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When I read that Once I Was Blind by Charles Piccirilli and Kimberly Cook shared a man’s journey from the occult to the Catholic Church, I knew it was a book I wanted to read. I have some friends entrenched in occult practices, and I thought I might be able to glean some insight as to how I could reach out to them while reading an interesting testimony. God, however, had a different plan, and I found this wonderful book challenged me to grow in my own faith.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
When I first sat down with this book (ignoring the struggles I had in learning how to use my new Kindle), I couldn’t put it down until I was halfway through the book. Piccirilli’s story drew me in almost immediately. The numerous miracles recounted in this book are enough to make this book very worthwhile, but what really puts it over the edge is how it is written. Despite God’s very clear presence and involvement in Piccirilli’s life, his stories are told with humility. A lesser man might view himself as special, but Piccirilli instead spends the entire book glorifying God’s goodness and expressing gratitude for being a tool for God. God’s goodness is not bogged down by unnecessary descriptions or buried underneath words; instead, the book simply states the events with joy and a little reflection from Piccirilli. Piccirilli’s testimony is incredible, not because of the miracles in his life, but because it is what a testimony should truly be: a story of how God works through us and a call to action.
If you’ve read some of my longer book reviews, you may have noticed that I normally break my book reviews out into the good, the bad, and my thoughts from a Catholic perspective. Obviously, the last section isn’t relevant here, but I sincerely felt that this book was so good, it didn’t warrant a section for criticisms. My only criticism was that there was one story that felt a little out of place, but it was such an incredible story that I’m glad it was included. I almost feel a little weird bringing it up because I would much rather have it be in there than not.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I was hoping to get something out of this book that would help me find something to share with my friends. Instead, this book really helped my faith.
At the beginning of the book, I admittedly felt myself getting a little jealous. Piccirilli was having these incredible connections with God while I found myself struggling. It didn’t seem “fair” that someone who was still involved with occult practices got a miracle while I struggle. That isn’t how God works though; we can’t earn His love or goodness. This challenged me to look at my own life. I was reminded of a time when I “heard” God’s voice as clearly as Piccirilli did, and I had to look at my own relationship with God. This jealousy transformed into a recognition of the places where I needed to improve my relationship with God: ways I prayed, how I listened, and a reminder of the complete necessity to place all my trust in the Lord.
God also worked through this book to directly address something to me. Due to health issues, it is not a good time for my husband and me to conceive, and our conversations with God have reaffirmed that His will is not for us to be parents yet. This alone is challenging, but adding in the frustrations that come with NFP, I was feeling really annoyed. Though I truly believe NFP is the best decision and we weren’t planning on running out and buying contraception, I was feeling pretty bitter. I hadn’t realized how much it was bothering me until one night I just unloaded it on Ben. The next morning, the chapter I read described his experiences with women who got seriously ill from using contraception. While it could simply be a coincidence, it was a reminder I needed at the time to reinstate peace in mine and my husband’s decision to practice NFP.
Lastly, this book ignited more hope. Reading such powerful testimonies inspires faith.
I cannot recommend this book enough. I sincerely believe that anyone, regardless of their faith background, could get something out of this book. For faithful Catholics, it feeds us spiritually. For those who feel lost, it is a compass. For those who lack belief, it is a seed.