Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Andrew vs Leila Miller

It had been six years since I had stopped attending Catholic church.
I started off with the right intentions, did my share of studying religious options. Took pieces of each major sect that I found fitting.
Then went off on my own.
I made some good moves and bad ones. One particular bad choice sent me five years into the wrong direction. I became the bad guy, out of necessity. I eventually lucked out though, being part of the 1% that survives hard drug addiction relatively unscathed.

I've since removed that problem, but not the cause of it. So I began searching for a purpose. Some proof, some adjustment, something or someone to open my eyes.

I felt I was a good person on the inside, and I always treated people around me well. I'm known as a nice guy. Described as that person that makes you laugh and feel good, even the one to ask for advice.

I also sin casually. I sin regularly and knowingly. And so far, I'm still alive and well despite doing it. I've become the entertainer wherever I go. I use coarse language happily. I'm blunt, sarcastic, aloof and constantly finding inappropriate humor in things. I'll even ponder funny scenes in my head... during a funeral.

But now it's time to get serious. I'm getting to the age where finding a wife and building my own family is the next step. If I want to find the One, I need to be the One to find as well.

So to get started on fixing Andrew Centrella-
I figured I'd choose the strictest, most guilt-ridden and staunch religion there was to investigate over again.

Enter Leila Miller. Imagine the sweetest lady you've ever met, and you have some idea of Leila. She's got a huge pile of kids, and they're all adorable angels. Along with her husband, there isn't a family closer to the idealized perfection you'd see on 1950s television.

Leila fearlessly sticks her chin out with a very, very Catholic set of morals. She even posts her guts online, inviting an onslaught. Leila regularly jumps face first into touchy subjects- some of them challenging my own core beliefs. I admired that. Who is this crazy woman?

So I read up on her. This lady sticks to her guns- Jesus in the right hand, and Virtue in the other.

Normally I'm the distant critic, never fully attached to any one idea. Leila's the exact opposite, her steadfast resolve impressed me.
But instead of praising her, I attacked her. She represented what I wanted to be, but couldn't be. All the mental back and forth I had developed over my ugly lifetime, I flung at her, hoping to either learn something or cause damage.

Even if I secretly agreed with her position on some things, I'd still poke and prod at her with commentary. Where previous opposition would admit defeat, Leila would come right back with a hard jab of Convincing, and a right hook of Documentation. Despite me being some online faceless punk, she fought me with all the patience and love of a good mother.

Her goal wasn't to beat me, but to save me.

Fast forward some time, and she eventually gets the crazy idea to invite me to her Catholic mass.
Her Catholic bubble.

Brave move on her part. Sure you can get to know someone a bit through online chatter, but I'm no saint. In fact, at that point I fully admitted to her I was complete scum, yet she welcomed me without hesitation.

I've been to mass hundreds of times, but I was rusty. The crowd would recite their routine responses and prayers. I remembered most of them, but didn't speak a word.

So Leila is bowing her head respectfully, the priest is talking, and I'm trying to listen.

Then I look up at the ceiling and imagine Jesus bursting in, shooting some Conversion Lasers, beating me up in action hero fashion, blessing everyone else then backflipping his way out the door.

Dammit concentrate. This is your salvation, you jerk.

Father John, a jolly rotund fellow in a green dress, begins the Eucharist.
He lifts up the Body of Christ and says what he should.
Despite how lousy I know that cracker tastes. I'm starving.

Oh man, I could eat a whole bowl of that. Actually, screw that cracker. Jesus should taste more like a bacon-wrapped filet mignon, medium rare. Oh and with sauteed mushrooms and onions.

Now the priest is lifting up the Blood of Christ and taking a sip.
Is that a house cabernet? I'd like a glass or three.

People are filing out of their pews now. My turn's coming up! I'm so ready to eat some Jesus. Then I look at Leila, who appears proud that I haven't run out yet, and remember that I CAN'T accept the Eucharist without first going into Confession.

And before I can go into Confession, I have to list out every bad thing I've done according to an Examination of Conscience. After taking this exam, I scored a "You are the Devil"

Leila's still encouraging, helping me set an appointment for a Confession. When the lady from St. Thomas calls me to schedule, poor thing will have to clear out the whole day. Figure I'll bring Father John lunch for the first half, and dinner for the second.

I'll update as this evolves.

Oh, and so this blog's headline isn't a complete disappointment... Leila won the fight.


  1. Oh I remember "flinging myself" at a few folks that told me the TRUTH a while back. It's all part of learning humility on an awesome path back to God. 'Can't wait for the updates Andrew. I'm praying for you!

  2. Trying to think of a good enough comment to leave. Can't think of anything to do this justice.

    You are a special guy, Andrew, I will say that. And I didn't win, you did. :) (Well, God did…)

    Keep writing. I'm following.

  3. Welcome Home! You will be in my prayers as I too fought the Truth once, but have now found such comfort in Her. The journey can be painful at times, but oh-so-worth-it. Looking forward to reading more!

