Our culture keeps preaching selfishness, convenience, unaccountability. We’re bombarded with these messages.
Fortunately for me, there are so many in my life that thought the opposite and made a profound impact on me. Most of them did it through the Church and because of their love for Christ. I have been blessed.
My story is kind of unique. I don’t know my birth parents but I do know a little about the circumstances of my birth. From what I understand, my birth mother and my birth father had an affair. My birth father (married and father of two) left the picture. My birth mother, on her own, heroically brought me to term and decided to place me for adoption.
I was born in a Catholic hospital and put into the care of the Sisters of Charity. I was placed in an orphanage for infants and baptized a week later. I spent the next eight-and-a-half years in the care of the Church. After the infant home, I entered the Catholic Social Services foster care system, and eventually another orphanage. Most of my time in foster care was spent with a foster family who wanted to adopt me but they ended up having to place me back into the system. Instead of going to another home, my caseworker placed me with an orphanage in Cincinnati. It was there that I met my adoptive parents who were volunteering for the summer. God finally gave me my “forever” family when I was 8½.
The reason I lasted so long in the system was because I was born with significant cranio-facial birth defects. I have a cleft lip and some structural issues with the right side of my face.
As I grew, the deformity of my face really started to show itself. Essentially, the right side of my face did not grow with the left side. During my childhood, I endured several operations on my lip and major operations to build up my jaw, cheek, nose, and ear. (My jaw was built up via one of my ribs; and my cheek via a significant chunk of my hip.) I also had extensive work done on my mouth. Every summer after my adoption was pretty much spent prepping for surgery, in the hospital, and then recuperation.
The doctors did a miraculous job. Today, you can still see the scars and something still looks askew with my face. You can also see that my eyes have a disorder which causes one eye to look off to the side. (If I am looking at someone, they often think I am looking at someone else.) My face can be an annoyance (especially for someone seeing me for the first time) but it’s just that-an annoyance. As I said, the docs did a miraculous job.
Now, I know that some think that I have had it tough.
But, I can’t think that way at all because I know that I have the Catholic Church to thank for making me who I am.
I doubt my birth mother was walking closely with God when she became pregnant with me, but she thought enough of her faith and the Church to call Catholic Social Services at some point during her pregnancy. I was born in a Catholic hospital, reared in two Catholic orphanages and several Catholic families. I was adopted by a Catholic family. I went to a Catholic grade school, a Catholic high school and then a Catholic college.
At each step, Christ worked through his Church to take care of me.
Unfortunately, I didn’t always appreciate this grace. My parents were practicing Catholics and I was really “into” my faith during high school and college. But, once I left home to go out on my own, I started to fall away. I hadn’t learned the foundation that I needed in order to stick with the active practicing of my faith. Interestingly, for some reason, I did go to Mass every so often, even sometimes during the week.
The fact is that I just didn’t get it-I didn’t get why I was Catholic and I never asked why either.
About six years ago, I began to really question my Catholicism. Why was I Catholic? I couldn’t answer the question.
So, I started on a faith journey-a conversion of sorts. I started reading and praying and practicing devotions (I even went to confession). I started asking questions and receiving answers. I began to learn for the first time the beauty and glory of the Church and our faith.
I finally started getting it.
And I started realizing that the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, St. Jerome (the patron saint of orphans) and my guardian angel all have led me throughout my unique life.
My Mom & Dad and my birth mother acted heroically in my life. My birth mother in loving me enough to have me and then placing me in an environment where I could have a chance at success in life. My Mom & Dad in taking a hurt and deformed child into their home and raising me with a love that was saintly. I also have great love for my extended family, my foster families, caseworkers, counselors, doctors, nurses, teachers, and others who built me throughout my childhood.
Here is the result of their work to date.
I am now on my second decade of marriage and in mad love with my wife. We have two incredible children. The most important roles in my life are husband and father. I also am an attorney living a comfortable middle class lifestyle and actively involved in the community. I am a proud 3rd Degree Member of the Knights of Columbus.
And now I can say that I am a devout Catholic in love with Christ and his Church. I am also a repentant sinner trying to repair his relationship with God step by step.
Oh, I am also realizing that I have seen the face of Christ throughout my life. I have witnessed his love. And I recognize the expectations he has of me to be his face to others and be a witness to others of his eternal love for them.
We live in a suffering world. But we can overcome anything, if we live each day knowing that he is present everywhere at every moment. My life is a testament to the divine love of God.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.