It seems to me that after I graduated from the college, I managed to find my way back to Catholicism. I still wasn’t over the fence yet as far as converting, but things did start to change.
I started going to Mass at the local cathedral in the days following the death of Pope John Paul II. Although I wasn’t used to the Novus Ordo Missae, I did approve of what I saw. The services were beautiful and meaningful as were the sermons. I also continued to read the books that I found at that library I mentioned and then other thing started to come together.
It was around this same time that I made a pilgrimage to my high school on foot. It was during this visit that I went to see Fr. Harrington’s grave. It was nice to see the place again after so many years and to see the good sisters. To me, it felt like I had come home again. Yet the bitterness from my experiences still lingered and it took me a long time before I could drag myself to the library.
It was also during this period that I started praying the Liturgy of the Hours for the first time. In a way, it brought a rhythm into my life that I had experienced before as an Orthodox Christian. Yet what it brought with it also was a feeling, indistinct at first, that I was doing the right thing. Something inside me knew that I was going to be a Catholic, but I didn’t know it. I only knew that my life was going in a certain direction.
During the summer of that year, I moved to Los Angeles to begin my Master’s in English Literature at a renowned local Catholic college. It was a time when I felt intellectually stimulated, but also emotionally exhausted. Part of it was because I wasn’t used to living in a large city with its concomitant traffic and noise. I also wasn’t used to commuting three hours out of my day to get to this college nor was I used to the rituals that accompany grad school.
Yet I excelled at my classes and was able to spend more than three months at school. But not all was well. Aside from the culture shock, I had started to spend massive amounts of money on music and books. In a way, I was trying to desperately plug a hole that I had inside. I felt lonely and abandoned in the midst of a great metropolis. I’m sure that some of you agree that loneliness in a large city tends to be a problem of its own.
Another experience occurred during this period of time that convinced me I couldn’t stay in the Orthodox Church. This incident occurred at a large Orthodox parish that was located several blocks from where I lived with my grandparents. On a particular Sunday, I went to church so that I could pray for my parents and relatives. I came dressed in street clothes because I hadn’t planned on attending church that day.
After being in the church for a while, I became aware of an old man who was staring at me. He asked me over and over again in Russian what I was doing there. Quite frankly, he should seen me praying along with the priests during the memorial service that was being celebrated. Still, though, he continued his badgering.
Finally, I managed to get out the door and to run as fast I could away from the church. It was then that the man shouted something that has been engraved on my mind for a long time, “Don’t you dare come back, you darn Armenian so-and-so.”
It was at that time I understood that God didn’t want me to stay Orthodox. The words which came out of that man’s mouth seemed to confirm my own feelings because I had increasingly grown uncomfortable with Orthodoxy. Indeed, there was really nothing that could keep me there.
I also felt stung and offended because I had been kicked out of a church for doing nothing more than praying. It seemed ridiculous to me that people could be so callous and judgment to kick a person out because he wasn’t wearing the right clothes or because he was an Armenian. Yet it to me it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.
For a long time afterward, I was lost in a state of brooding anxiety. School was going well, things were interesting, and I had friends to talk to. Yet I still felt empty and the incident at that church stung even more. However, things were going to change from bad to worse and it would take an intervention from God Himself to turn my life around.