Published on 7/22/2022
The Enemy was Christ
The people who knew me best in my younger days would describe my personality as callous and obsessive. My family and friends knew that I was not someone who could express sympathy or empathy in any authentic way. They also knew that when I became interested in something there was no stopping me. Nothing could distract me from a topic that piqued my interest or from acquiring a skill that would lead to public success. These two dominant personality traits of mine would be the cause of my darkest times and my conversion to the Catholic Faith.
Born Catholic but Not Raised
I was born to a Catholic family, but we were not serious in our practice. My sister and I made the sacraments, but we stopped going to church when I was about twelve years old. We stopped going partly because of my constant protest and partly because my parents uninterested themselves. My mom and dad came from families that would send their kids to church on Sundays, but the parents would stay home for some peace and quiet. Putting it simply, we called ourselves Catholic, but that’s where our relationship with Christ and His Church stopped.
My sister, three years older than me and my only sibling, was born with a brain tumor that caused her to go blind at the age of four. For much of my life my sister was the only person for whom I would go out of my way, though even those instances were few and far between. The strain that my sister’s cancer put on my family was absolutely one of the main reasons why my parents did not offer up much resistance when I protested going to church. My mom specifically had a hard time accepting the fact that my sister was put through so much in her young life, and God was the easy scapegoat to blame. My parents had strong family values and were great in so many aspects of parenthood, but they had a strained relationship with the Almighty because of what my sister went through, and I used that to what I thought was my advantage.
Pride and Atheism Grow
As I made my way through high school I did well in sports and academics because of that obsessiveness that ruled my life. I always wanted to be the person with the best grades, the best player on the basketball team, and the strongest guy in the weight room. It was all very much ego driven and pushed me more and more towards atheism. The only people who needed the mushy feel-good nonsense of religion were those who were not winners. A ridiculous notion, I know, but that is exactly how my high school mind worked.
Though I was successful in my sport of choice (basketball) and in my schooling, I was never content, never happy, and always looking for a way to show other people I was better than them in some way. This is obviously a miserable way to live life, but I convinced myself that I wasn’t miserable and just had to achieve more success. After all, the more praise and awards you get the more content and happy you will be, right?
I started college in 2010 and had a nice academic scholarship to attend a small private school called Florida Southern College about an hour from where I grew up in Bradenton, FL. I wasn’t overly thrilled about attending FSC because I would have preferred a basketball scholarship to a larger Division 1 school instead of an academic scholarship to a smaller Division 2 school. I chose not to even try out for the team at FSC because I figured if I wasn’t going to play with the best and be the best then it’s all just a waste of time. However, I did eventually end up playing for the team my senior year because of nothing other than pride and ego. Some people thought I wasn’t good enough, so I of course had to prove them wrong. A common story idolized in the sports world, but in reality, it leads to a lot of short-lived highs and many spiritual/emotional lows.
Meeting my future wife, and God’s instrument for my conversion
A condition of my scholarship was that I had to get a work study job on campus. Someone suggested I work for the Men’s basketball team, but I couldn’t stomach being around a team that I could play for and not actually play, so I talked to the women’s basketball coach and he offered me a job as student coach given my background in the sport. This is when I met Taylor. Taylor was the freshmen point guard for the team, and we both came across a little rude and off putting in our first interaction with each other. She asked me why I was there (at practice) and I told her, in a snarky fashion, “because they pay me to be here.” We didn’t talk much our first year, but the second year the head coach gave me a job to do. I had to turn Taylor into a more dominant scorer because the team had lost their two leading point getters the previous year. Taylor and I played one-on-one and trained almost daily (Go ahead let the corny ‘Love and Basketball’ movie references ensue). Our working relationship eventually turned into a romantic relationship which I think my boss/her coach had in mind all along. Taylor was a cradle Catholic, and I did not think much about her faith in the early goings. I just figured she would outgrow it after hanging out with me for a while.
Taylor did not outgrow her faith, and my agnosticism/atheism (depending on the day) was a huge point of conflict in our relationship. We stayed together through our entire college career, even through grad school and even though we argued constantly about the topic of morals and religion.
