Let me share a couple of milestones with you. At an early age I found refuge with my grandparents. The unconditional love I received from them helped me discover Jesus later in my life. My grandmother taught me to pray while my grandfather taught my brother and I how to play poker. I remember my grandmother catching us playing poker for peanuts. She was mad at him yet he had this small smile on his face and said, “Honey, how are these kids ever going to learn about life if they don't learn how to play poker?”
The rest of my world was far from paradise. Parents fighting, later divorced, moving from school to school, mother takes her own life, but through it all I never seemed to get angry with God as I perceived Him then. I knew no theology, nothing about the Godhead, just that somehow I was loved.
At age 15 while living with my dad and stepmother, a friend and I were caught doing something we shouldn’t have been doing. It was California in the early 70s, so you can use your imagination.
Not wanting my father to know, I told the officers I lived with my grandparents. Handcuffed and humiliated at 15, I stood at my grandparents’ door with my grandmother crying as she saw her little Richie in that state. Feeling an inch tall, I heard a voice come from their bedroom. “Richie, come here.” I walked to my grandfather, same smile on his face as before. He said, “Richie, looks like you’re in the doghouse”
“Yeah,” I said
He said, “I will talk to your father. You stay with us through tomorrow and after work we will talk.”
The next night my grandfather and I walked down the long driveway together, eating the same kind of peanuts we once gambled with together. He put his arm around me and said, “Richie, I am not worried about you. I know you’re going to be alright.”
He hugged me under the stars and we both shed a few tears together.
Many milestones later I made a deal with my wife in order to go to Utah to get rich selling franchises with my brother-in-law. She said that if we were going to move to Utah she wanted me to learn about her Catholic faith. I saw money, in all honesty. I took a gamble and agreed.
I remember walking through the doors of the Catholic Church up on campus. As I learned about the Catholic sacrament of confession, it was then that I found my new home. The familiarity for me was breathtaking.
One year later I was baptized into Christ. I knew then that everything I saw in my grandparents was from Jesus. This is what the church was offering me, a sinner in transition—the same unconditional love I had witnessed from many encounters in my life—the love of Jesus through others.