Testimony Tuesdays: Jackson

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Hello! I am Jackson Perry. In April of this year, I entered the Catholic Church at St. Peter’s. This was a terribly exciting day for me: I had looked up all the readings, invited my family and friends, chosen my sponsor 6 months before, and stayed till closing praying in the chapel the night prior. Some friends had bought sparkling cider, chips, and chocolate to celebrate after the event, and I had a wonderful evening with many friends from St. Peter’s and a phone practically spammed with congratulatory texts from everyone out of town.

The highlight of the day, though, was obviously the Mass. I have absolutely no memory of the Homily (which I suppose I shouldn’t mention in a document Fr. Daniel will read). It all happened so fast! My Confirmation, then First Communion were incredible. I was in total wonder at the Blessed Sacrament, and in a daze the rest of the day. My mother had prepared a great meal for everyone after the Mass and I passed through the festivities in a happy rest, playing with my cousins and praying.

That day was the end of a long and somewhat difficult process. From when I was little, I had been passionate about my faith and, as my parents will point out, drawn to “High Church”. I had a passion for scripture and faith that I almost took for granted, given to me by my parents. Discussions about the Bible were a normal part of our family, and I was raised with a reverence for church which I instinctively applied to Communion. My parents encouraged me, after reading Exodus in 3rd or 4th grade, to organize a Maundy Thursday celebration (Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper when Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples on the night before he was crucified) which I kept every year. I would practice my own version of Passover while reading the Gospels. I would then have a “Feast of the Unleavened Bread” in improper order following Passover with the extra Matzoh and grape juice I had. This was a deep part of my faith, solidifying in me a deep respect for the Last Supper, though I never thought to properly think it out.

In High School, I was reentering my faith, which had gone through little growth in middle and elementary school. Around sophomore year, I decided to research other Church traditions. I had listened to hours of sermons by pastors in Nondenominational and Calvinist traditions, and I knew, because of travel in the Mediterranean, that the church structures I knew were not the whole story. So I looked up the various Orthodox Churches, and I visited the Lutheran Church, and started researching the Catholic Church. My friend, who eventually became my sponsor, took an entire evening, till 3 AM, to prove to me that Catholic belief was not contrary to the Bible. Reading about the Orthodox Church introduced me to Christological heresies, and I became very aware of how easily doctrine contrary to the Trinity and Incarnation could be drawn from Scripture by personal interpretation. I was drawn again and again to the Catholic Church, and within two years was attending Daily Mass once a week when I could. I made close friends with some mothers that would pray with me afterwards.

There is much more to tell, but there is no time! The end result of all of this was that, when I came to Baylor, I was convinced that I would eventually enter the Church before I left. My entire faith, though, was (and is still) tainted with pride: the decisions I made appeared to be on my own, without anyone’s help. I had figured it all out, and I was clearly smarter than anyone else I would ever meet. Coming to St. Peter’s, though it wasn’t the reason for my conversion, was a large factor and a deeply humbling experience. Anyone approaching the Catholic Church approaches at first with qualms and little hold-outs of resistance. Here I found them exposed and corrected. It is a terrible thing to throw yourself with all your strength against Catholic Doctrine and the people who believe it completely, to watch yourself lose time and time again. Students at St. Peter’s have a deep loyalty to Catholic teaching and the Church, but not in place of their own minds. Instead, I found a community impassioned in its defense of shared beliefs.

I had believed that my faith was uniquely strong and allowed me to decide, above the heads of others, whatever was true. Therefore, I had detailed opinions on Creationism, Predestination, even the legitimacy of Church Councils. These were, of course, all right. Here, I had to face that those around me were spiritual giants in their own ways. I had to face what I had ignored for a long time: others progress towards and glorify God uniquely, and excelling in one area of faith does not invalidate those excelling in others. Because of this, I had no right to form truth on my own, but had to rely on something greater than myself. St. Peter’s has been an incredible support and catalyst for my faith. It helped form my desire for the Catholic Faith properly, and has given me, through community and the Sacraments, a closer relationship with Christ, for which I can never give enough gratitude.

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