David Ozab
David Ozab
EUGENE — David Ozab's journey to the Catholic Church started 28 years ago when his mother purchased an old National Geographic at a garage sale. Ozab, then a teen, opened the dusty volume and out slipped a picture of Jesus, lovingly showing his Sacred Heart.

Something about the image said to Ozab, "Here I am." He's hung it at his bedside ever since.

Ozab, a 46-year-old writer and member of St. Mary Parish in Eugene, described his long conversion in a short Catholic Digest article issued this month.

"Conversion can be a sudden, earth shattering event, like St. Paul on the way to Damascus, or it can be a process that last many years," says Ozab. "God led me down the longer road."

Raised a nominal Episcopalian in Virginia and southern California, he sang in choirs and attended concerts. He heard the music of Olivier Messiaen, a 20th century French Catholic composer whose "Quartet for the End of Time" includes the text: "Here I am." That moved him, but he mostly shook it off.

Ozab came to graduate school at the University of Oregon in 1995 and met a Catholic woman — soon to be his wife — who urged him to take up a spiritual life. He made trips to Mount Angel Abbey and immersed himself in the Rule of St. Benedict, the chants and the icons.  

As an Episcopalian, liturgy and sacraments were important to him. Catholicism had that too, and the more he looked at Catholic teaching and spirituality, the more he agreed. What came to bother him the most was the lack of unity in Christianity. Reviewing history, he saw splits among Christians that led to more splits and more denominations.

"That wasn't doing what Christ said — 'This is how all will know you for my disciples: by your love for one another,'" Ozab says. "I couldn't get past the division."

Challenged by those who saw only scandal in the church he was beginning to embrace, he found strength in a quote by Cardinal John Henry Newman, a fellow Anglican become Catholic in the 19th century: "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." He also cited the Dutch Renaissance scholar and priest Desiderius Erasmus who said, “I will put up with this Church until I see a better one; and it will have to put up with me, until I become better.”

One day at Mount Angel, praying before an image of Christ above the tabernacle, he felt again the simple declarative that seemed such a powerful invitation: "Here I am." He broke into tears, overwhelmed. In 2010, on the first evening of classes at St. Mary's for becoming Catholic, he knelt in the adoration chapel and said in reply, "Here I am, Lord."

Ozab's writing has recently been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Errant Parent. He is currently writing his first book, A Smile for Anna, which tells the story of his 6-year-old daughter's life from the womb to about age 4, including her cleft diagnosis and surgery, her difficulties with speech, and her outgoing spirit.

A guest contributor at MyEugene and a member of the Mid-Valley Chapter of Willamette Writers, Ozab is a stay-at-home dad who blogs about parenting and life at FatherhoodEtc.com and his writing career at davidozab.com.