From Catholic to the Truth

Robert Emmet Holmes

Being a carnal Catholic is having the best of both worlds, or so I thought.  However, my carnality and my religion were both taking me to hell.  The Catholic Church is like “…the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.”[1]  My lot was like the man Lot, a picture of a carnal Laodicean—an unfaithful saint.

To me, the Catholic Church was to be feared and respected—in that order.  I remember at a carnival at Saint Adain’s, the church I grew up in until the age of fifteen, a priest was greeting everyone, but I feared to greet him.

I grew up in an Irish Catholic family; my father was a New York City cop with an attitude.  I was number three in the family.  I went to Catholic Church until I was fifteen years old, when I started drinking.  As far back as I can remember, my family was Catholic.  But I was named after a “Black Bloody Protestant, bold Robert Emmet the Darain of Ireland.” The following is my personal testimony of salvation.

Born Catholic

My parents thought a Catholic education was important, so for two years I attended first and second grade at Saint Mel’s in Queens, New York.  We moved out to Long Island sometime around 1967 when I was seven, and when I went to public school in the middle of the school year, I got left back.  I went to CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) at Saint Aidan’s on Wednesday afternoon, but I do not remember much, except for riding on a bus and seeing lines of kids going from the bus into the school.  The nuns would hand out religious books, but I could not read, so it did not matter much to me.  I remember getting a paperback of the Good News for Modern Man and looking at the stick figures in the book.  I had no idea that it was a Bible.  Actually, it is a paraphrase of the Bible.

I did graduate with modified English and modified Social Studies and Phys. Ed. from Herrick’s High.  In the afternoon, I went to Boces, a trade school to learn how to be an auto mechanic.  I remember filling out an employment application and not being able to spell mechanic, so I would write auto mech.  As far as indoctrination into the Catholic faith, I was born into it.  I was baptized as an infant, confirmed as a young boy, and received my first Holy Communion.  I started lying and confessing my sins to priests at an early age.

When I was young, I went on Saturday to the confessional booth in the back of the church and would wait in line maybe ten to fifteen feet away, so as not to hear.  When I was in the booth it was dark; the little door would open and a priest would say something I did not understand, and I would say, “Bless me father, for I have sinned.  It has been two weeks since my last confession.”  My fear was getting my line wrong.  It never lasted long; I was never specific, always vague.  I think once or twice the priest would try to get more information from me, but I never told him much.  Then he would say something and tell me to say five “Hail Mary’s,” and two “Our Father’s.”  I would then go to the altar and pray the vain repetitious prayers.  “The way of the wicked is as darkness,”[2] I had no clue as to what I was doing, but I knew it was not right.

I remember my younger bother, Dan, about a year younger than I, becoming an altar boy.  To this day I have no idea why I was never asked to become one.  I would go to the Mass he was serving as an assistant.  He would place a metal tray under a person’s chin just in case the wafer fell.  Dan would put it close to my neck, but I thought it was a big joke.  I remember going back where he would dress and he showed me where the alcohol was kept.  Thoughts of dedicating my life to God in this way never entered my mind.  Serving God was the last thing on my mind, serving sin was.

I had another brother, Chris, who went to see Pope Pius II on Long Island in order to become a priest.  I thought of my brother as square, and that he was a social misfit.  I thought this of anyone who was interested in becoming more Catholic.

My Loyalty to the Flesh

As a Catholic, I never knew that the Catholic Church taught the Eucharist was the actual body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I found that out when I became a Christian.  I remember witnessing to a Catholic and asking him if he was a Christian, and he said, “No I’m a Catholic.”   Most Catholics have no idea what their church teaches.

After I received my first Holy Communion, the only thing I was interested in was getting my picture taken so it would be on the wall in my home.  There were eight pictures of everyone in their new clothes.  We were poor, so new clothes were nice to have.

Nanny’s House, Holy Water, and the Rosary

As a child, I remember holy water.  My grandparents were the only ones that used it on a regular basis.  When our family would visit them, grandmother would make us stick our fingers into the water and bless ourselves.  Kathleen White was her name.  She was a rather large woman, and she loved candy and cookies.  Of all the people in my world at that age, I could say I loved her.  There were not many of whom I could say that.  Well, she loved to pray the rosary on her knees.  How I hated that boring prayer.  I was still a boy—ten years old.  I wanted to watch TV and eat sweets.  She used to have big statues of the Virgin Mary in her room.  They frightened me.  I would sometimes spend the night, but I never liked looking at them in the dark.

Others and “The Way”

My first thought of “the way and the truth”[3] was at the age of fifteen.  A friend from high school, Robbie Williamson, invited me to a person’s house where they were having a religious meeting to hear about God.  I was not against God, and if someone had truth, I was interested in hearing what he or she had to say.  This shocked my friend because of the way I lived my life.  I remember being hurt because I “was” looking; I just had never heard the truth before.

It is strange what your mind remembers. The only thing I remember about this meeting was the impression I got from the person running the meeting.  He was in his basement, sitting in a high-back, stuffed chair with a 3’x3’ picture on the wall behind him of what was supposed to represent Jesus.  I remember asking many questions, but I did not get much response, except: “You are a confused boy.”  He might have been a Christian, but he did not know much about the Bible.

