the group I got to hang most with are the youth ministers, and my gratitude for all of you who endured the difficult schedule. It was a blessing to share what little time I could amid the numerous workshops, worship music, and baby at home.

The conference made me realize that I’ve been a bit deliquent on putting articles I’ve written for the “Sower Magazine” on my website—hadn’t updated that since last year! So here are the most recent ones, and if you’d like a full list of articles, you can check them out HERE.

“Proclaiming the Bad News to Teenagers,” April 2013. Talking about hell can pose a challenge for those who work with young people today. But if young people don’t understand the horrors of hell, they can never appreciate what Christ went through to bring them to heaven. Or to put it another way, the Good News isn’t really good unless the bad news is really bad.

“Thinking Win/Win with Your Volunteers,” October 2012. Attracting volunteers to your ministry is a daunting challenge, but it can be done. One way of doing that is to think “Win/Win.” A ministry that is as concerned with the positive experience of its volunteer as it is with it’s ministry to young people becomes a dynamic and enticing environment that attracts both youth and adults alike.

“Will You Love Me?” April 2012. When St. John Bosco famously said, “Love, and they will follow you anywhere,” he wasn’t talking about relational manipulation. He was speaking the truth. Teenagers, then and now, desire true friendships and respond to real love. One thing is sure: postmodern teenagers feel more than they think.

“Not Young Adults, but Emerging Adults,” January 2012. What is a “young adult?” Christian Smith, author of Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults, suggests the term young adult is a misnomer. He proposes we call this age group emerging adults.

“Saints and Superheroes,” October 2011. Movies and stories about superheroes are all the rage with young people today. As catechists, we can use those stories to point them to the real superheroes—the saints.

In other news, the Kickstarter campaign is going great! Thanks to everyone’s support, we’ve gotten past the minimum goal and are pushing towards an even better product. More on that (with new music video) tomorrow.

The Historical Reality of the Resurrection

There is an important difference between religious respect and religious relativism. The former demands a charitable attitude that acknowledges the movement of God in every human heart; the latter shrugs its shoulders and says that every religion is really the same. Showing respect gives dignity to the believer; religious relativism is patronizing.

The New Atheist movement, allegedly unbiased because those involved don’t believe in any religion (which is the worst bias off all,) argue other religions should all get along with one another because there’s no way to say that one religion is more valid than another. Essentially, we should see our religious beliefs as our opinion and we should respect other people’s opinions, just like we might differ on tastes in movies and food.

Should people of different faiths find ways to charitably live with each other? Of course. And since the Second Vatican Council the Catholic Church has been a world leader in gathering people of different faiths together and has been one of the strongest  advocates for religious freedom in every continent. But we don’t do that because we think what we believe is just our opinion. We do it because of our love for all humanity, no matter what they believe. We do it because of our faith, not in spite of it.

Though we share many things in common with other beliefs, we also acknowledge important differences. Those differences help us define our faith. And at the heart of Christianity is an empty tomb in Jerusalem.

This historical event makes Christianity unique among other world religions. With the exception of Judaism, the many of the doctrines and stories of other faiths have come from private revelations. An angel spoke to Muhammad (Islam.) One also spoke to Joseph Smith (Mormonism.) And though private revelations are a part of our Deposit of Faith, the historical reality of how God revealed Himself to the world is what they are grounded on. Jesus Christ rose from the dead. There is an empty tomb in Jerusalem.

Those who are Jewish acknowledge that Jesus existed and, though he taught many good things, He was not God—He did not rise from the dead. Muslims believe Jesus was a great prophet, but also say He was not God—He did not rise from the dead. There are many core values and beliefs that Christians share with Jews and Muslims, and the Catholic Church teaches that we all pray to the same God, though we have a different understanding of Him. But that’s not to say that one religion is the same as another.

There is an empty tomb in Jerusalem. There was an historical event that has to be accounted for. This is more than a parable or a fictitious story. History records that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by Rome and then the body disappeared. His believers claimed to have seen Him risen from the dead, and almost all of those were tortured and killed because of their belief.