  4. Conversion lasers! Lol.

    I will be praying for you Andrew. My conversion took me years. I made excus after excuse and I've come to realize that I'm not going to be all holy overnight. I still have work to do and I'm still not in communion with the church. I am on the path and tryig my hardest and that's all we can do. We're only human! You want it, and it will come. Some of your faults will turn into strengths. Your inappropriate humor could very well turn into a great blog like BadCatholic's. Things like that.

    I just suggest you read read read. Karl Keeting is my hero. His books helped me so much when I was converting and they are great refreshers. I've read the whole catechism as well but I don't necessarily recommend that as light reason. Lol.

    Hi. I'm Kara and I ramble. My conversion story is online too. We all start out broken. You have a great mentor in Leila. :) good luck!

  5. Andrew, to paraphrase the Princess Bride, "you've fallen victim to one of the classic blunders: never go up against Leila Miller when faith is on the line."

    Welcome to the rest of your life.

    "Break the conventions; keep the Commandments."--GK Chesterton

  6. You know I have to correct you on something or it wouldn't be me: That "perfect family" thing? Bwahahahahaha! Ummmm, ask my kids or husband and they will disabuse you of that notion!! :)

  7. Aw, these friendly words of encouragement hit me right in the chest. Thank you everybody! :)

  8. Sneaky Leila had others praying for you, too. ;) Welcome home!

  9. Welcome home Andrew! Leila was there for me, too, when I really needed a listening ear - and, ditto JoAnna's comment!

  10. Hey Andrew, this is actually a very inspiring post! Don't you forget about the righteous Scribe and the poor tax collector. The one who asked for mercy went away justified and the other---not so much.

    I think you are going to be SHOCKED at how easy confession is going to be and how great you feel afterward. I'll be praying that you actually keep that Confession appointment. Follow-through is everything! :-)

    Can I tell you a story. At age 25, I had totally, totally screwed up my life with mortal sin. (I was Protestant, so I didn't have confession to save me!) I was sight-seeing in Paris and walked into Notre Dame Church. I mumbled the Hail Mary that was printed on the English visitor's guide. Now this was my first e Hail Mary I'd ever said in my life. Afterwards, I had an intense experience after saying that prayer. I told God in that moment, that I was ready "to date His way."

    (I didn't even know what His way was, I just knew that my way was totally not working).

    I didn't even realize what was going on, but my heart changed in that second. All through the rest of my trip to Paris, I kept seeing happily married couples. I was a ambitious career girl, who had been totally afraid of marriage and kids--yet I just felt this little tug like "I'd like to feel that..."

    Three weeks later, (back in the States), I met my husband! We had been living practically next-door to each other for 2 1/2 years and never, ever saw each other before. Nine months after my prayer, I got engaged. 18 months later we were married. Soon afterwards I converted to the Catholic faith and got pregnant with my first child.

    My husband and I are now married for 10 years, I'm pregnant with our fifth kid--and we have a happy life.

    God adores U turns!!!

    If God is planting this desire in your heart, it means that you have a very special vocation to marriage with a very, very special lady. Pray for her, even though you haven't met yet.

    You'll be in our hearts and our prayers!

  11. Love conversion stories! Can't wait to journey along with you! And sending prayers your way...it's not always easy to find your way home.

  12. PS Andrew, Leila didn't win!

    Mommy Mary did!

    All of us Catholic girls are just pale reflections of her wonderful heart! :-)

  13. Andrew,
    I'm the wife of Clark Kent, the one you shook hands with at Leila's Catholic mass. I was born on your feast day. Yup - and I turn 50 next week. I'm going to ask God for a big 1/2 century birthday present - to give YOU all the grace you need to continue this journey. It ain't over yet... and you, like the rest of us, are a saint in the making. St. Andrew's feast day is Nov. 30 - next week. Praying your confession is scheduled for that day because St. Andrew, your namesake, is already in your court shooting baskets with the Lord on your behalf. I'm praying to him to pray for you and all the rest of heaven, too. Many blessings to you, Andrew!!

  14. For so long Andrew, He has waited for you!! Enjoy your conversion "moon"....Have so much fun during this time!!

    Now maybe you can convert Leila from her "real fruit" cereal. :)

  15. Oh and this post seriously made me laugh and cry!! LOL

    And get rid of this word verification!! :)

  16. Abigail, exactly! Talk about the perfect Mother. Mary is all yours, Andrew.

  17. And, as soon as your ready, I am a pretty good matchmaker!! heh heh heh!

  18. @ April.

    I felt like such a jerk, wow. I'm looking at your husband. This dude is Clark Kent.
    So he turns around, right as routine "Peace be with y-"
    "DON'T TAKE OFF YOUR GLASSES! They'll know you're Superman!"
    and he just turns around like wow.
    haha oh man.
    All of you are so nice. Big time. :)

  19. Great post! I've seen you on Leila's Facebook page and for some reason always imagined you to be a friend of her kids! I'm not sure why! Haha. Looking forward to reading more of your journey :)

  20. Andrew, I think you may be the only person to ever have described Fr. John as "jolly". I loved this, tho I think I may not be able to look at the ceiling at church without picturing conversion lasers and a back flipping Jesus. Welcome home!