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'That was when I fell in love with the faith'

November 25, 2020

Editor’s note: The following is an installment of an ongoing series featuring how Catholics of the Diocese of Ogdensburg are living out their faith. To suggest an individual to be featured in this series, please call the North Country Catholic at 315-393-2920 or email dfargo@rcdony.org.

By Darcy Fargo

CARTHAGE – A question from an Indiana Jones movie helped Carthage resident Joseph “Joe” Brosk return to the Catholic faith.

Brosk, now a parishioner at St. James Minor Church, was raised in the faith. In young adulthood, though, he fell away from his faith for a time.

“I was raised in the classic American Catholic family,” he said. “I went to Catholic grade school and public high school.”

But when he went to college and fell into the secular lifestyle, Brosk stopped regularly practicing his faith for a time.

When he became married and had young children, he began to question his belief system, partly inspired by a quote from the movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”

“There’s a part of the movie when Sean Connery – who is playing Indiana Jones’ father – gets shot,” Brosk said.

“The guy who shoots him delivers a line that ends with, ‘it's time to ask yourself what you believe!”
Brosk began to think about what he believed.

“I believe I love my wife, but I can’t prove it,” he said. “I believe I love my children, but I can’t prove it. That led to the fundamental question: do I believe in God? It’s much easier to answer ‘no.’ If I answered ‘yes,’ a whole bunch of other questions follow. Like ‘then what?’”

Brosk said he started “examining faith through adult eyes and adult experiences,” studying and learning more about the faith and the teachings of the Church. He also completed the Formation for Ministry program and was commissioned as a lay minister by Bishop Terry R. LaValley.

“I started looking deeper and deeper into Catholicism,” he said. “Particularly through the lens of someone who has a handicap son. I had a lot of questions, including, ‘how can a loving God do this to a child?’ As I looked deeper and deeper, I learned that there really aren’t any new issues. These are all questions and issues the Catholic Church has answered and addressed. The Church has seen it all. I realized there was a lot more to our faith than kneeling and genuflecting and making the Sign of the Cross. That was when I fell in love with the faith.”

Though he fell in love with his faith, Brosk notes it hasn’t been a perfect life since.

“I’ll never forget one Easter Sunday,” he said. “It was a beautiful morning, a beautiful Easter morning! I thought, ‘this is perfect! We’ll all walk to church on Easter Sunday. We live close enough.’ I have a son who has been diagnosed with pretty much everything a psychologist ever studied in college. I couldn’t get him out the door. I tried everything. I became furious with God. Here we are trying to celebrate the biggest, holiest day of the year, and we can’t go. I was furious. Then, I figured there must be a God. Otherwise, who am I mad at?”
Brosk said he considered such moments – moments that bring him closer to God – to be miracles.

“There used to be a Protestant preacher, Robert Schuller, who would say ‘expect a miracle,’” he said. “He’s right. God works in our lives every day. When things are looking really dark, wait for a miracle. It’s coming. It may not come the way you want it. It may not come in the shape you want it. It may not come at the time you want it. But it is coming. Time and time again, miracles pop up. You know what a miracle is? Anything that increases your faith, that’s a miracle. It might be big and spectacular, or it might be tiny, but if it increases your faith, it’s a miracle. They happen all the time, but you might have to look for them.”

That belief in God and belief in his everyday miracles both challenges Brosk and brings him peace.

“It’s easy to think we’re in charge of our lives and in control,” he said. “We get upset when things don’t go our way, and we feel like we’ve lost control. We never really have control. We have the ability and sometimes opportunity to make decisions and choices. Ultimately, though, we don’t really control the outcomes. That realization led me to an ability to just let go. It’s the greatest thing in the world. I’m still responsible, and I still have to make choices, but I’m not making them alone. It’s still hard. It’s extremely hard. Throughout history, there has always been a conflict between our egos and our will. I think it was (G.K.) Chesterson that once said something like, ‘we all want to serve God, but we want to do it mostly in an advisory capacity.’”

Brosk now likes to share his faith with others. He’s been teaching Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) since 2011.

“I love it! It gives me a chance to be on stage,” he said, laughing. “I sometimes get the sense that 99.9 percent of what people know about Catholicism was learned from Hollywood movies. It’s really difficult to learn about the faith just by going to Mass. At Mass, the sermons are related to the readings or the Gospels specific to that Sunday. With RCIA, I get the opportunity to help people start looking at things a bit differently. Hunters or hikers would get the analogy of going into the woods. Sometimes, you get to the point where you can’t see a thing because of the trees all around you. But if you step to the side enough, sometimes a lane opens up, and you can see through the trees. It’s just a slight change of perspective. That’s what I believe I do with RCIA. We look at the faith from different angles to help see it clearer, better.”

Brosk also says he feels blessed to be growing in his faith and helping others do the same in this particular part of the world.

“I’ve found that North Country Catholics don’t always realize how fortunate they are to live in an area with such a strong Catholic tradition,” he said. “Growing up, we moved every two years. In my life, I’ve lived all over the country and overseas. I’ve lived in places with pretty anti-Catholic feelings. Sometimes I feel like North Country Catholics have this sense that being Catholic is a normal thing to do. It’s not normal. Being truly aware of that, I appreciate it even more. It is special.”

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