I was baptized Catholic and grew up going to Mass every Sunday with my family in Chicago. I went to public schools and so I attended CCD or Sunday School so that I would be educated in the faith. I tried my best to do well in school and I played many sports growing up: Baseball, Soccer, Basketball, Wrestling, and Tennis. My twin brother and I were Confirmed in the 8th Grade. He claimed that he had some kind of spiritual experience. But, I don’t remember having one. I remember thinking about God when we visited our Great Grandmother and Great Great Aunt. They were old and were always praying.
In high school, my brother and I played Soccer, Wrestling and Tennis. With school and sports, we were very busy. We went on a few retreats. However, we didn’t get involved in the parish youth group because none of our friends came to it. We continued to go to Mass with our family all throughout high school. I thought this was important but my faith wasn’t very strong at this point. My faith was not tangible, it was more head knowledge. There is nothing wrong about learning about our faith. But, we need more than just head knowledge about Jesus.
My Dad had attended the University of Notre Dame and he would bring my brother and I to the football games every year. We were enamored with Notre Dame. When we thought of college, Notre Dame was the only place we wanted to attend. We applied and were accepted.
At Notre Dame, my brother and I were placed in the same dorm, in two quads across the hall from each other. So, there were 8 Freshman who got to know each other well. I had a good Freshman Year and had to study hard in my major, Electrical Engineering.
When we came back Sophomore Year, one of our classmates started asking my brother if he wanted to go on a retreat. My brother turned him down, so he started asking me. I turned him down as well because I was too busy to give up a whole weekend. Finally, he asked if I wanted to attend a weekly seminar. I realized that I had no conflict and also realized that I could be doing more about my Catholic Faith. So, I said yes. My brother didn’t go.
The seminar was in the chapel of another dorm (Each dorm at Notre Dame has a chapel in it). The seminar consisted of a talk and a small group discussion. The talk was about how God made the universe and that this amazing God wants a relationship with us. I remember thinking to myself, “If God exists and he wants a relationship with me, why wouldn’t I want that?”
After the small group discussion, I left the chapel and was walking through that dorm on my way to go back to my dorm. While I was walking, I was thinking about what I wanted to do that evening: get pizza, watch a movie… As I was examining what to do for fun, it was as if Jesus showed up. All of a sudden, Jesus became real to me. I felt his presence. I had a tangible faith. I had never experienced this before. I also experienced a deep love and hope. I felt like my life had purpose.
I went back to my dorm and told my brother about the experience. I went back to the seminar on the following Friday and finally convinced my twin brother to attend on the 3rd Friday. He was affected by the seminar, too. I remember talking with him over breakfast on the next day and sharing about the peace that we both experienced.
After this experience I started having a personal prayer time for the first time in my life. I would go down to our dorm chapel after I finished my homework–around midnight. I started reflecting on the Gospels. The scriptures came alive to me. I heard God speak to me through the words of scripture. I felt like I was getting to know Jesus better. I also started seeing God working in the details of my life
There is so much more that happened after this, but this will have to suffice. One final note, the encounter with Christ that I had, changed the direction of my life. It is the reason why after getting my Electrical Engineering degree that I went back to school to get a Masters in Theology. It is also the reason why I pursued pastoral work in the Church, rather than Engineering. My twin brother has worked as an Engineer all of his career. I am grateful for the direction the Lord sent me in; the opportunity to meet so many people and have many conversations about faith.
By Glenn Rymsza