I was born in 1984 in São Paulo, Brazil, the younger of two children. In 1990, we moved to a neighboring city to live in a nice condominium. My first memories of going to church with my family began there. I had been baptized as a baby, but in those first years, my family apparently didn’t go to church. But with the move, soon my brother and I received our first Holy Communion, and a few years later we were confirmed.
In 1996, my father, who acted as the head of our family, including religiously, began to show symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). He lost strength in his muscles and soon was unable to drive or even take care of himself, and he also began to lose the ability to speak. So my mother stepped in and took responsibility for everything, including our religious practice.
My mother is a very brave woman who, with the help of God, did a great job of taking care of my father and us children. She also began to help in the sacristy of our parish, preparing the priest’s garments and the sacred altar vessels. Since she had experience working in a courtroom when she was single, she also helped to record the acts of parish meetings.
But coming into 1998, my father’s condition was very advanced. He was already using diapers and needed a feeding tube. In addition, he had gone to the hospital several times with breathing difficulties. In February, when my mother was not home, my father began to have major breathing difficulty and asked me and my brother for help. My brother, who was 16 years old at the time and knew how to drive, even though the legal driving age in Brazil is 18, took the car and drove the three of us to the hospital. After a while, my mother arrived and drove me and my brother home; then she went back to stay with my father. She slept at the hospital, and the next day she came home to tell us that our father had passed away.
The following years mark a downfall in our faith. The three of us stopped going to church. My brother continued to attend a while longer, because he was involved in the music ministry at Mass, but eventually he, too, stopped going. I didn’t see the point of church attendance. I used to tell my mother that it was always the same thing and that I no longer had any interest.
My mother began to go to Kardecist meetings (a spiritist group based on the French philosopher Kardec) and Seicho-no-Ie centers (where one learns about a Japanese spirituality that began and flourished after the Second World War). I myself also began to research about religions. It was at this time that I stripped myself of all my religious beliefs, except the existence of God. I first became interested in Buddhism, but I didn’t go very far with it because I couldn’t accept the doctrine of reincarnation. Then I began to research the Hare Krishna movement, but again, reincarnation and vegetarianism held me back.
Father Abraham, a Trustworthy Place to Begin
In 2005, when I entered college, I became interested in Islam. That interest came about because it is an Abrahamic religion and strictly monotheistic. At that time, I was of the opinion that, if I could ask things directly of God, why use an intermediary like Jesus and the saints? By the end of that year, I had met a Turkish friend, who eventually became my supervisor at work. He helped to acquaint me with Islam and how to practice it. By December of that year, I had made my shahada (an Islamic creed and one of its five “pillars,” or basic practices). Since I was studying in São Paulo while living in the country, I had to make a long bus journey back and forth every day, my Turkish friend offered to have me spend weekends at an apartment for Turkish college students living in Brazil. My friends and those Turkish students and other Turkish people were there to create a school. They were participants of the Hizmet movement, inspired by Fethullah Gülen. The Hizmet movement is a global civil organization that promotes human rights, democracy, and non-violence.
The Child Becomes a Man; the Man Becomes a Father
I met my future wife while in college in 2007. As we dated, I learned that she was a member of a Pentecostal church called Christian Congregation. Meanwhile, losing interest in Islam because of its many rules and obligations, since I was studying language, literature, and translation, I became intrigued with Bible translations. I discovered videos on YouTube from a Fundamental Baptist church in the USA who used the King James Version only and talked a lot about the translation of the Bible. Without realizing what was happening, I began to learn about Evangelical Christianity. I also began to spend the night at my girlfriend’s home on the weekends and go with her and her family to their church. By the end of that year, as I continued to watch videos, I was “saved” and asked to be baptized in her church, not yet aware that there is need of only one baptism.
In 2009, my girlfriend and I graduated from college and began looking for work. As time passed, I lost interest in her church and became more intrigued by that Baptist church on YouTube. But I was afraid to tell my girlfriend, fearing she would leave me. We were married in 2011, and in 2012 my wife had pregnancy complications and suffered a miscarriage. We kept trying, and our first child, Sarah, was born healthy and well in 2014. Following the baby’s arrival, I decided that I didn’t want to go to my wife’s church any more. That church is a Pietist-style Pentecostal congregation, where women and men sit apart from each other, women wear veils, and they have a full classical orchestra and an electronic organ. (Women are only allowed to play the organ.) The pastors never prepare their sermons, preferring to let the inspiration of the moment flow as they speak. This amounted to sermons that were always shallow and centered on a “prosperity gospel.” I quickly grew tired of that approach and would have left that church sooner if it hadn’t been for my wife.
Eventually, by 2018 (when our son João Elias was born), I could no longer attend my wife’s church in good conscience, and this generated a lot of tension and talk of divorce on my wife’s part. But I had also grown tired of that Baptist church, that always preached only about the KJV, soul winning, and salvation security (“once saved, always saved”). I was weary of all the wrangling and arguing between the different Protestant denominations who claimed to follow only the Bible but couldn’t come to an agreement doctrinally, even with the Bible as their common ground.
So the issue of authority came to the fore, and I started researching the subject of authority, landing on a video of a talk by Catholic apologist Steve Ray about Apostolic Authority, specifically discussing Matthew 16. I began to realize how important the role of authority is to Christianity. Researching more deeply, I concluded that Apostolic Authority was crucial, and that it could only be found in the Catholic Church. But issues like the intercession of the saints still were holding me back. Nevertheless, I kept studying and concluded that I needed to return to the Catholic Church.
Returning Home Through the Father
It was the middle of 2019, and I was in a political WhatsApp group that takes the teachings of the Catholic Church as its foundation. I began to ask for help with my situation, and one of them, who was an acolyte at a traditional Latin Mass parish, invited me to return to attending Mass. He also told me that I should make a general confession beforehand. Without telling my wife, I went to confess my sins before Mass, but the priest hearing confessions told me that my case was serious, and I would have to make my general confession some other time, so I didn’t receive the Eucharist that day. Some days later, I again went to that parish, signed a document rejecting Islam and Protestantism, and the priest heard my general confession. I thus returned to the practice of my childhood religion and received Communion for the first time in decades.
But I still had much to learn, and I needed to find a way to tell my wife and my mother that I had returned to the Catholic Church. My mother had been going to a Presbyterian church near her house, even getting rebaptized there. I let so many signs slip that they ended up guessing what I had done. It wasn’t easy; my wife began to speak of divorce again. But with time, she accepted that this was where I belonged. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and churches were closed. I resorted to watching Mass via the internet. After many months, churches began to open again, and I returned to Mass attendance.
Some time and a lot of arguments later, my wife finally permitted me to take our children to Mass. But then the next week, she rescinded her decision and refused to allow me to take them. After more time and arguments, we came to an agreement, and now I can always take them to Mass. We still occasionally get into arguments about Catholic things, but grace has had the upper hand in this situation, and we are on much surer ground.
Recently, my mother began to show signs that she is disappointed with her church because they don’t position themselves politically, while she is very politically minded. In a message she sent me, she said she was considering going back to the Catholic Church, because it supports and forms parishioners so they can make informed political choices.
More recently, I’ve been working at home, translating books for a Catholic publisher. I’ve translated Peter Canisius’ biography, and now I’m working on The Creature and the Creator, by the English author Frederick William Faber. My wife has accepted a position as an office secretary, which leaves me taking care of our children while working from home, and this has taught me a lot about the care of children. My next challenge is learning how to catechize my children without disturbing my wife. I dream of the day that I’ll be able to witness their baptisms at my parish. I am also discerning the possibility of studying theology to become a deacon.