Not even a gangster movie is out of the Holy Spirit’s limits to reach into a heart and stir conversion.
That’s what happened to Joshua Ivie and his wife, Nikki, after watching the 1999 movie, The Boondock Saints, a story about Catholic Irish brothers who take it upon themselves to clean up crime in Boston through acts of vigilante justice.
“I always feel bad telling people [this story] because they probably shouldn’t watch [The Boondock Saints],” Ivie said. “But I think it’s really good to say that the Holy Spirit is able to reach you wherever you’re at.”
After watching the film together two years ago, Ivie and his wife, without having any Catholic upbringing or knowledge whatsoever, decided to pray the rosary.
“There was this part in the movie where they take their rosaries off and put them on the wall. I don’t know how to explain it except it was the Holy Spirit, but there was just something so powerful. We just both looked at each other and said, ‘Rosaries are really cool,’” he said.
After watching the movie, he and his wife, not knowing that you could buy rosaries, decided to make their own.
“One of the cool things is while we learned how to make it, we learned how to pray it,” Ivie said. “I didn’t initially realize how powerful the rosary is. I just thought it was the repetitive prayer. After praying it, just realizing the ability to meditate on all of the mysteries of the rosary, I was completely fascinated by it.”
From there, the rest was history. Ivie and his wife soon decided to attend Mass together at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder and experienced it for the first time at the parish’s monthly candlelight Mass, which often draws a big crowd. The beauty of the liturgy moved them so deeply that they soon decided to enroll in RCIA.
“We were kind of head over heels in love with the Church,” he said. “Although I wasn’t practicing any faith life whatsoever, I still had that complete craving for that relationship with God the whole time, without even realizing it.”
But the conversion didn’t stop there. While attending RCIA classes, a Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionary came and spoke to the class about the organization, which sends missionaries to serve on college campuses — that number reaching 137 this year.
“[He] told us the statistic how 80 percent of the Catholic Church was falling away before they were age 23. And for me, that was a life-changing moment,” Ivie said. “I was falling in love with the Catholic faith, and for me to hear that, that people weren’t seeing what I was seeing, I felt like I needed to do something. It hit me like a ton of bricks…I was sold.”
Ivie and Nikki were baptized Easter of 2016, and this year, Ivie is serving as a FOCUS missionary on the Tulane University campus in New Orleans, LA. Both raised in Colorado, they’re excited for the move and for the mission of evangelizing to college students. In the meantime, Ivie has had the opportunity to witness to family and friends of all faith backgrounds as he’s fundraised his salary for the year, a practice all missionaries take part in so the organization can continue to spread to a large number of campuses.
We just both looked at each other and said, ‘Rosaries are really cool.’”
“Having no Catholic community has been daunting, but it’s been so incredible just to have faith that God’s going to provide,” Ivie explained. “But it’s been a blessing because I’ve been able to witness to so many atheistic people or Protestant people and be able to share my faith.”
His family in particular has witnessed the joy in his life and has even come to Mass with him.
“One of the things that’s been so beautiful is everyone can see the change that’s happened in my life,” he said. “Whether or not they entirely agree with my views on everything yet, they can just tell, and I think every single one of them has told me how excited they are for me, because they can see the joy that’s in my life right now. And there’s been so many people in my life that have come to Mass with us for the first time. My mom consistently comes to Mass with us, and it’s such an incredible experience.”
The fruits of a conversion that sprung from tiny seeds planted in a violent gangster movie are only beginning, and the couple is excited to continue to share their faith on campus this fall.
“[I want to show them] the incredible joy that having Christ at the center of your life brings,” Ivie said. “I’m very excited to try my best to show them what putting Christ first can do for their lives, and just let them know, based off my story, that if you let Jesus into your life, he’s going to take you on the craziest adventure you could possibly imagine.”
For more information on FOCUS, visit www.focus.org.