Saint Benedict Center's main site is An online Journal edited by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Richmond, New Hampshire.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Speeding Ticket to Salvation

By Mr. Jeremy Patria

We all know that God works in mysterious ways, but little did I realize that my penchant for speeding while driving would be the vehicle that God would choose to slow me down onto the sure path of salvation. I was born into a family of practicing Baptists in a small, southwestern New Hampshire village. It is one of those picturesque towns that can be seen on typical New England postcards — and Yankee to the core. Fitzwilliam by name, it is a popular tourist attraction and even hosted a Good Morning, America show several years ago. Our family regularly attended church services and my father, being a Baptist deacon, would frequently deliver the sermon. I attended Sunday school until thirteen years old when, abruptly, we stopped going to church altogether. It seems my parents had a falling out with the pastor, which led to their refusing to attend that or any other church thereafter. Although confused, I just accepted the fact.

My siblings and I, five in number, attended public schools and immersed ourselves in all the activities being offered. I was very active in sports and I was a member of the choir for all four years of high school. Religion of any sort was not on my mind, but I do remember one time when I attended the funeral of the father of a choir member who was Catholic. I was struck by the smoking incense, the reverence and pageantry of the service but, although curious, I did not investigate. I also found it interesting later, after becoming a Catholic, to discover that many of the songs performed by our choir were of Catholic origin.

My everyday life was in no way soft. I had many chores to perform, such as cutting, hauling, and then splitting the ten cords of wood we needed every winter. My parents were not averse to employing corporal punishment whenever I went astray but I knew it was out of love, not meanness. At the same time, we were given much freedom in our social activities and not really monitored as to our comings and goings. After getting my driver’s license, I purchased a car, for I needed wheels to get to a job I had landed in a restaurant twenty miles from my home. And I always drove fast. My heavy foot led to three speeding tickets and the loss of both my license and my job. As Divine Providence would have it, however, I found another job within walking distance from my home and there my conversion began.

I worked in the kitchen as a chef along with a young man my age named Joe Hazelrigg. He told me he came from a family of eight and had recently moved to the area to be next to Saint Benedict Center. He was not shy about his Catholic Faith and this led to many conversations about religion and my own lack of belief. Some of Joe’s friends also became employed at the same restaurant and, after being introduced, I was amazed by the large families they all came from. There was Joe Filipi, one of eight siblings, Heather Fliss, one of thirteen, and Luke LaPlume, one of eleven, and they all confronted me, in their own particular styles, with the Catholic Faith. Because my parents had continued Bible readings at home, I had enough ammunition to hold my own against their arguments. This friendly, and sometimes intense, undeclared war went on for months, until one day I needed a lift some distance away and Joe Filipi volunteered to drive. It was during this ride that grace began its work, or I should say, I finally began cooperating with grace. Joe simply told me that I had a duty before God to at least investigate the Catholic Faith before rejecting it. It was as simple as that. Where before I had been defiant during our conversations, I found myself now more passive, more docile in my outlook. I started attending Mass at Saint Benedict Center, and believe me, with all those large families I never wanted for a ride. I attended lectures on the Faith, socialized with the community, and gradually was convinced that I needed to join. After lengthy instruction, I was baptized and received the Eucharist on March 25, the great Feast of the Annunciation.

Ironically, my parents did not object to my conversion, except in one particular, that of Baptism. My mother stated that it was not necessary for salvation and, after my reciting the verse that says “unless a man be born of water and the Holy Ghost he will not be saved,” she said that although it mentioned water, it did not mean we had to be baptized!! At that point I knew there was no point in furthering the argument. Interestingly enough, my father took me aside shortly afterwards and said, “Jeremy, I don’t know why, but I could never have taught you the things which you have learned from these folks.”

I settled into my new Catholic life, interacting with the families that associated with the Center, while still being very inquisitive about the philosophy and methods of living a truly Catholic life. I was on the lookout for a marriage partner as well, and that is when I was introduced to a truly strange custom called courting. Although in theory I agreed, it was difficult to understand how you could ascertain your feelings for a young woman while parked in the living room of her parents’ house with their numerous children gawking at your every move. Only after attending a traditional Ignatian retreat did I realize not only the absolute necessity of courtship in maintaining purity, but the increase in virtue that the discipline brought to the future spouses.

I did marry a beautiful Catholic girl, Bridget, and together we have started our own Catholic community, being the proud parents of three wonderful children, Regina, Gemma, and José. I want to thank you, Lord, for your ministers, the policemen who gave me those speeding tickets, and for your Church militant, all of whom in one way or another accelerated me in the pursuit of the Catholic Faith.

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