“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold,
the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Mine is a story of love. It is a testament to the unconditional, immense, constantly seeking love of God. It pays tribute to how He will wait, ever so patiently, for us to come to Him, even if it takes years or a lifetime. I truly believe that the longer we pretend that we don’t need Him, the worse the state of our being will become. Of course, some people are not even aware that He exists. That’s where my story begins...........in the fog of atheism and the arrogance of youth.
I always remember feeling bad. I can’t really find a better way to explain it. A deep seeded feeling of malaise and heaviness. A crushing discontent that would never fully go away. I had no real reason for feeling this way, it seemed. I grew up in a loving family with two wonderful parents, both college educated but neither one particularly religious in a formal sense. Organized religion seemed more like a novelty or something very far away and esoteric to me as I was growing up. Honestly, I never really gave it much thought.
"They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them....."
My parents always made me feel like I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. Somewhere along the way, I lost the ability to see that fact for myself. My problems started in high school. I started hanging out with the “bad kids” and got into drugs and alcohol. My parents saw what was coming and tried to prevent my downfall, but I rebelled. I started changing schools and plummeting into a deep dark depression that would carry me downstream for 15 years of my life. The first time I attempted suicide, I was only 13 years old and in such a tormented place. I was cutting my body with razors every day and desperately wanted to die so that my suffering would end. There were so many days that I couldn’t even get out of bed. Only the grace of God kept me from taking my own life.
I continued down this road of drug addiction and criminal activity, which ultimately lead to multiple felony convictions as well as jail time. When I look at my mug shot from that time, I see the hollow eyes and the immense pain. I was consumed with self-hate. Drowning in my sorrow, I had lost all hope. At this point in my life, I really believed that there was no God, and we were all here by accident. I believed in evolution and had no patience to listen to those “crazy” religious people about humans having a “soul”. Christians particularly used to disgust me and I thought they were all ignorant and believed in magical thinking. I thought they were weak minded people who were just trying to make themselves feel better about dying. I never gave the thought of God a chance, not ever. I engaged in occult practices and was very promiscuous. I became addicted to pornography and could never feel satisfied, actively rebelling against my God given nature. The more I tried to fill the empty space inside, the emptier I became. It was almost as though my soul was a bottomless pit which could never be filled. I couldn't shake the feeling that something was missing, even though intellectually I vehemently denied it.
It was a miserable existence I lived, for I was not really alive. I truly was like the walking dead.
As the years went on, the consequences of my drug use became more severe. Like most people who go down the road of drug addiction my use of drugs progressed over time. I started abusing prescription opiates and from Oxycontin eventually graduated to heroin. The opiate epidemic we are facing is truly terrifying. Young people are dying every day and if it weren't for the grace of God, I would have been just another statistic.
The first time I ever tried heroin, I overdosed. I woke up strapped to a gurney in the ER, with a horrible pain in my chest. I later found out that the paramedics had to revive me with Narcan to reverse the effects of the heroin. My friend at the time just happened to come over to my apartment and saw through the open blinds, my lifeless body slouched on the couch. She broke in through the window to find my lips blueish/black....my tongue hanging out of my mouth. This sight terrified her, she later told me and she quickly called 911. To this day, I have no idea how long my brain was without oxygen, and yet I have absolutely no cognitive issues and my memory is still as sharp as it ever was. By His mercy, God would preserve my life and my mental faculties. He was right there with me, even though I didn't believe He existed.
"And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct."
Everyone in my life had finally conceded that I was beyond reproach, remorse, or possibly even rescue. In the worst part of it, during my years of active drug addiction, I had a vision of demons surrounding me one night in my motel room. They were standing shoulder to shoulder and completely still, staring at me as I lay awake and terrified in my bed. They were standing the same way outside the window as well, looking in. The look on their faces, I can never forget. The pure hatred they had for me could be seen plainly on their faces...they looked almost 'hungry' for my soul. They all had the most terrifying smiles on their faces...it is a horror I cannot even begin to put into words. They had rotting flesh and rancid, putrid eyes. It seemed that something was keeping them back...a few feet from grabbing me. I got the impression internally that they were saying something like, "We can't get you now...but you're already ours. One day, you will die, then we will not be held back anymore and we will come for you.....we are patient." I got the impression that they were smiling because I was living my life in a pit of grievous sin and they knew that because of my choices, I belonged to them. I didn’t know it at the time, but it seems to me now that I was seeing straight into hell, looking at the fate of my own soul in a most disturbing way. I will never forget those things that I saw.....I can still see the room as I write this.
