A Day in the Life of a Seminarian: Zach Muñoz

Dec 22, 2023

Q: What was your religious background growing up?

ZM: I grew up Mormon in Idaho until the age of 6. At that time, I met my father and moved to Los Angeles where I was exposed to Judaism through my father’s marriage to a Jewish woman. For two years we went to synagogue. I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember the festivities and celebrations. Then after their divorce, I became pretty agnostic having been convinced of the scientific arguments against religion. Still in LA at 15, my paternal grandmother came to visit and she had me go to a Pentecostal church with her. This Protestant community was very welcoming and I found a sense of relationship that I hadn’t experienced before. I continued going, and I found an appreciation and excitement for what I was doing; but, I didn’t really ascribe to a strong faith in Christ. It was more so an experience with other young people and just having fun. When I moved to Oregon in 2007, I continued frequenting protestant churches, and I eventually began attending a protestant seminary in the Baptist tradition.

Q: Can you share the key moments that led you to Catholicism?

ZM: Sure, my journey to Catholicism took about three years. While in the protestant seminary, two of my classmates began investigating Catholicism by themselves. The first came to me because the other wanted to become Catholic, and she asked me to help keep him from “leaving the faith”. He had already graduated and had been a Nazarene pastor. She and I met for about a year, talking about why the Catholic Church is heretical, why they don’t actually believe in Jesus, how they worship the Saints, etc. – the usual excesses of Protestant accusations against Catholicism. I realized “Hey, you know, I’ve never spoken to a Catholic before”. This is about a year into this inquiry into Catholicism, so I asked my friend, who I had been meeting with if I could go with them to a night of Latin Vespers and Compline. So, I went and was struck by the amazing sense of beauty of these prayers as well as the liturgy that I had never experienced before.

Later, the pivotal moment of my conversion occurred during a friend’s confirmation Mass on the Feast of Christ the King. Witnessing the consecration of the Eucharist, I had a profound experience where I saw Jesus truly present in the host. This undeniable moment of faith led me to accept the Real Presence. Over the course of these three years, I engaged in intellectual exploration, attended Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes, read the Catechism, and had conversations with both Catholic and Protestant theologians.

Q: How did your friends and family react to your decision to convert to Catholicism?

ZM: The decision to become Catholic strained my relationships with friends and family. Many of my close friends stopped talking to me, and my family was upset. The social dimension of my conversion forced me to confront the cost of losing relationships, which was a challenging aspect of the journey. On a positive note, twelve of my friends have converted to Catholicism, and four more will be received this coming Easter.

Q: How did your understanding of the Eucharist evolve, leading to your acceptance of the Real Presence?

ZM: My acceptance of the Real Presence in the Eucharist was a culmination of intellectual exploration, especially the Bread of Life discourse in John 6, and candid conversations with my Catholic friends and priests. However, the clear turning point was that moment of faith during Mass where I saw Jesus truly present in the consecrated host. This experience made the theological and intellectual underpinnings of the Real Presence undeniable.

Q: What role did RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) play in your journey, and how did it contribute to your understanding of Catholicism?

ZM: I participated in RCIA for three years. Initially, I engaged in intellectual debates and arguments during the classes, at times hurling insults at teachers, and seriously putting Fr. John Boyle’s patience to the test. Fr. Boyle challenged me to show genuine love and trust in the Church. After making the necessary changes in my approach, I eventually gained the acceptance and trust of Fr. Boyle, leading to my eventual reception into the Church.

Q: Can you describe the importance of encountering the Real Presence in your faith?

ZM: Encountering the Real Presence in the Eucharist was a transformative moment that solidified my faith in the teachings of the Catholic Church, as revealed by Christ. It went beyond intellectual understanding and became a profound experience of seeing Jesus truly present in the consecrated host. This encounter influenced my entire spiritual perspective, emphasizing the centrality of the Eucharist in Catholic worship and devotion…In regards to our ongoing Eucharistic Revival in the Church, I’ve been contemplating St. Thomas Aquinas. Although he didn’t finish his magnum opus, the story goes that, after he had a mystical experience kneeling before a statue of our Lord, contemplating the face of Christ, he realized that everything he had written was but straw compared to the gaze of Christ. Gazing into the eyes of Christ made his intellectual pursuits comparatively meaningless. For Catholics, facing the Eucharist is crucial in the ongoing Eucharistic revival, recognizing the reality of God’s true presence on the altar. Reflect on the Old Testament, particularly Deuteronomy. What is the book of Deuteronomy about? It is a summation of the first four books of Moses, culminating in the 5th book of Moses. And it’s all about the reality that the God of the universe loved us so deeply that he was willing to dwell in a box just to be near us, prefiguring the Eucharist. Of course, God is present everywhere, but He’s chosen the medium of the Holy Eucharist to be particularly close to us. So few of us visit Him given this immense gift and privilege. And so this is a time for each of us, myself included to take seriously what Jesus said: “This is my body. This is my blood.” And if that’s true? Then right now God is in the church nearest to you, in the Tabernacle, waiting.

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