“Here we go again,” Steve thought to himself as Brian walked across the parking lot towards his car.
“Hey Steve, looks like we’re both running a little late today! How was your weekend?”
“It was ok. Before you say anything Brian, I will go ahead and tell you I didn’t make it to Mass yesterday. I meant to, but I had too much going on.”
Brian looked at him for a few minutes before smiling and saying, “Steve, have I ever lectured you about going to Mass? I really just wanted to hear how your weekend went. I know I have invited you a few times to attend Mass at my parish, but I don’t judge you because you don’t go. In fact, I actually pray for you all the time. I’ll catch up with you later!”
As Brian walked away and headed into the office building, Steve thought about his friend’s comments. “Why does Brian pray for me? How do I respond to something like that?”
Steve plowed through his typical busy day and tried to focus, but Brian’s invitations to attend Mass and revelation about prayer plagued his thoughts. Then it hit him. “Brian reminds me of my dad!”
All the way home Steve reflected on his childhood growing up in a Catholic home with two parents devoted to the Church. He could see in his friend Brian the same joy his parents, especially his father, always possessed. His dad was always inviting people to Mass and sharing his love of Christ with others. “How did I get so far off track?” he wondered as pulled into his driveway.
Memories of hanging out with high school friends and the endless fun of his college years flooded his mind and he realized that he lost interest in his faith soon after Confirmation. What was once so important became secondary to how his friends perceived him and to having a good time. What he thought was typical teen rebellion from his parents was also rebellion from God.
He decided to get some counsel and called his parent’s home. His father picked up. “Dad, I need to talk to you. Have you got a few minutes?” Knowing his son’s rare requests of this kind and hearing the frustration in his voice, he simply said “You bet!”
“I have a friend named Brian who has invited me to Mass with his wife and daughter at their parish a few times, which is no big deal accept that I am beginning to find it annoying. Today he also said he prays for me all the time. What is this all about? How should I respond?”
His father was a man of few words and he took what seemed like an eternity to answer. “Steve, I don’t think you have a problem with your friend Brian. He is being a true friend by having the courage to invite you back to Mass and the Church. Also, do you recognize how wonderful it is to have someone praying for you? I don’t think you have a ‘Brian problem’. You have a ‘Holy Spirit’ problem.”
“I have a what problem?”
“Steve, your friend simply extended an invitation and is praying for you. The Holy Spirit is working on you, through the good efforts of your friend, to help you consider coming back to Christ and His Church. Your mother and I pray for the same thing as do many in our family. I think you know the answer to your problem and I will leave it to you to think about it, and hopefully do a little praying yourself. Let’s talk next in a few weeks when I pick you up at the airport, okay? I love you. Bye.”
More troubled than ever, Steve got little rest and woke up in a foul mood. As he drove to work, he thought to himself, “I am going to nip this in the bud and confront Brian about all of this nonsense. I don’t need him or anyone else praying for me or inviting me back to the Church! I can make up my own mind and I don’t like feeling pressured.”
He emailed Brian asking him if he could meet at the taco place around the corner for lunch. They made chit chat for a while over their meal until Brian commented that Steve seemed to have something on his mind.
“Brian, I am a little hacked off about our conversation yesterday in the parking lot. Who are you to pray for me? I also don’t need you to invite me back to the Church. I left years ago and I don’t need that stuff anymore!”
“Steve, calm down for a minute. Let me ask you a question. Are we friends?”
“Well, I hope I am a good enough friend to share not only my challenges and faults, of which I have many, but also the good things in my life. Steve, Christie and I have a great marriage and Sarah coming into our lives last year has been incredible. In fact, Christie is pregnant again, but we haven’t told anyone else so keep it quiet. We are happy because we love Christ and the Church. He is first in our lives and we are incredibly grateful for the blessings that have come from having the right priorities.
I simply wanted to share my joy with you. That is why I have invited you to Mass. That is why I pray for you. If I didn’t care, I’d hide all of that away and we would talk about nothing but football. I have to head back for a conference call, but let’s revisit this conversation next week and keep talking, okay?”
Steve nodded slowly; taken aback by what he had just heard. He needed to think this over and wasn’t sure what to do.
A few days later at St. Michael’s parish…
Brian and Christie joined the others walking down the aisle when Mass was over as Sarah slept on Christie’s shoulder. Brian felt happy and at peace as he always did after receiving the Eucharist, but he also felt grateful for the opportunity to offer up more prayers for his troubled friend Steve. Brian knew that Steve would find the answers in God’s time and he would keep praying for as long as it took for Steve to come back to the Church. He looked over to his right as they came to the last pew and he saw him. It was Steve. He was on his knees, eyes closed and hands clasped, in prayer.
They walked outside and waited for almost 20 minutes to greet him. Steve walked over somewhat sheepishly and Brian grinned as he shook his friend’s hand. “Steve, I am excited to see you here! What…how…?”
Steve interrupted gently with, “Brian, after our lunch I did a lot of thinking. I also prayed for the first time in over 10 years. The words were tough and I didn’t know what to pray for, except to tell Christ I was sorry. Sorry for the years I stayed away. Sorry for my pride and my selfishness. I am not sure why I stayed away for so long, but I knew in my heart something was missing. I was a very happy kid when I was active in my faith, but I realize now that I have been a miserable 26-year-old and I want that to change. The emptiness I have can only be filled by Him.
Brian, I owe you so much and I am very grateful for our friendship. It took more guts than I have to invite me back, pray for me and have the tough conversation I needed to hear. Just know how much I appreciate all of this. Thank you for the invitation.”
– The End –
Would you like to learn more about Randy Hain’s newest book? His seventh book, Special Children, Blessed Fathers: Encouragement for Fathers of Children with Special Needs (Foreword by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput), is available from Amazon in both hardcover and paperback.