Kicking and Screaming: Dustin Mantz’s Journey to the Catholic Church

by Steve Ray on March 13, 2012

Intro: I stand at over six feet, with broad shoulders, a thick goatee on my face, and seventeen tattoos covering my body; my looks don’t match other’s perceptions of what a man like me should look like.  When I was a guitarist in a band, playing in dive bars and dance halls, I looked the part of a hard worn musician.  I seemed at home on the stage, but outside, I looked intimidating and unapproachable. 

I was working in a music store as a luthier, when I met the women that would become my wife.  She introduced me to the Catholic faith, and when I joined the church everything that made me an outsider, suddenly didn’t matter.  My appearance, which set me apart from those around me, was no longer of consequence.  My passion for guitars and lutherie became useful for something bigger than myself.  I was no longer an outsider; I was appreciated as the unique person that I am.

The Story: Kicking and screaming. That’s exactly how I would describe my entry into the Catholic Church. Much like a spoiled four year old in the candy aisle of the supermarket, except instead of disappointment after disappointment, it was much more akin to eye opening truth after eye opening truth.

I was born and raised in a small town in Texas, about 60 miles north of Houston called Huntsville. I was not brought up in a particularly Christian household, or religious for that matter. My mother had attended Sunday worship services in various faith traditions throughout her childhood, all stemming in part from Calvinistic theology with an evangelical twist. My father was a disfellowshipped Jehovah’s Witness who rarely spoke of any sort of faith. So, as one could imagine I grew up in a rather secular household with some moral standard of good, but no moral lawgiver.

 When I was 15 I started dating a young woman whose grandfather was a United Methodist pastor, and although he had left the active ministry, she still faithfully attended the church that he served every Sunday. After much prodding and poking, I submitted to attending with her and found that something spoke to me. Now, as I mentioned previously, I grew up in a secular household and for some time had anti-Christian leanings. But the “low liturgical” feel of the UMC service appealed to something deep inside.

 It wasn’t long that same year before I started on my spiritual walk, with the only person to confide in being myself. I had to work out a lot of the kinks on my own, and developed a deep love for Christ, and was sure that he could be found within the walls of the UMC and that Bible. Some years later, at the age of 17 or 18, I defected from the UMC, entering back into a world of secularism and turmoil. I began working in nightclubs and bars, either bartending or security. I’ll spare the nitty gritty details, but it lead to a life of drug and alcohol abuse. My life wasn’t working out particularly well, and I felt that a change of scenery was in order.

I had a dear friend working as a tattoo artist in the D/FW area, and I gave her a call. After explaining my situation, she informed me that her roommate had just moved out and that I could take the spare room. I took a position as a guitar repairman and sales associate at a local music store, where I met my wife. Enter Meghan, the Cradle Catholic. When we met, she wasn’t particularly deep in her faith, but made it clear that she was Catholic and wasn’t leaving to go to any other church. Throughout our relationship, we started to realize that we both needed to return to the Lord, for the benefit of our own souls and for the benefit of our marriage.

So, one Sunday morning we get up early, get dressed and head to Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church for the contemporary worship service. Now, mind you, there wasn’t much contemporary going on there. Maybe some songs that were written in the 90’s or 2000’s as opposed to the 18 and 1900’s. The traditional low liturgy remained, and the pastor was an amazing homilist. While my wife longed for something more, we both agreed that the sermons we heard were wonderful and we wouldn’t go “church shopping” for a while, even though that particular congregation was experiencing a deep schism over morality and we were being pulled to take sides…..

For the whole story, click here.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Laura Awakim March 18, 2012 at 7:44 PM

Please can someone with experience in the matter name 5 books I can send a fellow prisoner, in Florida, from Cuba, born and bred revolution, that says he does not believe in God.
Thank you

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