As a child, I was raised in the Catholic Church. I considered myself to be a devout Catholic, regularly attending Mass and confession and regularly praying the Rosary. I attended Catholic grade school from the fifth grade onward and graduated from a Catholic college.
But all of this adherence to ritual left me unfulfilled.
After college, I spent a year of study in Italy working toward my Master of Arts degree in Italian Language and Literature. While in Italy, much of my study involved reading existential literature, a literature based on a philosophy that there is no God. Reading this literature planted doubts in my mind about the existence of God and what I had believed all of my life. When I returned from Italy, I had many questions about my faith. Nevertheless, I resumed attendance at the Catholic Church.
Shortly after my return from Italy, I landed my first job teaching French at a high school in New Jersey. Together with a fellow teacher, I rented an apartment to share expenses. My roommate was a Christian.
One day, she invited me to attend a gathering of young people with her at the University of Pennsylvania. Since I had nothing better to do that weekend, I agreed to go. Little did I know that we would be attending a meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ.
Upon entering the large room filled with the chatter of dozens of young people, I was approached by a young woman named Margo. Her face radiated with joy and love. She introduced herself and said, “Have you been born again?”
My body stiffened. Her question was not “Catholic,” and I had been taught as a Catholic to stay away from anything that was not Catholic, particularly Protestantism. I had been taught that only Catholics would go to Heaven.
So, as politely as I could, I said to Margo, “I respect your opinion, but this is not for me. I am Catholic.”
Although a look of disappointment crossed her face, she remained kind and did not press the issue. We parted on good terms, with the beautiful look of love on Margo’s face staying with me. Today I know that look was the look of Christ in her.
A short time after this incident, I met my husband. We married a year later, and I moved to Kansas City to join him. He was in a medical residency at the time, and I was beginning my doctoral studies in French and Comparative Literature at the University of Kansas.
I had everything the world could offer. I had a wonderful husband, a job I loved teaching at the University of Kansas, an exciting goal of earning my PhD, a beautiful apartment, and a generous income. In worldly terms, I had it made.
But, in reality, I was empty inside.
Because of his training, my husband’s schedule was very busy, requiring him to be on call a good deal. One night while he was working, I was home alone. I flipped through the TV channels in order to find a good program, but nothing interested me. As I continued flipping through channels, I came across a Billy Graham Crusade. Since I respected Mr. Graham, I decided to watch.
The instant I settled on the channel, Mr. Graham looked straight into the camera. He spoke these words: “You may have everything the world can offer, but you feel empty inside.”
His words took me aback. He spoke directly to me. How did he know he was describing my situation?
Captivated by his extraordinary discernment, I began to listen. Mr. Graham explained the Gospel message of salvation and then invited the television audience to respond to his altar call.
Convicted by Holy Spirit’s love, I fell to my knees in my living room, prayed the prayer of repentance with Mr. Graham, and received Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord. That momentous night I was born again.
I was instantly filled with the deep peace that passes understanding. I became a new creation in Christ. Old things passed away. All things became new. Praise the Name of the Lord!
Since then, I have often thought of Margo. Although I have attempted to locate her on many occasions, I have been unsuccessful. I know she prayed for me. If our paths do not cross this side of Heaven, I will thank her on the other side. Meanwhile, if you happen to read this, Margo, thank you for sharing Jesus with me that memorable day. I will never forget the look of Christ’s love in your eyes.
Copyright 2016 by MaryAnn Diorio, PhD. All Rights Reserved.