(LifeSiteNews) — He that has been forgiven of much, of him much is expected. My guest on this two-part episode of The John-Henry Westen Show, Eric Tafoya, lives this lesson of Our Lord every day. He is a former gang member, drug dealer and addict, and convict. He joins me on this episode to tell me his conversion story.
Tafoya got involved with gangs and drugs early in his life. The first time he took drugs, he was 12; he joined a gang the following year. He also told me that while he was baptized a Catholic as a baby, drugs, gangs, homelessness, and all the vices one would associate with that lifestyle were part of his life and had, according to him, become part of who he was. He also told me that he was at the time an atheist and agnostic who went into and out of jail regularly. His family, meanwhile, distanced themselves from him on account of his lifestyle.
“It was almost like I was drowning out this shame that I had inside of me,” he told me. “And I never realized it because I never loved me. It seemed like I left a tear of destruction everywhere I went. Every woman that I would date, every one of my family members, I was using and manipulating.”
It was during one of his stays in prison that he got involved with the Jehovah’s Witnesses after beginning to read the Bible. It was when he was reading the Bible that he noticed that “things started transforming in my heart.”
As soon as he left prison, however, Tafoya fell back into drugs and began attending Jehovah’s Witness services shortly before starting to attend a non-denominational church near San Diego, eventually occupying a leadership position in it while still dealing with drug use.
After a failed marriage, Tafoya began living with a Catholic woman outside of wedlock. While living with her he would hold Bible studies, yet he also took down all of the crucifixes and pictures of Mary off the walls.
“I actually took every single crucifix she had. I took every picture of … Mary off the walls, either shredded them up or threw them away or broke them. I was very … anti-Catholic,” Tafoya explained.
It was also at this time that Tafoya would meet Catholic converts from evangelicalism, which, according to Tafoya, would have an enormous impact on his life. One of whom, Joshua Betancourt, had previously written a book, Is Rome the True Church: A Consideration of the Roman Catholic Claim, that attempted to disprove the veracity of the Catholic faith.
“He was so loving, he was so compassionate, he was so reasoning with me,” Tafoya said. “And he never raised his voice, even when I started getting huffing and puffing, and the things that he was saying about Protestantism weren’t sitting right with me. I almost got to the point where I was going to hit him … because he was answering every question … I was going to and he was so patient. I even walked out. And then, he walked out with me and he prayed for me.”
Tafoya eventually attended Mass with Betancourt and his wife at Sacred Heart Chapel near the Virgin Most Powerful Radio studios. Later the couple invited Tafoya to attend an event at the Chapel which he thought was a Mass. What it was, however, was a conference at which people told their conversion stories, something that made Tafoya storm out in anger.
After staying outside for some time, Tafoya went back into the Chapel to hear the rest of the conversion stories. After that, he joined RCIA, and attended a drug-free retreat for four days. Knowing that he would fall back into drug use if he left, Tafoya begged God not to let him leave. Even so, Tafoya left, and fell back into drug use. After spending two weeks homeless, he got involved in a car chase while attempting to get help from his grandmother, during which he hit a man with his van, killing him almost instantly.
Tafoya told me that while he was in jail, he did not want to have anything to do with God, though this changed after a phone conversation with his son. After he told his son he loved him, his son responded by telling him that he forgave him. According to Tafoya, this was a “paradigm shift.”
“It was like that paradigm shift. It was like God was speaking to me,” Tafoya told me. “I dropped on my knees that day and I begged for forgiveness.”
After the conversation, Tafoya asked God to use him to evangelize those in the prison, and asked his family for a Catholic Bible. He also made a Rosary out of a trash bag, praying it every day and meditating on the mysteries. He started going from cell to cell and shared Scripture verses with other inmates. He also started reading books that various publishers would send him and began evangelizing those around him, to the chagrin of the Protestants he worked with to minister to those in the prison.
“And so I started reading [Scripture], I started grasping it. And so when [the Protestants] would come to me, I would refute them. They didn’t know what to do. I would show them [the] Scriptures. I would be clear … And they’re like, ‘Sorry, bro, you can’t speak in our groups no more. You can’t be a part of the praise and worship team.’”
For the next couple of years, Tafoya would act as the Catholic facilitator at the prison, setting up for Mass and leading catechism classes. While not confirmed as a child, Tafoya was confirmed as an adult in the prison, along with six converts he made to the Catholic faith.
Listen to Part 1 of my interview with Eric Tafoya on this episode of The John-Henry Westen Show. Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2.
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