Alternatives for the resurrection don’t make sense. Was the body stolen by His followers? Unlikely Rome would let that slide without more crucifixions. Perhaps Jesus didn’t die, just fainted? This is known as the “swoon” theory and is even more unlikely than the “stolen” one. It seems impossible that a man who underwent such torture could wake up, roll away the stone himself, and then… overcome Roman guards?

And what of the martyrdom of His followers, who underwent painful deaths vowing that Christ had risen? If you were lying about something like that, at what point do break? None of them did.

In the wake of the resurrection, Christianity was persecuted by sects of Judaism and Romans. If either of these two groups could have produced the body of Jesus that would have ended the argument. But they didn’t. They couldn’t.

Because there is an empty tomb in Jerusalem.

No matter how much we might agree with people of other faiths or people of good will, we believe that it is a fact that Jesus Christ, Son of God, rose from the dead. That defines who we are. And it divides us from other beliefs.

Jesus Christ either rose from the dead or He didn’t. This isn’t a matter of opinion that we can “agree to disagree” on. To raise the stakes even higher: it means that Christianity is either right, or it is wrong.

There is a reason why Easter is the highest holy feast of the Church. Everything in human history led to the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and everything has followed from it since. It was the moment that made us who we are. This was the moment that revealed the depths of God’s love for us. This was the moment that made salvation possible. Sin and death were conquered. The Church perpetually participates in this moment at every Mass. The Sacraments all flow from this event.

So if we shrug our shoulders and say, “Well, I think it happened, but maybe it didn’t,” then Christianity is replaced with, “Jesus was a good teacher who taught us to love each other.”

The Jews would agree with this. The Muslims would agree with this. Even the atheists would agree with this. There is a lot of pressure for those who follow Christ make that the “Good News” and to stop focusing on the divisive issue of the resurrection.

But there is an empty tomb in Jerusalem.

The Good News of Jesus Christ was not just to love each other. It was also about how much God loves us and what He did to save us from our sin. “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that through Him we might be saved” (John 3:16-17.) Jesus Christ, second person of the Trinity, Word of God made flesh, came to die for our sins. “For this is proof of God’s love for us: that Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8.) And as we say at Mass, “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory!”

The historical reality of the empty tomb points to another truth: Jesus will come again in glory. And at that time, there will be no “opinions” about God. We will know Him as He is.

For now, however, we only know Him partially. We know Him by what He has revealed. We know Him by what He has done. Some would claim because we don’t fully know Him then we don’t know Him at all—but that is absurd. It would be like suggesting a couple who are engaged don’t know anything about each other because they’re not married yet.

Let us unite in Christian charity with people of other faiths or those who have no faith at all. Let us work together for the common good to build a civilization of love. But let us not forget there is an empty tomb in Jerusalem, and that Christ will come again. Let us not be afraid to tell others this “Good News,” and engage in respectful dialogue about what we believe.

For what we believe isn’t just a matter of faith, it’s a matter of fact. And if it’s not, then it’s not worthy to believe in at all.

Was Jesus wrong about homosexuality?

45

gods_design_for_marriage_umjrThis is written for those who consider themselves to be followers of Jesus Christ.

Gay marriage has dominated the headlines in every major media source these past few days. Equal signs are everywhere in social media. Lawyers debate the “legality” of same-sex marriage. Proponents of gay marriage proclaim this as the new “civil rights movement.”

Often missing in this conversation is what God has to say about it.

That makes sense, I suppose, because the focus has been on the legality and not the spirituality of it. The Supreme Court doesn’t care what the Bible has to say. In a legal system that intentionally separates itself from the Church and Church teachings, how could one argue against it? Arguing against same-sex marriage without the foundation of God’s revelation is an uphill, if not impossible, battle. The lawyers tried to do that before the Supreme Court last week, and in a few months will see how that works out.

I’m not here to talk about the legal issues—I think those have been talked to death enough in the media. As a Christian, I’m happy when the law coincides with my faith, but I don’t necessarily expect it to happen. We who follow Christ are, “in the world but not of the world” (cf. John 15:19.)

