Good Afternoon, St. Cecilia! My name is Jacob Redmond, and I am the most recent addition to the summer helper program.
Growing up, I was Catholic and went to Archbishop Neale School in Laplata, Maryland. During my time there, I learned a lot about the Lord. They taught me things like the ten commandments, the bible, and the rosary, but never told me that I could be in a relationship with Our Lord. No one told me that I could know Our Lord in the same way I know my closest friend. I did not know that the Lord and I could have conversations in which I would talk, and he would reply, and, most importantly, I did not know how to listen to his reply. I did not know how to enter a personal relationship with Him.
Lacking a relationship with Our Lord, I thought that being Catholic was pointless. I saw Catholicism as a whole bunch on standing and sitting on Sunday. I did not understand why I was Catholic, so in high school, I turned to the world for happiness.
I partied a lot starting in my freshman year through the first half of my senior year, but I was always interested in my theology classes. Particularly in my junior and senior year, I had a theology teacher named John Olon, who challenged my class to have a relationship with Our Lord. Bear in mind, this whole time, I was still living a very worldly life. In my mind, God was this big idea in the sky that was distant from us, so I ignored Mr. Olon and kept living a life trying to make myself happy.
Senior year of high school came around, and I was at rock bottom. By Christmas time that year, I was going to leave home and move in with a friend that was trouble. With my plans pretty much set, I went to a movie night hosted by Mr. Olon for his students. I liked his class and figured why not.
The movie was “Life is Beautiful” which is about a Jewish husband, wife, and son during the holocaust. The movie shows how, during the holocaust, the husband, Guido, sacrifice for the good of his family. For example, at one point, the family is brought to a concentration camp. His child starts asking questions about why they were there. So, the father comes up with the story that everyone in the camp is playing a game. He tells his son that in the game, the winner gets a tank, and the guys with guns are trying to get them out. All the son has to do in order to win a tank is to avoid the people. For the rest of the movie, Guido makes sure that the child is having fun playing the game. The father, in the face of the greatest tragedy in all of history, makes sure his son is having fun. Let the selflessness of Guido sink in for a moment. He wills the good of another through sacrifice. He loves his family.
I went away from that movie with a tear in my eyes. In my 18 years, I had done pretty much everything the world had to offer. I had drunk, smoked, fornicated, cheated, lied, and stolen. I had received all kinds of pleasures from these activities. But in all my life, I had never once encountered a person who loves so completely, like Guido in the movie. A love that selflessly lays its life down for the other.
I went home that night unsure about the whole Catholic thing, but I knew that I wanted to be in a relationship with the One who loves like that. Seeking that Person, but not knowing where to find Him, I got on my knees. I made the sign of the cross and said to the Lord, “Lord, if you want me to be Catholic, give me a sign in the next 24 hours.”
It is important to know that I was born on January 12th, 1999. My mom went into labor with me at 3:00 am. It is the night of January 11th, 2017, and Mr. Olon’s wife, Nahn, was due with her child on January 15th. That night after the movie, I was up late doing homework for the end of the quarter. Eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock, one o’clock, two o’clock, and nothing had happened. Then out of nowhere at 2:57 am, there was a text on my phone. It was from Mr. Olon which read, “Happy Birthday, looks like you are going to share a Birthday. Nahn just went into labor with our son.”
I started to cry then and there. Not because a man, whose wife was in labor with her son, took the time to text me, but because Jesus used this experience to reveal himself to me. John and Nahn had sacrificed a bit of their time, when Nahn was in labor, to will my good of companionship. Jesus showed me that how John loved me and how Guido loved his son, was a glimpse of how He loved me. Jesus used two men, who loved, to reveal Himself to me. That night, for the first time, I could say I knew our Lord and how He loved in a personal way. I got down on my knee, made the sign of the cross, and said, “Lord, you got me, I am yours. I will be Catholic. You win.”
From then on, I have continued to enter a deeper and deeper relationship with Our Lord. Things were still hard. I had vices, and still do, but that night a massive change occurred within my life. I choose to respond to Jesus’ call to enter into Him, with Him, and it is from that relationship that my life has been changed. It was not an idea, a philosophy, or a movement that changed me, but rather a relationship with a person.
It will be good to get to know you all during these strange times, and I ask that you please pray for me.