From a very young age I knew that there were many things in our world that could not be properly explained. Early on I learned that the vast majority of them were dismissed as "not real" because there was no supporting evidence of their existence. As someone with higher than average grades in school I felt some pressure to align with a scientific or clinical outlook on the nature of our world, but I never really adopted these views wholeheartedly because I felt they made the mistake of ignoring anything that did not fall neatly within the confines of their defined systems.
At the same time, as I was being raised a Roman Catholic, I had a strong distaste for attending Church each Sunday. I was also put into religious education programs intended for the Catholic youth, and found them fairly distasteful as well. The issue to me was that I quickly understood the difference of right and wrong from a young age. Because of this I felt that attending weekly mass was a waste of time, as was attending religious education. I would have much rather spent that time reading whatever happened to catch my fancy.
Worse, it was apparent to me that a significant number of people who attended Mass each Sunday were not there to benefit from any sermons, but rather to make an appearance socially to their own benefit. Their tithes to the Church were less about benefiting the Church or to those in need, and more about showing off how much wealth they had managed to accrue, therefore gaining influence in the community. They were hypocrites, and I could see it more easily the older I got.
As a violinist I was approached by one of my High School music instructors about joining the small folk group of musicians who performed various music pieces for each Sunday Mass. My parents were ecstatic, because they perceived it as a great honor. As someone who was not accustomed to saying the word "No" to authority, I accepted the invitation and began practicing a few nights each week with the folk group. Instead of sitting with my family in the pews, I sat to the left of the altar with the rest of the folk group each Sunday. It was never a pleasant experience being under the bright lights, and on a few occasions during Mass I grew lightheaded or nauseous, which in hindsight appeared to have been caused my tendency to lock my knees while standing.
The folk group was lead by one of the priests assigned to our Parish by the Catholic Archdiocese. He was younger than most of the other priests, had dark hair, a well-kept beard and a mustache and sharp, penetrating eyes. I never felt relaxed around him, even though he presented himself as a relatively calm, peaceful individual. He presented himself as an authority even though he did not necessarily adopt the more traditional mannerisms of the other priests at that Church.
As a High School senior, I, along with other teenagers in my parish, were given the opportunity to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, which was really more along the lines of being pressured into receiving the sacrament (because the alternative was unthinkable). At the time I had not yet fully reached a point in my life where I felt that I had full autonomy over the decisions I would make, so I went ahead with the ceremony, chose a Confirmation name and received the sacrament. I graduated from High School and the following semester went off to college.
During my first year in college I learned that the priest who lead the folk group at my church had been accused of and found guilty of assaulting multiple women who were members of our parish. They had gone to him privately for counseling, but as to the specifics of what occurred I knew little except that he violated their trust and committed very real crimes. To add insult to injury, I also learned that this particular priest had already committed similar crimes in the past, and instead of being held accountable for those crimes, the Catholic Archdiocese had "punished" this priest by relocating him to our parish.
On these revelations I decided to depart from the Roman Catholic Church. With the sole exception of a funeral for my late step-father, I have not set foot into that particular Church ever since. That being said, I never stopped believing that there was a God and possibly other higher powers at work, directing and influencing the events of our world.
I spent the next several years while in college and afterward researching and learning about various other belief systems, mythologies and religions found around the world. I spent a significant amount of time studying shamanism, and notably came into direct contact with Voodoo on multiple occasions while living in New Orleans. Throughout these studies, my understanding of right and wrong never wavered; if anything it became much more pronounced. One of my neighbors in New Orleans once made a point of telling me that I was "the most standup guy he knew," and that phrase always stuck with me. I remained as honest and forthright as I knew how. I lived by the tenants of the Bible. Whenever I could, I tried to help my fellow man, as I continue to do to this very day.
When Hurricane Katrina trapped my family in New Orleans, my faith never wavered. I knew with certainty that we would escape that situation. It is my belief that the only reason we escaped the city unscathed, and with great swiftness, was due to divine intervention. Too many events occurred during our exodus that were timed in such a way as to make that escape possible. To call these events nothing more than "coincidence" would be to ignore this divine intervention. In my mind, to ignore the divine, especially when it has come to the aid of those you love, is perilous. My understanding is that life is made up of many lessons, and sometimes the lessons are very difficult for those who refuse to learn.
Our country, the United States of America, is now in peril. It is my opinion that this peril comes as a consequence of a tendency by a significant portion of the population to disregard the divine in their everyday lives. However, there is an equal portion of the population that is currently experiencing a renewal of their faith, including those who have long felt abandoned by the Church, or by God. I am comforted to know that I am not alone in the feeling that we, as a nation, are facing great evil, and that this evil has been unmasked for all those who choose to see it. The phrase "put on the Armor of God" is referenced time and time again for a very good reason, and I bid all of you to gird yourself against this evil at all times. Be not afraid.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” - Psalms 23:4
More will be revealed my friends.