Why I go to church
John McLean’s faith was restored from the depths of his sickbed, and it led him back to the Catholic Church
John McLean enjoys praying with friends, family and other like-minded believers. For McLean, church is an escape from the monotony of daily life and way to enter a more elevated moment, even if it’s only for an hour.
Do you attend church regularly?
I do. I go to confession regularly. I try to go every two months. … I go to church every feast day.
What specifically about the Catholic Mass do you find beautiful?
Prayer in itself is a beautiful exercise. I love it, and it’s been deep in my spirit as long as I can remember. There’s singing. I love music. It’s awesome. In a high Mass … it’s all more elevated and more mysterious, and I mean by that they use incense there and elements you wouldn’t normally find in a Catholic Mass in California. But prayer, singing, being around other people who also believe and being with my family are what’s really important. To me, it’s just a highly mysterious participation, it’s not really something I can describe in words. But it’s totally unlike daily activity.
What do you mean by mysterious?
It’s entering into the presence of God in a special way, and that’s not to say you can’t do that in your daily life. God is always with us, but to be with him in the Eucharist, it becomes an elevated form of prayer and thanksgiving.
Have you ever felt a similar feeling in a more secular environment?
I’ve definitely felt it outside of church. … When I was around 19, 20, I really drifted away from my faith. I didn’t want much to do with it, and I think it’s common to have a young person question and evaluate what they learned as a child. … I became ill my senior year of college. That began a different chapter in my life and renewed my faith in God, because about a year later I experienced a supernatural experience.
Can you tell me more about this experience?
My doctor thought it was mono … but the actual test for mono was negative. It hung on for a long time. I was sleeping for a long time, I had night sweats, fever, swollen glands, all kinds of garbage. But a year after I came down with this I was miserable, I was depressed, and I was like, “God, I don’t know why I have to go through this.” I was angry.
I was lying in my bed at home in agony and despair, and all of a sudden in the middle of that … [God] literally pulled me out of myself. It was almost an out-of-body experience. I felt a presence of warmth pull me out of my body and it was so warm and so enveloping, I didn’t want to return to my humanity. It was so peaceful. That was probably the individual revelation I got from God that he was real and he was with me in my suffering.
Is church a hospital for sinners?
[Church] has many facets to it. It’s for praising God, hearing God, praying, and that’s why I think it has many facets to it.
Hospital is one very important factor for it, because I know each woman, each man is a sinner, and people who don’t recognize that [are] kidding themselves.
What would you say to someone who is faithless or has fallen out of the Church?
I think the most important thing and what Jesus would say to any person is that God loves that person. He loves every person deeply and beyond our knowledge. And that goes to every person in the world, whether it’s a Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Sikh. He died for every single person to have a chance to live forever, and there’s no qualifications for that. He created every person in love. So I would tell anybody that God loves you, God cares about you.
Leading someone to the Catholic faith would be secondary. I mean, that’s important to me, but it’s more important that they hear that God loves them.