'I Didn't Have that "Aha" Moment'

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Paul Ritter ’88 J.D.

My conversion began on March 7, 2005.

That was my “fourth day”—a term familiar to those who have made a Cursillo (an intense, three-day retreat conducted at the diocesan level). For two years before that, I had declined multiple invitations to attend Cursillo. As the father of three young kids, an attorney in a demanding job, and a loving husband, I didn’t have to look far to find 15 different reasons why I couldn’t come up with three open days over a long weekend. Besides, I was a cradle Catholic, blessed with God-loving parents and brothers and sisters—I didn’t really need anything like that.

Then in 2005, tired of a friend’s persistence and, inexplicably, a wide open calendar, I agreed to go. But from the moment I said I would go, I dreaded it. Even as I got there and went through the weekend, I didn’t feel I was really getting much out of it. I was a pretty private guy, and I treated my faith as something very personal; something between me and God. On top of that, as I said, I didn’t feel like I needed it. I was okay with where I was in my relationship with God.

On the retreat, I disliked the small tables and faith sharing and interpersonal discussion. I panicked at the very idea of sharing my faith publicly. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was ready to go home. I remember counting down the hours—literally—on the margin of my notebook. As I sat there, I felt like I had failed. I didn’t have that “Ah-ha!” moment—the feeling of being overcome by the fire of the Holy Spirit—like some of the other people on the retreat.

I couldn’t help but wonder if I had done something wrong. Was I not praying hard enough? Was I not listening closely enough? Maybe I wasn’t spiritually deep or even smart enough? I wanted to feel that fire of the Holy Spirit; but I didn’t. So I had every intention of putting the whole experience behind me. I attended the weekend and checked the box; now it was time to go home and get back to “normal.”

Twelve years ago I walked away from that weekend intending to leave it all right there. On my way out the door, someone invited me to a prayer group. I remember saying, “Sounds good. Shoot me an email.” But inside I was thinking there was no way I would do that!

Well, what I didn’t know then that I know now is that the fire of the Holy Spirit was alive and well inside of me, and it would lead me to that prayer group. And after that, the Spirit would lead me to daily Mass and to the daily rosary, to weekly adoration, and to monthly reconciliation. The Spirit would lead me to pray with my family and with co-workers. The Spirit would help me put a crucifix on the wall in my office and start meetings with prayers. The Spirit would lead me to an insatiable appetite to study the Bible. The Spirit would lead me to minister to the sick and helpless. The Spirit would lead me to giving talks about my faith to large groups. I did not believe I was capable of doing any of this 12 years ago.

These are not things I share with you to tell you how pious I am—far from it. Like most, I am a work in progress. This is offered only to show you what is possible when we turn our lives over to the Holy Spirit. Because without God, nothing is possible. With God, all things are possible.