There was a Friday night RAP thing the Catholic Church had going for teens that I went to when I was about sixteen.  A Tony Bellise was in charge of these meetings.  I went to his meeting because I liked him as a person.  He was a nice guy, but he was not a Christian.  His message was on how we treat each other, rather than on how we treat God; it was more on humanist love than love for God.

The Navy, a Way Out

After living a life to the satisfying of the flesh, I decided my only way out was by joining the military.  I wanted to be clean in body, soul, and spirit. My military years changed my life.  October 31, 1980, on Halloween day, was my first day in the US Navy.  From Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, NY, I went to Orlando, Florida for boot camp. It was hard on me, but I needed the discipline.  I knew that I needed help, so I went to church on Sunday while I was in boot camp.  At the base chapel there were seven different kinds of Christian services that I attended.  This, I could say, was the first time in my life that I really was looking for God.  In one of the services on the base there was a small group that was trying to speak in an unknown language.  This was my first exposure to “speaking in tongues” in the flesh.  I wanted it because I thought it was of God.  Well, after seven weeks of this, it was my turn to speak in tongues; everyone put their hands on me but nothing happened.  I remember being a little disappointed, but it was not for me.  During my time in boot camp there was a Bible study at night.  I do not think the person running the study really believed what he was reading.  But for the first time in my life I realized that God had a “Book” and I wanted to know about it, even though I could only read on a sixth grade level.  In the Bible study, we read out of the book of Revelation. I asked the person running the study if he really believed what he was reading.  He said it was all symbolic.  I did not believe him, but I kept my opinions to myself.  Well, I got out of boot camp and the pressure was off.  I got to my duty station and started back toward the life style that I was trying to get away from.

The U-turn That Made the Difference

Three months after I got out of boot camp in Orlando, Florida, I was back to my old ways again.  I was stationed at the Naval Air Station at Jacksonville, Florida for schooling on airplanes.  I stopped looking for God and did not think there was much more I could do.  I knew I could not live a holy life in the flesh, you know—outwardly appearing righteous unto men as many Catholics do.  On Friday, March 13, 1981, I was planning to go to the Gatornationals, a drag race in Gainesville, Florida.  It was about three hours from the base by car on Interstate 10.  I remember a Navy friend, Kevin Knoll, was suppose to drive me, but he left without me.  I thought I would be able to get there.  The week before, I hitched-hiked to Bike Week at Daytona, Florida and had a great time.  Being left behind was not going to stop me from going, so I put my thumb out and started on my own once again.  I got a few small rides right away.  One of the last rides on my way to the races was from a person who just wanted to get out and drive because of some personal problems.  I think his child was sick in the hospital, and he was very depressed about the problem.  I wanted to help him but had nothing to offer him.

I was standing for three hours on Interstate 10, out of Jacksonville, without one ride.  In the distance, I saw a rest area on the other side of the Interstate.  So, I decided to make a “U-turn.”  Once I got to the rest area, I sat down in the parking lot for about a minute and a car pulled in and parked in front of where I was sitting.  I asked him if he was going back to the Navy base.  He said he was and gave me a ride. As we started back to the base, about twenty miles away, he asked me a few questions that God used to change my life forever.

Ten o’clock at Night on Friday the Thirteenth, May 1981

May 13, 1981, is a day I will never forget—the day of my salvation.  Well, I was on my way back to the base when the driver started to ask me these questions.  The first question he asked me was. “Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”  My first thought about this guy was not good.  I did not know what he wanted, but I said, “No.”  He asked me, “If you were to die today, do you know where you would go?”  I told him I was Catholic.  He said, “I did not ask if you were Catholic, but if you know where you are going when you die.”  That moment in time was the first time I felt conviction of my sins.  I had never felt that before.  I told him I would probably go to hell because as every good Catholic knows, if you do not go to Mass every Sunday, it is a mortal sin.

We finally got back to the base, and in the parking lot he asked me if I wanted to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to save me from my sins.  I could not believe it was that simple.  The hard part was that he wanted me to get out of the car and kneel down, in the parking lot of the barracks, and call upon the name of the Lord. Taking the free gift for salvation was the easy part, humbling myself was the hard part. Thus by God’s grace I turned to Jesus Christ and in faith, and believed solely on Him, as I knew the bible verses, “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.[4]

Spiritually Minded is Life and Peace

Now my affections are mostly set on things above and not on things of the flesh, because to be carnally minded is death.  I try to be spiritually minded and think on things that are good and holy, because as a man thinks in his heart so is he.[5] So I keep my heart with all diligence and hide His Word in my heart that I might not sin against Him. So: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.  For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”[6]  The great thing to be then judged of concerning every work is whether it be good or evil, conformable to the will of the Lord God or a violation of it.

Bob Holmes

If you would like to contact me I would welcome your message, just email me at:

[1] Proverbs 30:20

[2] Proverbs 4:19

[3] John 14:6

[4] Ephesians 2:8-9

[5] Proverbs 23:7

[6] Ecclesiastes 12:13