Tom Peterson worked as a corporate advertising executive for over twenty-five years. Like many young entrepreneurs, the drive for success eclipsed many other parts of his life. His faith was among the first things he sacrificed on the way up the corporate ladder. Though he was raised Catholic, he stopped going to Mass and paid little attention to his spiritual needs.
Then in 1997, feeling that he needed to make a change in his life, he accepted an invitation to go on a weekend retreat. As he describes it, he had a powerful “reversion” experience. That is, he rediscovered the beauty and depth of the Catholic faith he had abandoned so many years earlier. He realized that the emptiness and lack of fulfillment he had been feeling was really a yearning for a living relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church.
With a new fervor for his faith, Tom decided that he wanted to reach out to other fallen away Catholics to share with them all the Church has to offer. And so, along with a few others, he founded “Catholics Come Home”, a non-profit group that seeks to promote Catholic evangelization and the sanctity of life through the internet, television and radio. You may have seen some of their commercials on television. Through their website, they invite Catholics to learn more about their faith and to share it with others. To date, Catholics Come Home has reached over 200,000 fallen away Catholics. Parishes that have used their program of evangelization have seen mass attendance increase by as much as ten percent.
Tom Peterson and the rest of the staff at Catholics Come Home seek to live out the words of Saint Paul in his Second Letter to the Corinthians: “We are ambassadors for Christ....Be reconciled to God!” Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they have been blessed with much success.
Ash Wednesday and Lent are popular times for Catholics to come home to their faith and the Church of their youth. There are only a few other days of the year when Catholics - no matter how long it has been since they have gone - feel a tug within their hearts to return to Church. That is because we know that no matter how long it has been, no matter what kind of lives we have led, no matter what sins we may have committed, we can always come home. We will always be welcome. We will always find forgiveness. This is the meaning of today’s gathering and why it is so popular among so many Catholics.
All of us here today - myself included - are in the same boat. No matter how much or how little we live our faith, no matter how knowledgeable or ignorant we may be about Church teaching, we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. For all of us it is a day to embrace his offer of mercy and to pledge to live the gospel with renewed focus and fervor.
If there is anyone here who has been away from the Church, please know that you are welcome here and that we rejoice to have you with us. I urge you to look more deeply into your faith, to learn about it and try with God’s power to live it. The Catholics Come Home website is a good place to start. There are many other resources online that could be of help and any number of books as well. But nothing can substitute going to confession and hearing the words, “Go in peace; your sins have been forgiven.” And nothing can replace the feeling of community and fellowship you will experience by getting to know others who are living their faith. The best way to do that is by becoming involved in our parish in any way you feel comfortable. There is much depth and richness to our Catholic faith, and we are excited to help everyone discover it.
Today is the beginning of forty days of renewal leading up to our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Throughout these days, we will imitate our Lord who struggled against temptation in the desert. The ashes which will mark our foreheads are a sign that we are sorry for our sins and ready to change. With God’s help, we can come home and make a new start.