Last week, I ran into an old client at the Peoria County Courthouse. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him Noah. I represented Noah more than 20 years ago for some serious alcohol-related traffic ticket violations. During the last case that I assisted him with, I told him that it was obvious to everyone who knew him that he had a problem with alcohol. He became angry with me and refused to admit that he had an alcohol problem. After that, he continued to get into trouble with the law, but stopped coming to me for assistance.
Noah was in his 20s when he first came to me for legal assistance. He had graduated from a Catholic grade school and high school. Shortly after graduating from high school, he moved in with his Catholic girlfriend. They lived together for several years. She broke up with him after she finally came to the conclusion that he was never going to make a commitment to her.
I hadn’t seen Noah since the day I told him that he needed to get help for his alcohol problem. But then, within a period of six months, I saw him on three different occasions — two times at the courthouse and one time at a wedding that I attended.
When I saw Noah last week, I realized that I was running into him for a reason. I had originally planned on going to the courthouse the day before to file some documents, but I got tied up and ended up going the next day. That’s when I saw Noah.
When he saw me walk into the office where court documents are filed, Noah came over to me and asked if he could talk to me for a few minutes. I said yes and met with him in the hallway after I was done filing my documents. He looked ragged and worn out, and he appeared to be much older than his age.
Noah began the conversation by describing a criminal case that was pending against him. While proclaiming his innocence, he told me that he was being railroaded. After I listened for a while, I interrupted him and asked, “Is your mom still living?” He was taken aback by my question, but answered that she had died when he was in high school.
I asked him if she was a religious person while he was growing up. He said yes and then told me that she was a devout Catholic and was a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis. I then asked if he had a few minutes to follow me back to my office. I told him that I had something that I wanted to give to him. He said yes, but added that he didn’t have much time, because he had about 10 minutes left on the parking meter where his car was parked.
When we arrived at my office, I opened my desk drawer and pulled out a small, laminated card that had three prayers on it: the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be To The Father. I handed him the card and told him that there was a reason that we ran into each other at the courthouse. I then explained to him that I had intended on going to the courthouse the day before, but was unable to.
I reminded him that we had run into each other on three occasions during the past six months, and prior to that, we had not seen each other for more than 20 years. I told him that I believed that the reason we ran into each other was not to talk about his case, but because I needed to give him the card and ask him to pray the three prayers at least once every day.
I explained to Noah that I had experienced other situations where I had encountered lapsed Catholics whose mothers had been devout Catholics. I told him that even though a mother dies, her prayers live on and follow her children throughout their lives. I explained to him that his mother’s prayers were still benefiting him and that she was also able to petition God in Heaven to give her children the grace to come back into the Catholic Church.
I didn’t know how Noah was going to react to my request. I expected him to react negatively. I believed that his first thought would be, “Who does he think he is preaching to me about my faith? Why is he bothering me with this?”
But he didn’t react that way. He was genuinely touched by what I said to him. He told me that he would say the three prayers every day. I then explained to him that a lot of people become angry at God for not helping them, but they don’t think about the fact that they don’t have any relationship with God.
I told him that in order to have a relationship with anyone, there has to be communication on a regular basis. I told him that the prayer card was the beginning of a daily form of communication that would help him to begin to establish a relationship with God and His mother, and that they would respond by assisting him with his needs.
Noah thanked me for the card and then brought up his case again. We discussed the case until he remembered that he had to leave because he had a limited amount of time on the parking meter.
After Noah left, I realized how lonely he really was. He had never married and didn’t have any children. I’m sure he has friends, but what good are his friends if they aren’t willing or capable of telling him what he needs to do to get his life in order.
You can’t bring people back to the faith by harassing or lecturing them. The best way to accomplish this particular goal is to (1) show them by your own example that there are innumerable graces and blessings that come from a life of holiness and faith, and (2) get them to commit to say one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be To The Father every day.
When people follow through on this one, small, simple commitment, they open up a channel of communication with our Lord and our Lady, and begin to develop a relationship with them. Over time, the King and Queen of Heaven reach out to them and work in their lives, ever so slowly, and ever so powerfully.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said, “You may be the only Jesus a person ever sees.” She also said, “Whenever I meet someone in need, it is really Jesus in the most distressing disguise.”
Are you standing in for Jesus when you interact with others? Are you practicing the humility and courage that are necessary to help those who are in need of spiritual guidance?
If you’re not doing these two things, you’re not following God’s plan.