Catholic Revert

Chris Tray

Chris Tray has been involved in music ministry for over twenty years and has been blessed with the creation of some beautiful music. However, it was not until he was on an "Into the Wild" Catholic men's group retreat that he came to feel the presence of Jesus in his life. This story is about that moment.

Prior to joining the Catholic men’s group The Kings Men, I believed the life events I had been experiencing were relevant to distancing myself from the Catholic Church. When I take a moment to reflect on my life, it is revealed to me how many times God came to my assistance only for me to repeatedly shun Him. Fortunately my life’s journey continued to grant me opportunities to accept God’s will. Following my acceptance of the truth, I began to appreciate the significance of prayer, faith, penance and forgiveness. I joyfully accept His plan for my life and my role as a servant of God. I enthusiastically use His gifts for others to feel closer to His love.

I have experienced two failed marriages that ended in divorce, the loss of my job, the effect divorce had on my relationship with my children and addictions all because I wanted for my life outcomes which I desired. The center of my decision making was not Jesus Christ, it was me. I was not capable of repelling the seduction of sin and always had a justification for my actions. My selfish behavior ultimately left me in a physical state of isolation. There was no one left to manipulate.

On a cold winter night, minutes following another failed relationship gone badly, I stopped my car along the road and walked out into a field. Looking skyward I asked God for help. I wept for help. I felt I had hit bottom. In despair I turned to God for answers. I was tired of the series of disappointments in my life. He has been present in my entire life but I was just too stubborn to acknowledge His will. However on this evening, I was determined to change and accept His direction for my life.

In a week or so following my field discussion with God, I came across The Kings Men at a township meeting that had to do specifically with the licensing of an adult entertainment facility in the township. The Kings Men co-founder Mark Houck addressed the audience and spoke out against this sexually oriented business. I left before the hearing ended and as I walked out of the building, a feeling came over me and I stopped. I acknowledged what I felt was the will of God and turned around and went back inside to introduce myself to Mark. It was my first step in becoming a true Catholic man.

In the weeks ahead, I began attending the weekly Kings Men meetings. At the Kings Men meetings I saw men praying, talking about their issues that prevented trust and joy from their lives and men opening their hearts in order to have them healed and restored. I began to learn what it is to be a faithful Catholic. I learned being Catholic was more than the collection basket, attending mass or singing in the folk choir. The process of unraveling the sin that was suffocating my Catholic life had begun. I began to open my life to the men in the group and with it, the filth fell to the floor. On one occasion I openly wept when I talked about the broken relationship I had with my children and how I failed them.

“Jesus I trust in you” are the last words of the Divine Mercy Chaplet that is prayed at every Kings Men meeting. I had never heard that prayer in my life. Those words were difficult for me to say in the beginning because I had not fully converted my life over to Jesus. But now I say with confidence, “Jesus I trust in you”. I now have the faith and trust in Jesus and the life He has given me. Today I am proud to say I am a Catholic man and that I accept the teachings of the Catholic Church along with the Church doctrines, practices, principles and beliefs.

The Kings Men organize a retreat called Into The Wild. It is a three day retreat held in a wooded state park. The theme of the retreat is Leader, Protector, and Provider. The activities scheduled provide an opportunity for the men to connect closely with the Sacraments, nature, other like minded men and their manhood.

On my third retreat, I requested to be placed on the chapel building team. I was reluctant to join this team. It would be sweat and toil but I felt it was something I needed to accomplish. Once the chapel building team got to the site selected to erect the chapel, I was instructed that I would be responsible for construction of the cross.

I found laying in the woods a beautiful piece of fallen timber. A tree with majestic wood colors that had been exposed by deteriorated bark. I measured the fallen log carefully because it was long enough to make the cross life size. As I started to saw through the wood with a hand saw, I began to realize that I was making the cross in the same fashion that it was done in the time of Christ. It was a hard wood and tedious to cut. As I toiled, the reality of what I was doing made me want to stop. The thought entered my mind that if I had been alive at the time of Jesus death I know that I would have been among the crowd saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him”.

I persevered. The sweat was pouring out of my body as I labored. Ignoring my own pain, I cut through the wood. I was saying out loud; forgive me Lord, for I know not what I am doing. I lied on the ground with my arms stretched across the log making sure the cross piece would be long enough to attach Jesus' arms. When the two pieces were finally cut, I went back to the other men constructing the chapel and I assembled a team to remove the cross from the woods. It took eight men to carry the standard from the woods. I was in the rear, the last one holding up the symbol of eternal forgiveness, and I said to the man in front of me, “Do you realize we are carrying Jesus’ cross for Him?” It took all I had to keep from weeping. He thanked me for putting that thought in his mind.

I assembled a team of four to return to the woods to retrieve the cross piece. The reality of it all had already filled my heart of what I was now part of. I was doing a task for which I would be forgiven. I was among the men that built the cross on which Jesus would die and in his last breath he forgave me for that sin and all of my sins.

When I went to receive communion the next day, Sunday morning, I wanted to embrace the cross, but I was afraid! I have sung so many times, “Be Not Afraid”, but I was afraid to embrace the cross! This experience has exposed a weakness in my soul. As Monsignor Mike had said in a homily during the weekend, it is from our weakness that we will grow. Why did I fear to embrace the cross?

I thank God for the gift of a creative mind and allowing me to imagine this scenario for the benefit of growing closer to Him. The imagination in my mind that I used so many times to sin, He now has used for His good and to draw me nearer to Him.

Today I am proud to be a Catholic man. I play the guitar in the church folk choir. I host a King's Men meeting in my home every week. The accountability portion of the weekly meeting is a reminder for me that I can further enrich my Catholic life. I desire to resist the temptation of sin and to support and encourage other men on their walk with Christ. With God’s continued blessing, I desire to live a moral Catholic man’s life and to be a servant for God.

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