What is more troubling to me is the common argument that, were Jesus Christ alive today, he would support same-sex marriage and homosexual activity. Few people are brazen enough to say that statement so boldly, but I find that underlying many arguments.

Take for example Dan Savage’s speech in his anti-bullying talks. He says, “the Bible was wrong about slavery and its wrong about homosexuality.” As if the slavery mentioned in the Bible had any comparison to the horrific kinds of slavery that was legal in the United States or currently goes on in the world (slavery in Scripture was more of an indentured servitude than a lack of freedom and rights. If anything, Scripture made it clear that even if someone is a slave, they are still part of the family of God should be treated as such.)

The heart of his argument is that even the Old Testament is out of date with the New Testament. Laws changed from the Old to the New, so why not homosexuality as well?

He has a point there. The morality expected of followers of Jesus Christ is different than what was expected of the Jews. But it wasn’t “changed.” It was elevated.

For example, the Sixth Commandment stated, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” For the Jews that was a specific action: you cannot sleep with another man’s wife. Jesus, however, elevated and fulfilled that commandment: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28.)

He did the same with marriage. “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery” (Matthew 19:8.)

The impression that some have that the Old Testament is “really strict” but the New Testament is “really loose” couldn’t be farther from the truth. Jesus not only cared about our outward actions but also our inward ones. That means the morality of Christ is elevated, not weakened. He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Profits. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17.)

And yet when it comes to homosexuality, many suggest (explicitly or implicitly) that Jesus “abolished” that law. I don’t see that anywhere in the Bible.

Of course, it’s a common argument to suggest that if Jesus were alive today he might say different things, as if he was “held back” by the culture at the time. Such a statement is ridiculous. Jesus hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes, told the Jewish people that the Temple would be destroyed, and knew that He would be killed in the most violent and reprehensible way a person could be killed. So at what point do you think He was scared to tell the truth? At what moment was He worried and thought to Himself, “Wow, I can’t say that! I’ll just have to wait for humanity to mature a bit.”

Jesus said that He was, “the Way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6.) He was either right or He wasn’t.

There are billions of people in this world who think that he was wrong. In fact, many specifically don’t believe in Christ over this very issue (though most other world religious agree.) I respect that. But what concerns me is the growing amount of Christians who are silent, or even becoming supportive of, these cultural issues of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Did Jesus ever specifically speak about homosexuality? No, He didn’t use that word. But He did speak about the importance of marriage and what it was really about: “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’” (Matthew 19:4-5.) In the context of that teaching, His message was clear: marriage is for a man and a woman, and sex is a part of marriage.

Though it sounds culturally harsh to even state this simple truth, people of the same gender can’t have sex with each other. They can simulate it, but that’s all. Their bodies weren’t made for such an interaction. They were not “made for each other.”

Again, saying things like that in today’s culture makes you sound like a bigot. It’s not “right” to suggest that the sexual activity between two men or two women are any different, or better, than a man and a woman. But there is a difference.

The even deeper issue regards our gender. Does being a man mean I just have a penis? If I’m surgically altered can I be a woman? Same-sex marriage argues that gender is irrelevant in marriage. It also argues that gender difference is unnecessary for raising a child. Decades of sociological research that said a child was best served by being raised by a man and a woman, a mother and a father, are being ignored. “That was just in reference to single mothers,” the critics say.

And now we get to the difficult issues. Am I saying that a homosexual couple can’t raise a child with love and support? No. Because a single mother can raise a child with love and support. But it’s not the ideal. There is a reason why God created us as man and as woman, created man and woman for each other, and why their sexual union brings about life. Children should be raised by the mother and father who created them.

But what of all the children given up for adoption? If the mother and father aren’t available to raise those children, then another man or woman becoming their mother and father is the next best thing.

I imagine I’ve upset and even offended some people by writing that last statement. Some writers like to write offensive things to get attention. That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to highlight the truth of what Christ taught. And God did not give us his revelation to belittle us or enslave us. He came to give us the truth, “and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32.) God’s truth is often in contrast to what the world believes. But He came to tell us what was right, not what we want to believe.