"...in order that satan should not outwit us...for we are not unaware of his schemes....."
Moving all around the country, homeless at times, I was trying to find that perfect city, where all my problems would magically go away. Obviously, the part that I was failing to realize was that I, in fact, was the problem. I followed myself everywhere I went. It was the same story, on what seemed to be a perpetual cycle of pain and misery. It’s hard to really describe the intensity of the physical, mental and spiritual pain of this time in my life. It was a living hell and I never thought I would escape it.
Then, when I was 24, my life would drastically change forever. I received a phone call that would set me on a path to meet God. It would be my earthly mother who God would use to reach me. The mother who refused to abort me back in 1985, risking her own life to give me mine. This heroic woman, who had loved me all my life, had finally come to a point where, even she doubted God’s goodness. For so many years, she had prayed for me. She had always held out hope that one day, I would be saved. Year after year, it never came. She was at the point of giving up. I seemed like a lost cause and everyone else had given up hope. God, in His wisdom, knew that my mom needed something direct and supernatural to reach her. It seemed that my mother had more of a connection with God then I ever realized.....
We had always known that my mom had a “special gift”. She could tell us things before they happened. She would see things in a dream or a vision. Sometimes she would tell us about an event before hand and we would witness it coming about. I just thought she was psychic or something but never really put much more thought into it. I was in Michigan at the time and she called me from Florida. I’ll never forget the sound of her voice that day. She was absolutely HYSTERICAL. I thought that my dad had been killed in Iraq or something equally as horrible had happened. I couldn’t understand what she was saying to me, she could barely breath and she was sobbing. I told her that I was going to hang up on her and then call her back in a minute after she calmed down. She was emotionally out of control.....
I did so, and when I called her back she said these words that I will never forget. “It’s all real, Meagan. It’s all real!” I said “What’s real mom?!” She said, “Jesus, Angels, Heaven….it’s ALL REAL!” She then started telling me how she saw an Angel, or something like one, in her car, a bright blinding light that spoke to her. It appeared to her as she was driving down a busy road in the middle of the day and scared her almost to death. What she described to me was a ‘being’ of bright, brilliant light, so intense that she could not and dared not stare at it. She pulled over on the side of the road and could see it out of her peripheral vision. It began to speak to her for it had come to give her a message......
Its voice was neither male or female and it said clearly to her, “Don’t worry about Meagan, Meagan is going to be ok.” Then, it said three times, “Pentecost, Pentecost, Pentecost” and disappeared.
God had come crashing into human existence this day and changed the course of our lives forever.
The only way I can describe it is, when I heard my mom’s voice and I heard the words that she spoke, I INSTANTLY believed that God was real. My mother was the most mentally sound person you could ever meet. Everyone would agree to this fact. She surely was no "religious fanatic!" God knew that I would believe her and He chose to use her voice to impart His grace.
The scales fell away from my eyes. The veil was lifted.
"Let him who has eyes see, and him who has ears HEAR."
I knew, in an instant, that He was a real person and that this really happened. That Jesus was God. Christianity was true. All of it was true.
It’s like the song Amazing Grace states, “How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.”
I had never heard of this strange word, “Pentecost” before and neither had my mom. So, I went straight to the computer to Google a definition which I read to my mom on the phone. This was the beginning of my journey. God had called me out of the darkness. Now, I would need to find out where He was. This process would take me six long and painful years.
"The Lord does not delay His promise, but He is patient with you....not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance...."
