On an episode of The Patrick Madrid Show, Patrick told the emotional story of an encounter he had with a seemingly angry ex-Catholic woman at a book signing years ago.
At a convention center, Patrick sat at a table in front of a line of people waiting to have him sign their books. Out of the corner of his eye, Patrick spotted a woman fifteen feet off to his left, glaring at him. Paying no attention, he continued to sign books, every few minutes glancing up to see if she was still there. After a while, he realized that she was waiting for him to finish. She wanted to speak to him.
Patrick eventually finished with the last signing and looked her way. “So when the time came, I smiled at her and I said, ‘Hello,’ and her response to me was, ‘Don’t even try it.’” Immediately shocked at her defensive reply, Patrick was taken aback. She went on to explain that she knew who he was and that he tries to bring people to the Faith through dialogue. She revealed that she was an ex-Catholic who hated the Church and its teachings, and she was only there because her Catholic husband had dragged her there.
Patrick, realizing he was beginning to get angry, asked her why she left the Faith. She explained that she hated the way Catholics “worship statues, worship Mary, and think that that wafer is really Jesus.” All of this was beginning to irritate Patrick and he said he was preparing to precisely and efficiently dismantle everything wrong with her arguments against the Catholic Church. But as she was finishing her litany of gripes, he had an intuition that he should just remain silent instead of dancing all over her argument.
So instead of launching a counter-attack, Patrick asked again, “You used to be Catholic? What happened?” Seeing the authenticity in his eyes, they went to sit down at a table away from others and she began to tell her story. When she was eighteen, she got premaritally pregnant. Having grown up in a devoutly Catholic family, she assumed that the idea of an extramarital pregnancy would be shocking and scandalous to her parents. On the other hand, her boyfriend was pushing her to get an abortion. Unsure of what to do, scared of what might happen, and receiving no support from anybody in her life, she decided to turn to a Catholic priest.
After arriving at the parish office of a church several towns over, she asked for the priest and he came out of his office to see her. She explained her situation to him, but instead of offering comfort, prayer, and advice, he told her that it was probably nothing, she should take another test later, and that he had other matters to attend to. He left, leaving the young woman desperate, scared, and utterly alone. Feeling like she had no other choice, her boyfriend drove her to a clinic, paid the three hundred dollars, and she had an abortion.
“Now at this point, this poor woman who was berating me so furiously ten minutes earlier, now her head was down on this lunch table and she was sobbing. She couldn’t even talk anymore, she was sobbing. And her shoulders were heaving. And I think she was trying not to just completely fall apart,” explained Patrick. He said that that’s when she began to hate the Catholic Church. Her parents couldn’t help her because they would have disowned her. That priest, who personified the Church in her mind, didn’t help her. When she needed others most, she felt like she had been completely abandoned.
As she sat there, drying her tears, Patrick said he blurted out the first thing that popped into his head: “Well, you need to go to confession.” Utterly disgusted at hearing that, directly following the story she had just told, she stood, rebuked Patrick for his seemingly thoughtless advice, and left. “And I was kicking myself. Why did I say that? Of all the things I could’ve said, why did I say that?” Patrick was upset that he had failed to be more comforting and welcoming. He had lost an opportunity to bring somebody back to Christ.
Or so he thought.
Six weeks later, Patrick received an email. The opening sentence read, “Dear Patrick, you were right. I needed to go to confession.” The woman explained that she couldn’t get it out of her head and that it must’ve been the Lord speaking to her. She said she went to confession and was able to speak to a priest, the type she could have used when she was eighteen. That woman ended up returning to the practice of her Faith.
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