I thought pornography, crude humor, bad television, and the relentless pursuit of money were all in good fun and even life necessities. Taylor, of course, did not agree, but through the Grace of God we stayed together and continued to argue. I often think about why Taylor stayed with such a Godless person such as myself, and the only reason I can ever think of is Divine providence.
Someone has to be wrong and it isn’t going to be me.
Eventually, it got to a point where I had enough. I was going to intellectually destroy her faith. I set out on a mission to prove, not only Catholicism wrong, but all organized religion wrong. This is where that obsessive nature and my callousness truly came into play. I was not concerned about shattering the world view of the woman I claimed to love, I was only concerned about proving I was right! And in my head, I had the clear-cut advantage in our arguments thanks to my obsessive nature. I knew I had the will power to do the research and find the answers and prove her wrong!
I read everything I could get my hands on; New Atheist writings (Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, Dennet), Immanuel Kant (I know not an atheist but some of his writings leaned that way), Karl Marx, Ludwig Feuerbach, Friedrich Nietzsche, Graham Oppy and so many others. Yet, I had to know where the enemy was coming from as well. This led me to read Aquinas, Augustine, C.S. Lewis, William Lane Craig, Chesterton, and yes even the Bible. I eventually read the tenants of Buddhism, the Quran, and even the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
All this reading led me to some problems.
- I understood maybe 2% of what I was reading. I considered myself smart until I started reading deep thinkers like the ones mentioned above. This was a major and much needed blow to me my ego.
- I wanted the atheist thinkers to be right, but I started thinking more about what I call the “T” word…Truth! I couldn’t get the questions of what is True out my head. I just wanted to have other people THINK I was right. I never actually cared about the Truth.
- My obsessive nature kicked into overdrive. I couldn’t stop reading, listening to debates, or thinking about these topics. I was completely consumed with the worlds of religion and philosophy to the point where I was paralyzed in other aspects of life.
The biggest problem I faced in all this was that the more I thought about it and the more I used that “T” word the more I became secretly convinced of Theism. I couldn’t explain away the brilliance of Aquinas, the historical evidence for Christ, the logical philosophy that leads to an omniscient and omnipotent creator, nor could I ignore the obvious logical fallacies in the reasoning of prominent atheists such as; the non sequitur fallacy of religion is a source of violence therefore it is bad, the silly God-of-the-gaps argument that misunderstands the true supremeness idea of God, the pagan genetic fallacy that wrongfully judges something on its history/origin rather than on its own merits, the self-refuting idea of there are no-absolute truths, and so many other philosophies and arguments that discredited the atheistic camp.
Eventually, I even found myself getting mad at people when they would criticize Christianity or theistic philosophy. On a number of occasions, I had to stop myself and say ‘wait, what is my objective here?’ I as a person was not in sync at all. One part of me would get mad when people characterized or ridiculed a theistic idea, and the other part of me still wanted to convince my girlfriend that Catholicism and theism was false.
Theism or atheism, time for a decision.
During this time of study and research I graduated from college with undergraduate and graduate degrees in Business Management and Finance and moved up to Pennsylvania so Taylor could be closer to her parents and 7 siblings. This was perhaps my first move towards compassion for another, or I just knew the northeast paid better than Florida. I started working as a financial analyst for a healthcare organization and then landed a dream job at the National Basketball Association in their Business Operations department. I also started actively investing on my own in the market and made some good financial moves. I say all this to paint the picture of where I am at in life, because I think one’s environment plays a big role in one’s world view.
So, at this point in the story I was somewhat well versed in the worlds of philosophy, religion, and theology. I had even secretly confessed to myself that intellectually I was a Christian. The main intellectual nail in my atheistic coffin came from the argument of extreme skepticism. If the reader is interested in reading a very brief summary of this philosophical argument, I have linked it HERE.
I knew that an omniscient, omnipotent, and all-good God existed and that that God had to care about his creation to the point of making Himself known in a prevalent and evangelistic way. The only worldviews that fit this framework were Christianity and maybe Islam, but after reading the Quran and the Bible the choice was clear. Christianity had to be the Truth (that pesky capital “T” word just keeps coming back to beat me down). It amazed me that I did not care about the Truth for so much of my life and now it was the only thing I could think about.