I was baptized in a Protestant denomination and I was given a Bible. I started to read it and yet my faith remained hollow. I was still living a life of drug addiction and promiscuity. I knew, intellectually that Jesus was real, but I didn’t feel Him in any of these protestant denominations. There was no sense of intimacy. The people were so wonderful to me and helped me so much but something was still missing, I felt I had “accepted Him as my Lord and Savior" like I was told to do, (which basically meant me saying the words), but I never felt any different. Nothing changed. I had the desire to amend my life and turn from my sinful ways, but I just didn’t have the strength to do it on my own. I needed supernatural strength to help me. I literally needed Jesus to come into my body, physically, to save me. Looking back, I know I needed the Eucharist. These demons were massive and I was so small. I realized that on my own I could do nothing to stop them.
I had two children who were removed from my care by child protective services because of my drug addiction and poor parenting. One was adopted at birth and the other went to live with my parents. I put myself in a methadone program which I would stay in for 5 years, using it as a legal way to stay high. Eventually I would detox from of it after my second child was born addicted to methadone and taken from me. I continued this path of self-destruction. God was someone so far away, so hard to reach, even though the thought of Him was always in the back of my mind. Ultimately, my addiction took me to the darkest depths of homelessness and the daily use of IV heroin. I couldn’t stop, I was headed straight for death. The utter desolation and despair I experienced is something I will never forget.
"...left alone among the dead, like the slaughtered lying in the grave..... whom you remember no more......"
I ended up pregnant with my third child and this time, I was homeless in San Francisco, CA. One day, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I told God, “Just leave me alone! I never want to talk to you again!” I was so angry at God and I was blaming Him for all my bad decisions.
Some time went on and, thankfully, God did not respect my request.
After the despair of being without God set in, I recanted my previous position and called out to God again. I said, “I need to know where you are! Show me where you are God! If you don’t, I cannot live anymore!” I had been contemplating suicide and God answered me just in time. I walked in to a protestant service in the City and asked them to help me. They were so kind and put me up in a hotel for the night. I was given a phone list of all the local shelters in the area and The Missionaries of Charity homeless shelter for pregnant women was the first name on the list. I called the Queen of Peace shelter the next day. Mother Superior said that they had a bed for me and I should come now. I went right away.
Every day, at three o clock, one of the nuns would ring the bell in the hallway so we would know to come pray The Divine Mercy Chaplet with the sisters. I would spend extra time with them, asking them questions. They were so intriguing to me. I knew about their intense vow of poverty and was struck by their unshakable joy! They radiated happiness and love. I wondered how you could have "nothing" materially speaking, and be so happy! I had always thought that if I could just get enough of this or that, I would finally be happy. Happiness of course, never came. I could tell that what I was witnessing was authentic and that these nuns were genuine. And more than anything else, when they spoke about Jesus, I could tell that they ACTUALY knew Him! They were talking about someone they knew intimately. This was so different from what I had experienced in the protestant groups. Yes, I instinctively knew that this was real.
God had crushed my pride enough through being homeless, breeding humility to prime me for this encounter. The humility allowed me to see the truth of the faith when it came to me.......in a white and blue sari, about four and a half feet tall. Such tiny women, but what mighty souls! Giants of faith and charity!
Oh how immense is His Divine Mercy for us! It is through praying the chaplet and the life of His sisters that Jesus softened my heart and made me aware of His life inside His Church.
Finally, I took one of the sisters aside and exclaimed, “You have something that I do not have but I desperately want .........Please, tell me about the Catholic Church.”
The sister told me plainly, "Well, Peter was the first Pope." She told me that the Catholic Church was the same Church that Jesus Himself had established. I knew that I had to be apart of it and to learn more. She told me about the classes I could take in order to be accepted into the Church called R.C.I.A, (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). I simply asked her, "When can I start?!"
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it...."