Again, there are many who don’t agree with what the Bible or Jesus taught. And so their support of same-sex marriage makes total sense. If we were not created in the image and likeness of God, if we were just amoebas who crawled out of some primordial soup, if there is no plan and purpose for our lives and our gender is merely a biological accident, then what does it matter?

If you are a follower of Christ, then it does matter. Gender matters. Sex matters. Marriage matters.

I am heartbroken to hear that many psychologists today are not allowed to help people overcome their same-sex attractions. There are many who argue people are “born that way” when it comes to same-sex attractions, but that’s not accurate. (To be clear: the Church teaches that same sex attractions are not sinful.) There are many who manifest same-sex attractions and behaviors because of conditions, and even trauma, in their life. I know a number of them who through counseling have been restored to heterosexuality.

I actually had to think a bit before I got to the word “restored” because I know “cured” or “healed” would be offensive. And that’s why many psychologists aren’t allowed to deal with the issue. If you can be “cured” of same-sex attractions, aren’t you suggesting it’s a disease?

But I wonder what would happen if a heterosexual came in to a counselor’s office and said, “could you help me have same-sex attractions?” If we truly believe in freedom and equality, and we acknowledge the power and benefit of psychological counseling, why can’t somebody use that science to help them be the person they want to be? If someone doesn’t want to have same-sex attractions, why can’t they have a professional help them?

Christians who are silent on these issues often try to have a “live and let live” mentality. But the real issue here is not about accepting diversity—it ends up being about forcing conformity. In Massachusetts, Catholic Charities had to stop providing adoptions because they were being forced to place children with same-sex couples. In England, Christian and Catholic schools are not allowed to teach what the Bible teaches about sexuality because the Bible is “anti-gay.” Already in public schools in the United States children are taught that gender doesn’t matter.

The equality that’s being talked about so much these days ends up being quite “unequal” where Christians are concerned. And here we find the problem with a society that pretends to embrace everybody’s diverse beliefs. When someone believes something is “true,” that implies that there are also things they believe that are “false.” There’s a serious conflict here. And if people of Christian faith aren’t more vocal and respectfully engage in this conversation (which is what I’m trying to encourage with this blog) then being silent means losing our “rights.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, talking about the second coming of Christ, says that, “the persecution that accompanies (the Church’s) pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of inequity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy against the truth” (CCC 675.) The definition of “apostasy” is: “the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief” (The New Oxford American Dictionary.) There are many followers of Christ who are tempted to abandon their religious (and political) belief because it seems the easy solution or because they are deceived into an false image of Christ who taught us to “accept everybody, challenge nobody.” But Jesus was never afraid to challenge his followers, even when it led to persecution.

John Paul II wrote, “Following Christ, the Church seeks the truth, which is not always the same as the majority opinion” (John Paul II, Familaris Consortio, 11.) Though it’s unpopular to say, I believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. I believe Him when He said that marriage was made for a man and for a woman. I believe God when He spoke that we were made as male and as female, and that man and woman were created to be one flesh.

I also believe it when He said that we were all made in the image and likeness of God. I believe it when Jesus said that we are to, “love one another as I have loved you.” I don’t believe anyone should be denied the respect and dignity that comes with being a child of God because of their beliefs, their sexual attraction, their ethnicity, or any reason. That’s not just my opinion but also the Catholic Church’s: “(People with same sex attractions) must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC 2358.)

That’s not a small point. The greatest commandment is love. There are those who believe the source of the bullying, discrimination, and violence against people with same sex attractions is the fault of Christianity and the Bible. I won’t deny there are some who claim to be Christian but act like the devil, especially on this issue. But they’re not the majority, and even if they were, they’re not right. Christianity teaches to love those you disagree with, even those who persecute you. I’ll be the first to admit that followers of Christ (like me) don’t often live up to His teachings. But Christ is the only way we can live with our differences and live in peace. For an example of what happens when you completely remove Christian morality from politics, see at what happened to Germany under Hitler. Jews, Catholics, and homosexuals all perished together in those concentration camps.

