Friday, May 28, 2010

Because God Makes Me Secure

I "met" Ricky Jones earlier this week after he responded to a guest post on the universality of the Church. Meredith Cummings' post talked about how, as a white woman and a convert, she grew to understand the Church is not just for Hispanics. Her post spoke to Ricky, who is an African-American man married to a Latina. Ricky, also a convert, designs websites for Catholics.  He  is an advanced student at the Instituto de Formación Bíblica, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Guest post by Ricky Jones
I wasn’t born Catholic nor have I been a Catholic for very long. I was baptized about two years ago. Like most people, I never thought I did wrong, or that I was a sinner. I didn’t even know what sin was. Until the age of 23, no one ever had taught me anything about God. All I knew was that some people believed that He created us and that if we don’t do His will, we’re going to go to hell. I met my girlfriend, Johana, five and a half years ago in Phoenix, and thanks to her and her family, if not God Himself, I began to learn about God.

I would go with her and her family to Mass every Sunday, but just to go. I didn’t understand the majority of what they said in church. They are Mexicans and were all raised as Catholics. At the beginning, I didn’t want to know anything about religion, because in school they had taught me that God doesn’t exist and that we come from monkeys. That’s probably why I came out so hairy. My mother was never “religious,” and did she not teach me anything about God.
I started taking RCIA classes in English because I didn’t feel prepared to take them in Spanish yet. I had been taking the classes for a few months when we decided to move to Los Angeles. We felt secure because we both had good jobs and we were both able to transfer. I worked from home as a web designer and she as a sales associate in a high-end clothing store. It was her parents who didn't feel so sure about our move. Her father had been out of work for six months and they had sold most of their belongings to start fresh in California.  Johana always told me that she wanted to get married in the Church and I would always respond that I didn’t want to get married at all. But one Sunday while she was at work, I decided to go to Mass alone. It was there that I felt God’s presence for the first time. It was the first time that I actually listened to what the priest was saying. But it was not what they said that impacted me, it was a feeling that “woke me up.” I felt a calling from within that I could not explain and since that moment I decided to convert to Catholicism.
We faced many problems as we arrived in Los Angeles. First, the people who had invited us to stay in their house (all seven of us in one bedroom) got angry with us and we had to go out and find a place to live. I found a two-bedroom apartment and we lived much better there. I had to start the RCIA classes all over again, but this time Johana joined me because she wanted to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. We were a small group of six or seven people, but we really liked the sister who was our catechist. After being baptized, confirmed, and receiving the Eucharist for the first time, I felt… the same. We even had a party since it was also my birthday and I drank way more than enough. I didn’t change my mindset or my lifestyle, because I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.
About six months later, we began to grow closer to the church. We regularly attended a prayer group and we really enjoyed the singing and dancing. One night in the group they asked, “Who has fear of losing their job?” Obviously I, the American with the good job who earned good money, was the only person who didn’t raise his hand. I was secure in my job because I was always told by my co-workers that they loved my work. The same week I was on the phone with my father and he asked me the same, “Are you secure in your job?” Again I respond, “of course.” It seems I was a little arrogant, I’m sure. The next day I was speaking with my supervisor about a project we were working on, when he casually mentions, “Oh… we need to talk, me, you, and someone from human resources. We are experiencing a reduction in force and they told me I had to let someone go, and I chose you.” I was speechless, probably because I thought I was “secure.”
After I hung up the telephone, I began to cry. But something made me fall to my knees and I told God, “Thank you my Lord. I know there is a reason for this. I know that you want me to be humble and that you will give me a better job than this one.” This is was the moment that I was reborn. I still haven’t found another job. I now run my own business as a website designer, focusing on websites for Catholics. Most importantly, I have found God and His word. He has taught me so many things. I feel richer than ever. Not rich in money, but rich in love, faith, wisdom, understanding, and much more.We have had many problems between us, with family and with neighbors, but with God as the center of our relationship and our family life, everything came out fine. Thank the Lord, we married in August. Every day, I give thanks to God for the changes He has made in me. My wife and I now are Eucharistic Ministers at our parish, Mary Immaculate Catholic Church  in Pacoima, CA, where I also serve as a lector.
I give thanks for the transformation He has made in my life. Now I can say I am truly secure.