After coming face to face with my poverty in regard to my drug addiction, I reached out to the sisters for help. They made it possible for me to go into a residential program in the City and drove me there for intake. I went through RCIA inside the program thanks to my wonderful godmother who brought the classes to me where I lived. I was accepted into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil, 2015. I took the name Jude because surely I was a hopeless case if there had ever been one. I had my son Judah while in this year long in-patient program and graduated with glowing reports. It was to be the first thing I ever finished in my life. After completion of my primary program, I entered a transitional program with the Salvation Army for 10 months, ultimately graduating from it as well. The same state that had taken my other children, after seeing all my accomplishments, eventually awarded me sole custody of my baby boy. I had redeemed myself in the eyes of the state and was declared a fit mother. I named the baby Judah the day I found out I was pregnant.
The mass reading from the day I took him home to the program, from the hospital, was "Weep no more, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah has triumphed."
Indeed, my years of weeping had come to an end. The Lion had triumphed.
I had proven to the state and to my family that I was truly rehabilitated. I was reunited with my parents finally after all that time away. My life was beginning to change.
After receiving the Eucharist, I started to notice that I was changing; permanently, internally, spiritually, intellectually and morally. I started to think and feel differently. I was becoming a new person, literally experiencing a re-birth. I quit smoking cigarettes after 15 years of heavy use and I no longer needed my rescue inhaler and asthma medication. I stopped taking my antidepressants because I felt like I no longer needed them. Food had been my first drug of choice and I used it to cope with my stress. I had been morbidly obese for most of my life, always trying the new fad diet to no avail. My weight was one of my biggest problems that I had given up on trying to fix, but after the vigil, I was finally able to lose most of the extra weight I had been carrying around my whole life. I lost 80 pounds and no longer had painful joints from walking. I could walk up the stairs and not be out of breath. I still struggle with an eating disorder and am prone to the vice of intemperance, but daily communion helps me keep that demon contained.
I never again drank alcohol or used drugs and to this day I have no desire to. In fact, the thought of my previous sins is repugnant to me. Nothing can compare to the love that I was feeling from God and the closeness I experienced through the Eucharist. Every other earthly pleasure I had experienced up until this point didn’t come close. I started thinking more about others than myself. The thoughts I had about continuing some of my sins began to quickly vanish. I began to not only follow all the teachings of the Church, but to fall deeply in love with them. Jesus was REAL to me! He became the object of my desire and the true love of my life. He is REALLY, TRULY PRESENT IN THE EUCHARIST! Without Him, physically present within me, I could not have conquered these demons that had tormented me all my life. I had tried every way you can imagine for so many years. I really had found the answer! The thing I had been longing for my whole life, I had found. What an incredible grace to be so afflicted for so many years!
Jesus became everything to me. He was my friend, always with me. I have never felt lonely again and to this day, that sense of Him being in the room with me has not left. I promised Him a life of chastity after all my years of horrid sexual sin and pornography addiction. His grace allows me true repulsion to these types of sins now....the thought of ever getting close to any of it again, makes my stomach turn.
Mother Angelica told me through the t.v screen that we are all called to be great saints! I began to have this incredible desire to be holy and started going to daily mass, regular confession and began to passionately study the faith. I couldn't get enough of the Catechism, the lives of the saints and the Scriptures. For a time, I was able to go to daily adoration which really helped me develop the beginnings of an interior life. I knew that I could show Jesus my love through fidelity to His apostles and their teachings. The Church became my home and I knew I would never leave Her. I would pray for Her and build her up in any small way I could.
For no thing is considered small in the eyes of Our Lord.
I obtained the grace I needed to make my first confession. Going over all the years of my life, all the horrible sins, I confessed them all. It took me some time to read all three pages front and back to my priest. Sobbing, unable to look Father in the eyes, Jesus gave me the courage to complete it. After Father absolved me of my sins, I knew that something supernatural had taken place. God had not only forgiven me through this loving, holy man; He had taken my sins away. I really felt that the only way that He remembered me was the way I am now. Now I understood why Jesus instituted the sacrament of confession. To hear the words of absolution was one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given. Now I could begin to forgive myself. I truly was a new creation walking out of that room.
"Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow...."