We all have the right to be treated with dignity. But Christ tells us that sex and marriage isn’t a “right.” It is a gift, and should be honored and protected as such. I’m sure it is painful for people with same-sex attractions to not have been given that gift. To not be able to have sex with each other. To not become “one flesh” and create life together. But changing the legality of marriage does not change the reality of marriage. And the consequences of doing so are far reaching.

PS. This blog wasn’t intended to give a complete overview of the Catholic Church’s teaching on sex and homosexuality. For a fuller treatment, go here.

(As always, you are welcome to post comments. I’m not sure how many will read this blog, or how many want to comment, but the last time I wrote a controversial blog I spent the whole day monitoring and editing and responding to comments. As a married man with kids and a full-time job, I’m afraid I don’t have time to do that. I said what I wanted to in my blog; you can say what you like in the comments. Unlike previous blogs, I’m allowing all comments to go unfiltered, and I ask that everyone would be respectful in tone towards each other, free from profanity, and not necessarily feel that every statement has to be responded to. I reserve the right to remove anything vulgar, demeaning, or obscene.)

Videos! And an update on Bobby (and me.)

7

Ouch.

If you’re not into reading X-rays, let me explain it to you: see that big crack in the femur? Yeah, that shouldn’t be there.

Two weeks ago my son Bobby (10 years old) was playing basketball. He fell backwards and everyone heard a loud CRACK! If you think that’s an unusual way to break a femur, it is. The doctors have diagnosed him with “fibrus dysplasia,” a weakening of the bone. That makes his already difficult recovery longer, and perhaps means he will need future surgeries to “augment” the bone.

Needless to say, it’s been a crazy few weeks. I was at the airport about to get on a plane to Michigan when I got the call. I had to cancel the event, but of course I knew the Holy Spirit would take care of it (He did.) To all in Wixon, sorry I missed out and hope to see you next year!

After spending five days at a hospital and two days in my living room (Bobby can’t yet climb stairs) I drove to Syracuse for the “Race to the Cross Rally” and then down to Philadelphia for the “Generation Phaith” conference. I brought my band with me and we had a great time, though my heart was a bit heavy with things going on at home.

And then on Monday, I flew off to England, which is where I’m writing from now.

How could I leave my family in such a state of crisis? I’ve been asking myself that, too :) As we all know, sometimes things just need to get done. A residency requirement is part of keeping me in my doctoral program, but the good folks have shortened my time here so I’m coming home next week (instead of the following.) And thankfully my mom flew in to help around the house while I’m gone.

I’m grateful for all who have been praying for us during this time. Your love and support mean a lot.

And now for something completely different…

Videos! A number of my scripts have come to life over the past few months, and I’ve been delinquent in posting them. So here they are. Hope you are blessed by them and can use them in your ministry.

How the Catechism Made Me Catholic

7

I remember looking down and seeing blood on my hands. My head was still spinning from the line of cocaine that I snorted in the bathroom. The prostitute I just had sex with was face down on the bed, murdered. Did I do it? I couldn’t remember. I heard sirens outside and footsteps running up the stairs to my apartment. That was the moment that I realized I needed a Savior. I needed Jesus.

Okay, none of that is true.

Truth be told, I have a very boring conversion story: I always loved Jesus. And then I loved Him more.

I was the good kid. Never drank. Never did drugs. Knew to save sex for marriage. In fact, I lived in fear of letting others down: my parents, my teachers, or even God. I was a straight A student and prayed every night.

So it might not be a surprise when I tell you that one of the most exciting moments in my conversion is when I did something that many consider boring:

I read the Catechism.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but the English translation was released in the spring of 1994. I was living in Orlando, Florida bouncing between two jobs. Some evenings I would play in bars with my band, “The Crowd.” Other evenings I worked at an improvisational comedy club. No matter what I did I was usually out until one or two in the morning, followed by a late night/early morning snack at the only restaurant in the area opened 24 hours—IHOP (which is where I often encountered a young Shaq and his entourage, but that’s another story.)

Getting home at 3 AM I’d turn on the TV and watch CNN, the only thing that was on. And one evening/morning they reported that the Catechism of the Catholic Church was coming out on Tuesday, the first time the Catholic Church had a universal catechism in 500 years. I didn’t know what a “catechism” was, but apparently it contained all the official teachings of the Catholic Church. I knew I wanted it. No, I knew I needed it.