Convinced that Christianity was true was not something I was excited about. I did not start skipping down the street whistling and smiling at everyone. My conversion was purely intellectual and there were no spiritual roots. I was still prideful and did not want to admit that I was so catastrophically wrong for so long. Plus, admitting that I was wrong would mean that I would have to live as a Christian. That sounded awful to me!
At the crossroads of believing in Christ intellectually but not wanting to believe emotionally, I was twisted up in knots for what felt like an eternity (in reality it was a very short time). But the day finally came when I decided to pray. I had prayed before, but I never engaged in authentic prayer. You know, that prayer where one is vulnerable, open, and genuine with God. I simply prayed for His will to be done and the floodgates opened. I was hit with a rush of joy and conviction like never before. I became on fire for the Lord and could not shake the truth that Christ was King and my life was His. I no longer cared about being wrong for so long, my pride was minimized, and I attempted to fully embrace my new found convictions.
Christian? Yes! Catholic? Uhh…
Okay, so now I was Christian, but was I Catholic? This was a question I had not really given much thought to. For much of my life I thought all of religion was feel good gobbely gook. I never spent the time during my studies to compare the different denominations of Christianity. For all I knew the Mormons or the Jehovah Witnesses are the ones who got it the most right. Did this mean more endless hours of study? My mind was fried at this point. I was on Fire for the Lord but Taylor and I were married (yes, we got married in the Catholic Church, but for me it was somewhat out of convenience because that was the only Christianity I knew), I had a full-time job and our first kid was on the way. How was I going to put the time into studying the dozens of thousands of denominations? But wait, I spent all that time researching when I was an atheist but my true conversion did not happen until I prayed authentically. Prayer is the superpower! I can just pray and ask God to show me where I should be. That should work, right?
To my dismay, praying to know the one true church did not yield a quick answer or a rush of confidence as it did when I prayed on my conversion to Christianity. Instead, God gave me hints at the truth and encouraged me to explore. I originally thought I did not have time to explore this topic, but God was telling me that I most certainly did have time. It’s just that I would have to reallocate time to Him that I was using for more illicit things; selfish pursuit of money, time in the gym to feed my ego, terrible movies and television, and time with friends who were not conducive to my new found Christianity.
All and all my journey to find the one true Church that worshipped Christ the right way was much easier and less stressful than my pursuit to find the truth behind religion/atheism. It came easier because it was not fueled by ego or bias. The reason for this I believe is my atheist past and my callousness. You see, the only emotions I ever really experienced for much of my life were the emotions of anger and embarrassment. I never had a deep connection with things or people because of my distant personality. I only had connections with my own pride. My pride is what fueled everything I did even my dive into philosophy and religion. But when I converted from atheism to Christianity my pride was completely shattered. I learned that I was not the smartest person in the room; I was often the dumbest or the most blinded. My entire life I lived to express my dominance over others through my achievements, but the truly wise saw right through me and just pitied me. The thing that dictated my entire life was shattered beyond repair thanks to the Grace of God. This is not to say I do not struggle with pride, but it is nothing like it used to be. Since God destroyed my main barrier to pursuing truth, my search for the true Church of Christ was in a sense easy. I was no longer married to any preconceived notions or ideas, because once I came to the realization of being so amazingly wrong on something, it gave me a certain mental flexibility that was advantageous when pursuing that capital “T” word.
Every new theological issue I pursued had Catholicism coming out on top. Purgatory seemed logical, the Papacy seemed absolutely necessary, the Catholic view of Mary was utterly beautiful to me (Which was a real shocker considering my personality), and the real presence of the Eucharist was a no-brainer after studying Scripture. Of all the hot button issues in the Protestant-Catholic debate I did not really have a problem siding with the Catholic view of things on any issue. This was surprising because not long ago in my life I viewed the Catholic Church as public enemy number one.
Mary solidified us spiritually
The teaching that really took me back was that of Mary. You see, my wife, Taylor, was with me every step of the way during my pursuit. She started out as my adversary and then became my spiritual, emotional, and intellectual confidant. However, I inflicted a lot of damage on her at an emotional and spiritual level due to my prideful and unsympathetic ways. I engaged in activities and conversations that wrecked our relationship and each other as individuals during my pursuit of the faith. All this and other things in her past led my wife to struggle with Christ as a male figure (An all-too-common emotional issue in our fallen world). Mary has been there to pick up my wife and myself and clean up the mess of our broken paths and lead us to her Son Jesus Christ in a very profound way. This intercession of Mary bringing my wife and me closer together and bringing us both closer to Christ was and is a huge deal for me. Seeing the fruits of the relationship between my wife and Mary has taught me empathy and compassion. The callousness of my younger days has been broadly washed away because of the fruits that are so visible in my life now thanks to the love of God and intercession of the Blessed Mother.
