Jeff Cavins speaks at Grand River Center

By A. Rose Wickler
Witness Correspondent

Jeff and Emily CavinsDUBUQUE — Author Jeff Cavins spoke to a group on Sept. 11 at the Grand River Center about being an average American Catholic boy living in an average American Catholic home.

The internationally known lay evangelist created the Bible Timeline Seminar, which is used in parishes around the nation, including in the Archdiocese of Dubuque. At his recent talk, he told his personal story of leaving the Catholic Church, becoming Protestant and then returning to the faith of his birth.

The next day, Sept. 12, Cavins led the Bible seminar during a day-long event at the Dubuque venue.

Cavins explained that his family didn’t talk about faith as he grew; he found he enjoyed reading and looking for answers. In high school, he started wanting to know God as his savior.

On his first date, his date asked about his relationship with Christ. She continued talking about Jesus.

“She spoke about the Bible like it was written for her.” He met her family and told Jesus, “I want what they have. I want to be born again.” He went home and told his mom he was born again. She wasn’t pleased, and it started a rift between him and his family.

Before leaving for Bible college, his dad was irritated that his son wasn’t working toward a doctorate degree like him. After asking Cavins how he would live in Texas, Cavins answered, “God will provide.” His father became angered and hit him. In shock, Cavins asked why it had to be like that. They both left.

After college, the young couple married and found themselves in North Dakota. There, he became frustrated with the Catholic Church and had a falling out with the bishop who told him he’d return to the church. He became a Protestant pastor, but began doubting the theological teachings of his denomination. His church was nothing like the early church, Cavins explained.

So he started with the early church’s four edges. The first was that it believed in the papacy heading the household while the king is away. Secondly, Mary acts as the Queen Mother. The word of God was also important and the concept of sacred Scripture and sacred oral tradition combining to encapsulate the fullness of Christ’s teaching. Finally, the Eucharist was seen as more than a symbol for the body and blood of Jesus. All of these four edges are in Catholicism.

Cavins called his childhood pastor, Bishop Dudley, who invited Cavins to South Dakota and welcomed him back.

Before returning to Catholicism, his mother went to Ohio to watch the couple’s daughter while they traveled to Israel. But the night before leaving, his father suffered a heart attack telling his son to take care of his mother before going in for surgery. Cavins spoke with a counselor, telling him about his relationship with his parents and his search for Christian acceptance. The counselor told him he was trying to prove something to his dad. The next day, his dad came home from the hospital and Cavins told him, “I’ve been a rebellious son.” He said he was coming back to Catholicism. His dad apologized for hitting him and Cavins found out he had forgotten saying, “You’re no father of mine” after being hit. He apologized and told his father that he loved him.

He reentered the church under Bishop Dudley. His mom admitted each time she received the Eucharist she prayed for her son to come home, believing she prayed him back to the church.

Soon after, Mother Angelica contacted him. He hosted a show and his family relocated to Birmingham. His wife and daughter entered the church as well, and soon Mother Angelica asked him to be her replacement when sick. He did this for six years, one day asking her why she chose him. She said it was because he was thoroughly Catholic but sounded like a Protestant, and she liked that.

“I’m bilingual. I can speak Catholic and Protestant and don’t have an accent in either.” Finally, he is an average American Catholic boy.

This story is provided courtesy of The Witness, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.