You see, though much of my family was Catholic and I attended Catholic schools, I never really felt like I knew for certain what Catholicism was all about. The only time I heard about the Eucharist was in a Humanities class when the teacher asked, “Do you realize that the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Christ, not just a symbol? How many of you believe that?” And none of us raised our hands because we had never heard that before.

I had been blessed to have many friends who were Protestant, all of whom professed at times to know what Catholics believed. “You Catholics worship Mary,” one would say. “You think you’re saved by what you do, not by God’s grace,” would say another. This didn’t sound right to me, but I didn’t know how to defend it.

So to finally get the low down on what the Church actually taught was really exciting. I made sure on Monday night to set my alarm to get up early and head to my local Christian bookstore to get the Catechism.

But here was the thing—my local Christian bookstore didn’t carry it. “You should try a Catholic bookstore,” the woman at the counter said.

There are Catholic bookstores? This shows you how out of the loop I was.

So I drove around in haste to find my local Catholic bookstore. I was worried, assuming that every Catholic in Florida watched CNN and would buy up all the Catechisms before I could get one.

I eventually found “The Abbey Catholic Bookstore” in a strip mall squeezed between a pharmacy and a party supply shop. It was so small it felt more like a closet than a store. I remember lots of dark wood, crammed shelves, and no windows. But there on the counter was a stack of the book I coveted… The Catechism of the Catholic Church. I was clearly the first person to get one that day.

Immediately I bought it and took it home. I couldn’t wait to read it. I sat on my couch and looked through the index. There were some immediate questions I wanted to know the answer to: Was the Eucharist really the body and blood of Christ? (Answer: yes!) Do we really worship Mary? (Answer: not in the same way we adore Christ.) And what does the Church actually teach about sex? (Answer: Uh… you should just read it yourself!)

The answers made a lot of sense to me. It was like this book could articulate the things I always believed but never could explain. But once I had my questions answered, it started asking me things: Why did the Word become flesh? What is the purpose of life? Why do our prayers go unanswered sometimes?

As I read the answers, I grew deeper in my faith and fell more in love with the Catholic Church. If you asked me what I believed before the Catechism came out, I would have said I was a Christian who happened to go to a Catholic parish. But after reading the Catechism, I was Catholic.

I’ll never forget going to a Holy Thursday Mass a few weeks after I began reading the Catechism. They processed the Eucharist around the Church and reposed it in the Eucharistic Chapel. I followed it, fell to my knees, and wept. All I could say was, “You are God, You are God, You are God…”

And it was all because of the Catechism.

I know some people only use the Catechism to get answers to things they’re confused about. That’s not a bad place to start. But don’t just use the Catechism to get your questions answered—let it teach you about the faith.

At the end of every section is a summary of what it just taught titled, “IN BRIEF.” Start there. Make it a habit of your daily prayer to read just one IN BRIEF, and watch how your understanding of the faith deepens.

Speaking of prayer, many people suggest that you should start reading the Catechism at the last part, the one titled, “Christian Prayer.” I used to just make up prayer as I went along. But the Catechism gave me the wisdom of two thousand years of saints on how to grow more intimate with God, and my life has never been the same since.

The whole purpose of the Catechism isn’t to fill your head with religious trivia about what Catholics believe. It’s to help you experience “the love that never ends.” (CCC 25) John Paul II said that the aim of catechesis is “to put people, not only in touch with, but in intimacy with Jesus Christ.” And Cardinal Schönborn, who was one of the primary editors of the Catechism, said that Catechism was “a blueprint for the heart of Christ.”

Thanks to some wonderful Protestants who reached out to me in High School, I already had a deep love of Scripture. But reading the Catechism side by side with the Bible (70% of the Catechism’s footnotes are Scripture) transformed me and has made me the man I am today.

I know that my life was never the same after reading the Catechism. And I’m confident, if you start to read it, your life will never be the same as well. It’s a great thing to do during this Year of Faith.