My journey to baptism started with a plunge into water. My wife and I were awakened late at night by an odd sound. We stumbled downstairs to investigate, but finding nothing amiss, went back to our room. Then we heard the crash. We jumped up and peered out the windows, but saw only the dark and empty street. Our kids were still fast asleep. My wife suggested we check outside, “Just in case.” When we opened the door, we heard a faint cry coming from the bridge over the canal by our house. As I ran, the voice became clearer, more panicked. I saw a car in the water beneath the bridge, almost entirely submerged. Someone was trapped inside, banging on the rear window, screaming for help. I swung myself off the bridge into the dark canal.
There was a moment in the water that seemed to stretch out into eternity. The night was pitch dark, except for an eerie glow from the car; piercing cries cut through the quiet. My hand grasped at the rear door handle, but the door didn’t budge. I felt sure the person inside was going to drown in front of me. I moved to the front door and managed to open it. Reaching into the car, I felt an arm in the murky waters and pulled out a young man. When my wife reached the bridge moments later, he and I were embracing in the darkness and the car had been swallowed up by the water.
In the days and weeks that followed, I kept replaying the events in my head. Driving was difficult. I often broke down in tears when I entered the car. My wife and I wrestled with what had happened and all the circumstances that had made it possible. I was supposed to be on an international work trip that night, but my flight had been cancelled. What was the odd sound that had woken us up before the crash, enabling me to get downstairs and outside in time? How did I get the car door open? We decided to meet with our priest, Fr. Swantek, who had brought my wife into the Catholic Church and married us. We discussed what had happened and delved into my struggles with faith. He encouraged me to pray to the God I didn’t believe in for the faith I wanted.
A few weeks later, I felt an overwhelming call from Mary. It made no sense to me. I had been raised as an agnostic and was really an atheist in practice. In high school, I had briefly converted to Christianity and attended an evangelical and then a mainline Protestant church, but Mary was never mentioned outside of Christmas services. My wife is a Catholic convert, but Marian devotion was not part of our household. Like many converts, my wife had struggled with the teachings on Mary. Yet here I was, with this profound calling in my heart, and a certainty that it was from Mary.
I needed to discover who Mary was, so I dived into research. She came to my aid, providing me with insights that came with a clarity and certitude I couldn’t explain. Her voice was mysterious and forceful, gentle and seemingly irresistible, like a call of the conscience.
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