The healing power of Christ and His Church
The Grace of God has used the Catholic Church and Her traditions, teachings, and saints to help me live with and, even to an extent, conquer my biggest flaws and turn them into strengths. Christ has given me the ability to truly love another human being that I did not have before. The Catholic Church has provided me with the tools to be content and dismiss the harmful sides of my obsessive nature and use my determination for the good of my growing family. Most importantly the Grace of God has helped me minimize my ego that was so detrimental to myself and my loved ones.
My flaws are many and my life is constantly requiring a lot of Grace, but God and His Church have truly transformed my life and my nature. God has continued to work on my mind and soul to the point that I left my seventeen-year-old self’s dream at the NBA, liquidated all my investments, and started a mission driven Christian business because God let me know in a not-so-subtle way that my Christian convictions cannot just stop on Sundays or in the home. They must be pervasive in every aspect of my life.
My resistance to the next step
My family at the time of my conversion, or technically speaking reversion, was doing well financially through my career at the NBA and my investments, but these ways of making money were simply not in alignment with the Christian life. This wisdom I acquired is something I completely credit to the traditions and vast wisdom of Catholic social teaching. I had changed almost every aspect of my life but the ways in which I treated and made money remained the same from before my conversion. One quote often attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas that disrupted my whole world was “Whenever, you invest in something that means you want that something to grow in power and influence.” I realized that I was investing time into the NBA and money and time into all kinds of things that my Christian conscience would never want to grow in power and influence.
This new found depth of the Faith I believed was the true start of my Christian life. Before I left my younger self’s dream job and liquidated my security blanket, I could only say the right things, but often I never put any action to my words which left me empty and my words and convictions fruitless.
My family was growing and we were very reliant on our streams of income and we were perhaps too comfortable in our lives. My wife was pregnant with our third child in 3 years, we had just bought a house in the last 12 months, and I had just decided to quit my job which was the only consistent source of income we had. Not only was all this going on but the business I planned to start would provide a service that God told me to make free. I knew what God wanted me to do. There were more signs than I could count pointing me to the path I was supposed to take, but I argued with our Lord. “Hadn’t I done enough? I converted from atheism, I discerned and chose the Catholic Church based on Your guidance, I changed my callous and obsessive ways, I let You destroy my Ego and wreck my sheltered little word, and I left my childhood dream job. Now you also want me to start a business that does not even have the perceived ability to provide for my growing family?”
But it all came back to the prayer I prayed upon my conversion: “Lord, Your will be done.” I again found myself in opposition to God on an emotional level but knew at the intellectual level I had made the commitment to follow Him wherever He led. The transitions in my life have not been easy, but they have always been good. God provided in ways that I did not think possible and He provided things that I did not even know I needed as He took other things away that I did not need but thought I did.
The ongoing journey
I opposed God staunchly at the beginning of this story and wanted nothing more than for the Catholic faith to be false. I then found myself on a spiritual high and gladly chose the Catholic Faith among all the other Christian denominations without too much trouble or mental resistance. Right after I joyfully followed God to the Catholic Church, I found myself begrudgingly obeying Him when He asked me to do something I did not want to do. Now all’s I can do is sit back and reflect on the journey and wonder to myself why I ever resisted in the first place. Perhaps it was so I could share this story and help someone else on their journey. Perhaps it is just how God’s Grace works.
I am sure that I will disobey God and not listen to his voice over and over again throughout my life. Yet, I am grateful that He who I thought was non-existent, and His Church who I thought to be the enemy, are now my armor, my joy, my peace and my place to call Home.
Marcanthony Lozano, MBA owns and operates the free Christian Stock Picking and Investment Recommendation site www.ChristCenteredCapital.com. He currently lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Taylor, and their four children: Graciela, Magdalene, Rocco and TBD (Due on 11/12/22).
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