Being open to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ changes your life and brings the inexpressible joy of knowing you are walking hand in hand with the One who loves you more than any other!
Dan Mazurek, a permanent deacon at St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Wayne, where he lives with his wife Anita, profoundly experienced Christ’s love as a young adult. Before then, God worked very hard to get his attention. Dan knows God saved his life on more than one occasion.
Dan is the fifth of eight children and was raised in a loving Catholic family. In sophomore year of high school, he began to search for joy and happiness. He liked partying, and “began to rely on alcohol as a best friend.” Dan thought he became “the real Dan, the cool Dan.” A treacherous path followed.
He believes he should have died in at least three incidents in his youth. But instead, “God saved my sorry hide for something better,” he said.
Coming home from a party one evening, Dan and three friends were intoxicated. With the car reaching 75 mph, Dan — not wearing a seatbelt — opened the door to get sick. He knows he should have died. His friend was able to pull him back, keeping him from falling out.
On the same trip, closer to home, the driver fell asleep at the wheel. The car should have fallen down the 200-foot embankment bordering the road. Instead, Dan said, “the car did four 360s down the center of the road and stopped. Chances of this occurring are extremely low. All four of us should have been crushed, dead and gone to the Lord.”
Another incident occurred in his first year of college. Dan became seriously ill. “I was drinking myself to death and contracted mono,” he said. “I was so thin from living only on alcohol. My organs were ready to shut down.”
Dan still remembers his father’s heartbreak. Walking into the hospital room, with tears in his eyes, he said, “Son, you have no idea how close we were to losing you!”
Dan began to have a nagging feeling that there must be a better life for him. He switched to a new college in sophomore year but continued to party. He masked his nagging feeling, and made plans to rush a fraternity with a friend.
But Dan had a conflict. The campus minister had reached out to him many times. She invited him to a retreat the same weekend as the fraternity rushing.
He decided to give in to that nagging feeling that had become almost constant. There must be a better life for him.
Dan attended the retreat but wasn’t expecting much. Noting another student’s initial excitement, he thought, “What is this dude so excited about? It’s just a retreat!”
Yet when he arrived, Dan said all the retreat team members were “filled with this light that had to have been the Holy Spirit.” After all the talks and testimonies, Dan knew what they had was special. They were all filled with a deeper joy and happiness than Dan ever knew and he wanted what they had. The desire was so powerful, Dan said, “it was shaking me inside, knocking on my soul.”
It was God’s immeasurable loving mercy following confession that truly changed him.
“I am facing a man (priest),” Dan said, “who looks like my real father. I feel like I’m confessing my sins, of being a pretty poor son, to my real father. Then I realized how much more it must mean to my heavenly father. I poured out my heart and left it all there. I walked over to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and started weeping. I wept for an hour straight. I could not stop crying. This cleansing was so healing. I was letting go of all my sins. I’ve never had that kind of experience, even though I went to confession every month my whole life with my mother. Nothing came remotely close.”
After that retreat, Dan explained, “I was a new person. I was so high on the Lord, you couldn’t peel me off the ceiling. It was an incredible experience of God’s love and forgiveness. I was so excited about what was coming.”
Everything in Dan’s faith now made sense. Every Mass affected him in a new way. The Eucharist, he discovered, “truly is the presence of Christ. People were shocked at my happiness. The joy on my face was overwhelming. My face just lit up.”
Deacon Dan’s face is still lit up, and he is a joyful inspiration to all!
Please share this story on social media and send your own faith story to firstname.lastname@example.org. Help others discover the joy of knowing God.
Cathy Peacock holds an M.A. in theology, is a Certified Public Accountant and a member of St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Wayne.
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