20 years ago, if you were courageous enough to track me down on the streets of Southern California and pull the meth pipe from my 17-year-old mouth and tell me, “Don’t worry, Conor, 20 years from now you will have graduated from Mount Angel Seminary, will be going to daily Mass for almost all of those 20 years, will have a wife with two beautiful girls, will be running a non-profit called Immaculata Ministries,  and will be the theology department chair at Notre Dame Catholic High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee,” I would have tried to punch your teeth in. But with the news breaking yesterday that our Holy Father is planning to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, It seems apropos that I should tell my story to encourage the world that no one should ever doubt the powerful intercession of Our Lady of Fatima.

In 2003, during the Year of the Rosary pronounced by Saint Pope John Paul the II, I was a slave to sin. In December of 2002, I was kicked out of Servite Catholic High School in Anaheim, for smoking marijuana on campus. I was an all-star when it came to athletics. There wasn’t a sport I couldn’t excel at, but football was where I came into my own. I was undersized and played with a chip on my shoulder. But being faster than everyone else and extremely tough are probably the two greatest assets any high school running back will ever need. When I arrived at Servite in the year 2000 as a freshman, everything was going to plan. I was doing well in class and even moved up to varsity for the playoffs as a freshman. Everything was going perfect for me during my first three years at Servite until that December morning my junior year. During that morning break, a few friends and I decided to go smoke some marijuana in the parking lot. We got caught.

Within two weeks of getting kicked out of Servite, I was falling into depression, self-loathing, addiction, and a growing arrest record. At 17 years old, I was consumed with debauchery and addicted to methamphetamines. I was smoking meth and crack daily and was arrested for burglary, grand theft, and vandalism.

My father stumbled upon the First Saturday devotions given to the visionaries of Fatima on July 13, 1917. In April of 2003, four months after I was kicked out of Servite, my father started the First Saturday devotions. Five months later in August of 2003, the very week he finished the devotion, I called my dad on the phone asking if he would “come save me.” The previous eight months of my life were consumed with nothing but drugs and breaking the Ten Commandments. I had lost over 40 pounds.

In December of 2003, almost one year to the day after getting kicked out of Servite, I found myself 500 miles away on a new football field at Reno High School in Nevada for my senior year. Within 90 days of sobriety and going back to Mass, I was hoisting a state championship football trophy. I helped lead the 2003 Reno High Huskies to the most unlikely football state championship season of all time.

Today is March 16th, 2022. I’m a husband, a father, a seminary graduate, a founder of a Marian apostolate dedicated to baptizing children (546 so far) and building Marian chapels (5 so far) in Kenya. I pray the rosary every day and I’ve now attended daily Mass for more than 15 years.

Our Lady of Fatima, Pray for us.

– Conor Martin
Chattanooga, Tennessee

The above is the second-place winner in the California Catholic Daily writing contest, Late have I loved Thee.

The first-place winner will be published tomorrow.

Other winners:

Bible Club president bought a Catechism of the Catholic Church

I turned to Augustine

Hemet boy felt like a pig

Taoist finds Jesus at end of a cave

Cardinal Ratzinger described the philosophical world of my childhood

Carmelites ask California surfer girl too many questions