Mother Angelica was the most important teacher that I had at this point. I would watch all her episodes on YouTube and allowed her to help form my spirituality. I loved her style of defending the Church and I wanted to be just like her! I became dedicated to learning the truths of the Church and everything she teaches. I started reading about the lives of the Saints and realized that they were quickly becoming my ideal. I came to realize that I was surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, in the words of Saint Paul. I had a whole family to discover in the Church Triumphant, the saints in heaven, who would help me attain to my salvation!
God had made a promise to my mother all those years ago......and He always keeps His word.
Quite often, people will open up to me about their personal struggles and ask me questions about the Catholic faith. I can see God using me to draw others to Himself and to the sacraments. This brings me such joy. Specifically, He wants all to know and believe in the Real Presence, that He is truly, substantially present in the Holy Eucharist, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. That He founded a Church, and He is waiting for all of His children to come to Him. To come to Jesus and be united with Him in intimate love.
I always say, “If you knew me before, and know me now, you could come to no other conclusion other than the Eucharist is real. Everything the Roman Catholic Church proclaims must be true. The Church is truth itself."
My life is filled with a peace I cannot explain. After witnessing the transformation in my life, my father went back to confession after being away from the Church for 40 years. I had the incredible honor of walking my dad to the priest and watching him go inside with Father with his confession on a list in his hand. He now attends mass every Sunday, with my mom and my daughter. I sponsored my mother through RCIA and she was accepted into the Church this Easter Vigil. She took the name Monica as was so fitting for surely, "it was impossible that a daughter of so many tears should perish." After so many years of trying many different treatments and doctors, with little success, my mom became convinced that the sacraments of the Church were indeed real and true. Once she witnessed the fullness of my transformation, she said to me, “I want what you have.”
I knew exactly how she felt....
The ripple effect has begun.....
Life is still hard at times, but looking back, the contrast is astounding. My sufferings now make sense to me, united to the cross of Christ. Without this understanding, my suffering seemed meaningless. I am able to know Jesus, to have an intimate relationship with Him through the Most Holy Eucharist. He is always close to me. I know He loves me. I also know that He saved me for a reason and I have a lot of work to do. My story is proof that miracles do happen; that no one is "too far gone" for God to reach. The Eucharist is real. The Catholic Church is where the truth is found.
I remember how it felt to be invisible and to feel almost subhuman and abandoned by everyone when I was homeless. I have a special love in my heart for people the world scorns and throws away. I’m involved with three different ministries in Portland that involve street evangelization. It is such a joy to be able to share my story of conversion with others and to show them how much they are loved and cherished by God. I tell people to not be afraid of confession. I tell them that no sin they have ever committed is too big for God to forgive..... He is just waiting for them to ask.
Addiction is a real problem in our society and it must be reckoned with. There are so many different treatments available for addiction, all of them miss the mark. Trying to fill the void within us with the pleasures of the world will never satisfy. What all of us are searching for is Him, and we will never be satisfied until we find Him. There is only ONE place where you can find Him physically present, and that is in the Blessed Sacrament. He is waiting for you in the Eucharist! Jesus preserved my life to be a living witness of this.....
"It's real.....It's all real....."
I now live in my own house and I drive a car. I go to college and I pay taxes. I have a good GPA and I am almost finished with my BA from Christendom College and am looking at doctoral programs in Washington DC. These things were a huge accomplishment for me. My parents finally could help me and my children as they had wanted to for so many years. They support me while I’m going to college and it is such a great gift. I have such a deep appreciation for these things that so many take for granted. A shower every day, food to eat, a bed to sleep in. Clean clothes to wear. Safe, away from the rain and cold.
The daughter who was taken away and went to go live with my parents has been reconciled with me. Even though she still lives with them, we have a relationship now. Her five-year-old brother, the little baby who I was pregnant with in San Francisco, is with me and is a thriving, beautiful little boy. My first son was adopted by a loving family and I hope to one day get to meet him.
I aspire to a degree in Catholic Theology, which I will complete at Christendom College, God willing, next May. I am so excited to have this opportunity to study the faith I love so dearly and to be apart of the Christendom College student body. My dream is to one day teach Theology at the college level. I plan on continuing on in graduate school all the way through to the S.T.D (Sacred Theology Doctorate). My really big dream is to one day teach theology in the seminary or in a college like Christendom.
