June 17, 2022

After 72 years, new Catholic says Church ‘is what I longed for all my life’

Gayle Griffiths beams with Father Jonathan Meyer, co-pastor of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, after she was received into the full Communion of the Church during the parish’s Easter Vigil Mass on April 16. (Submitted photo by Cindy White)

Gayle Griffiths beams with Father Jonathan Meyer, co-pastor of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, after she was received into the full Communion of the Church during the parish’s Easter Vigil Mass on April 16. (Submitted photo by Cindy White)

(Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final article in a series chronicling the journey of four people who were received into the full communion of the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass on April 16.)
 

By Natalie Hoefer

At 72, Gayle Griffiths isn’t sure what took her so long to come home to the Catholic faith.

“I guess I wasn’t ready yet or God had other things to teach me,” she says. “I just wish I hadn’t wasted so much time!”

Her slow walk to Catholicism included time as a Methodist, years in the New Age movement, three decades practicing Messianic Judaism and time studying the early Christian desert fathers.

The journey brought Griffiths to All Saints Parish in Dearborn County. On April 16 at the parish’s St. Martin Campus in Yorkville, Griffiths was received into the full communion of the Church during the Easter Vigil Mass.

Her quest for God began as a little girl with her best friend and their desire to be saints.

‘I realized this is who I am’

Griffiths was raised as a Methodist, but admits she “was kind of Catholic at heart when I was young.”

She was “greatly influenced” by her best friend Paula, a Catholic “who was deeply devout.”

When Griffiths was sick for two years as a child, “Paula would bring me books about saints, and we would read them—we both wanted to be saints,” she says. “I always loved Jesus, and I fell in love with the Sacred Heart of Jesus image.”

When Griffiths was 16, her family moved to Tucson, Ariz. They never joined a church, and so began her meandering journey “always seeking God.”

Her first venture was in the New Age movement in her 20s and early 30s.

Griffiths then discovered Messianic Judaism, whose members practice the Jewish faith but also believe in Jesus as the Messiah.

“I was a member of the movement for 32 years,” she says. “But there was always something missing. I needed a deeper relationship, and the Messianic Jews have issues with symbols of the cross and don’t practice Communion except during the third cup of the Seder meal at Passover.”

Griffiths was still practicing Messianic Judaism in 2018 when she suffered an injury on the right side of her body. It led to a painful, protracted illness.

“One night, I had a dream where I had to take care of a life-size crucifix before people came to venerate it,” she recalls. “It began to bleed, and I was trying to clean the blood and it fell on me, covering me.

“I heard a voice say, ‘You can’t have the cross without my blood.’ I woke up healed—and overcome with conviction that I had not given my all.”

So Griffiths continued to search for God. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and her husband’s poor health to consider, she stopped attending church. At the same time, she felt a call to “go deeper” into her spirituality.

Griffiths was a longtime fan of Catholic musician John Michael Talbot. He also started and leads the Little Portion Hermitage in Berryville, Ark., an association affiliated with the Diocese of Little Rock, Ark.. She signed up for his online spirituality course.

“We studied the early desert fathers and Jesus and prayer, and it started drawing me toward Catholicism,” she says. “I realized this is who I am in my heart and soul.”

‘This is what I longed for all my life’

During that time, Griffiths took her granddaughter to an urgent care facility.

“The nurse asked about my faith, and I told her my husband and I weren’t going to church because of the pandemic,” she recalls. “She said her church had outdoor services. I looked it up. It was All Saints, and I discovered it was Catholic.”

Griffiths’ husband Ed was a fallen-away Catholic, but she says he was ready to go back to church.

So the couple went to an outdoor Mass offered at the time by the parish—and they were “both overcome,” she says. She made an appointment with parish pastor Father Jonathan Meyer “about our next step.”

Griffiths enrolled in the parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. She started watching the Eternal Word Television Network, read books by Protestant-turned-Catholic author Scott Hahn and books on apologetics—“I want to know answers, and I want to be ready when people ask,” she says.

The one stumbling block in her pursuit was the idea of purgatory.

“Now, I see it as a grace,” says Griffiths.

As for the Easter Vigil Mass, “The only thing I can say is I was just on cloud nine—everyone said I was absolutely beaming,” she says. “The whole creation history, all the readings—it was hard not to cry through the whole thing, I was so touched.”

Receiving the Eucharist for the first time “was like receiving my first kiss from my beloved,” she says. “It was grace on grace.”

Griffiths’ natural choice for a confirmation saint was St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a 17th-century nun who promoted the popular Catholic devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“She was perfect for me for a number of reasons,” she says. “I really identified with her because of her great love of Jesus. The Sacred Heart picture has always been part of my walk, even when I was a New Ager.”

Griffiths is now “all in” as a Catholic. She prays the rosary at nearby St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Aurora and has joined a Bible study at St. Lawrence Parish in Lawrenceburg.

And she worships at Mass as often as she can.

“The Eucharist is huge,” she says emphatically. “That’s the treasure in the field, and I want it. I’ve always been a sacramental type of person—I love the liturgy.”

After 72 years, “I have so much to learn!” says Griffiths. “I’m full of all this wonder, and I have so much to make up for. This is what I longed for all my life.” †

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