May 25-31, 2006
The Cost of Faith
By Deacon Tom Picciano/ SUN contributing writer
Former Nazarene Pastor Returns to Catholic Roots after Conversion Dream Experience
By Deacon Tom Picciano
SUN contributing writer
Binghamton — Douglas Gonzales is a man who lost his wife and family, his job, and his home in exchange for his faith. But he smiles brightly, and is very happy because of his deep Catholic faith.
The former Nazarene pastor told his story of conversion at St. John the Evangelist Parish before an audience of more than 200 on April 30.
Gonzales didn’t grow up in a religious household, but the influences of faith were there. His maternal grandmother gave him his earliest instruction. But it was very anti-Catholic. He told the story of an aunt who thought the church was out to kill non-Catholics. He heard that comment every time they drove by the city hall where there were large rocks. He said the aunt would quiz them, “You kids know what those rocks are for?” she said. “Those rocks are there so the Catholics can kill us at the end of time.”
“This dear woman honestly believed that it was only a matter of time before the pope, the antichrist and the Catholic Church would bring forth Babylon.” Gonzales said. He’d been taught that Babylon would come from a place on seven hills, like Rome. But he noted that his hometown, Seattle, is likewise built on seven hills.
He was also taught that the Vatican had a computer to keep tabs on other Christian denominations. “On that secret supercomputer were all the names, all the Protestant ministers, because the pope was just waiting. He was going to punch up the list and they were going to kill all of us and none of us were going to be able to escape,” he said. Gonzales added that he’s not sure how that would be possible, because he learned in recent years that Pope John Paul didn’t know how to turn on a computer.
“This is what I believed. I came to the inevitable conclusion that there was absolutely no salvation for Catholics inside their creed. The only way for a Catholic to be saved,” he said, “was to denounce their Catholic faith.” “Catholicism was an obstacle,” he said “All the statues, liturgy, the rituals, nothing but idolotry that people needed to shed.” When Gonzales went to Catholic University to work on a doctorate, he had a belief that he was on a mission to confirm the information that he’d been taught about the church.
That’s where he came to a turning point. One night in a dream, he came upon a rural church, and had to get inside to see the Holy Father. But he said a pack was weighing him down. He called out for the help of St. Bridget, although he didn’t know of her. He was eventually able to get inside the church, where he saw Pope John Paul II. “I said, ‘Holy Father, please forgive me for I have sinned.’ He laid his hands on me and I woke up with the most incredible sense of peace I had ever had in all my life.”
The next day, he spoke to a priest friend who suggested he become Catholic. The priest gave him a rosary and encouraged him to go on a retreat. His wife told him if he came back Catholic, he shouldn’t come back at all. It was during the retreat that Gonzales learned more about the Blessed Mother. He also found the truth about the Catholic Church and came to believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist. Then he spent time in a room dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima, smelling roses where there were none.
He prayed there with a nun and got a strange feeling in his chest. “As she was praying for me,” he said “a layer of skin was pulled off my heart.” Several months later, Gonzales smelled those roses again after his toddler son was the only one in a church van that went into gear, crossed a street and then stopped suddenly. He’s convinced Mary spared the boy injury. Gonzales was confirmed in July, 2000. His wife left with the children in June, 2004 and he lost his job as a chaplain. He lost his home, and his wife divorced him. He’s since regained custody of the children, and now works as a Director of Religious Education in a Seattle parish.
Despite his losses, he always remembers that, “I’ve received more than I’ve sacrificed.” His faith journey took him through the Church of the Nazarene and back to the church where he found he had Catholic roots. Gonzales had been baptized Catholic at the age of 18 months.
Gonzales said if the true presence in the Eucharist were known “everyone should be a Catholic.” His visit to Binghamton was arranged by the pastor of St. John the Evangelist, Father John Mikalajunas.