I also was blessed to find a non profit in Portland that helped me remove all my tattoos with a laser. Little by little, they are disappearing.
I'm available for Jesus to use me as He desires, as an instrument, to help bring souls to Himself and to His Church so that everyone can know the joy and the love that awaits them. One of the best jobs I ever had was to work for the Dominican Friars at the parish in Portland, volunteering as a caregiver for our 102 year old priest. He was such a blessing to me and really helped form me spiritually. I was very involved in the pro-life movement in Portland and was one of the local 40 days for life leaders. To stand and pray at these abortion clinics, and to share my story with some of the women going in for an abortion, especially regarding the adoption of my first son, has been such an incredible experience. The goodness of God can shine through us if we just let it happen.
How elated I was to discover that God had not only come to us in the flesh as man, but He had founded a Church on earth to help us in this struggle for our salvation. He has instituted the Sacraments and put in place the magisterium to prevent confusion and decent from the truth. As if all that was not enough, He has so humbled Himself so as to become literal food for us, knowing that we are indeed physical as much as we are spiritual. He allows us, out of infinite love, to consume Him in the Eucharist. When we do, His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity comes into every cell of our bodies, making us more like Him. This is how close He wants to be to you and me! This is the level of intimacy that He desires as the Lover of our souls!
To sit and meditate on this truth, to let the reality of what is happening at every worthy reception of Holy Communion, is enough to make the soul die of love for God! What an astounding, life-changing, joyful realization was this reality of the Church! And what a relief it was for me to come to know that there is OBJECTIVE, UNWAVERING, MORAL TRUTH! After a lifetime of so much relativism and moral ambiguity, the Catholic Church had given me the respite my weary soul so desperately needed. How glorious are Her teachings and how radiant Her decrees! I knew that Our Blessed Lord would not have left us with so much confusion in the world with tens of thousands of denominations of Christianity. My logic, as underdeveloped as it was, told me that He would not leave us in this mess. Every different denomination emphatically stating that "they have the truth!" Every man interpreting God's word for himself while claiming the Holy Spirit instructed them. How was it that every man had his own Holy Spirit? I knew this was not possible, there was only one.
As simple minded as my reasoning sounds, this basic thought process lead me to the truth. To me, it had been so obvious and simple. I realize now that it was God's grace that allowed me to recognize the truth when I saw it in the sisters and also to intuitively know the falsehood in protestantism.
The fullness of truth is only found in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I not only believe this, I know it. I know it because I’ve lived a transformation that cannot be explained away.
Jesus saved me, through His Church, from a life of torment and surely an eternity in hell. Now, I want nothing more than to serve Him in His body, the Catholic Church. I want to be like the leper who came back to thank Him. I so much relate to St. Mary Magdalene, the sinful women who loved our Lord so much for His mercy shown toward her. I am the servant who was forgiven the much higher debt by the master, and in turn burns with love for Him.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted....."
Now, the work begins. With a joyous heart, I look forward to the joys and sorrows in this life as well as hope in the life to come. Most of all, I’m waiting for the day, if I persevere to the end, when I will get to meet Jesus face to face and hopefully hear the words.........
“Well done, good and faithful servant.......well done.”
-Pax Christi, Meagan Montanari
-Also, if you or someone you know is interested in becoming Catholic, a good place to start is an inquiry for R.C.I.A classes (Rite of Christian Initiation). ANY Catholic parish will either offer RCIA or can direct you to a parish that does. Please contact your local Catholic Parish for info on the classes.
May God bless you in your search for Him. He’s waiting for you.
The day I had waited for all my life, the Easter Vigil. I am accepted into the Church along side my godmother and my fellow catechumens. My life would never be the same.
My mom being accepted into the Church, Easter Vigil 2017.
with her priest, Father Pio. Panama City, Panama
Me and my son Judah, Portland OR 2017.
Kneeling during a Eucharistic
Procession. Beaverton 2017.
Procession. Beaverton 2017.
My daughter Mackenna and Judah, Portland