Allen Hooreh, who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac, Maryland, was introduced to Buddhist meditation in college. He frequently engaged in that practice as a way of controlling his thoughts, but after learning about the sources of both his positive and negative thoughts, he was led to the Catholic Church.

“Becoming Christian and Catholic has fundamentally changed me,” he said. “My ability to feel love has greatly expanded [along with] my ability to love others.”

Hooreh was born in Iran in 1982, but left the country when he was young after his mom was targeted for her participation in a communist organization that criticized the government. They got asylum in Europe before before moving to Bethesda, Maryland. He now works in sales for Eaton, a company that helps clients manage electrical, hydraulic and mechanical power more efficiently, safely and sustainably.

Growing up, he had no exposure to God, and though he went to a few churches when he got older, he said he never found a place where he felt they practiced what they preached. Still, he believed the complexities of the laws of physics and of creation pointed toward God’s existence.

“Everything works together in such an unbelievable harmony,” he said, noting that he would look at something like a rose and say “this is so intricately designed at every level, there has to be a God.”

With this religious background, he began practicing Buddhist meditation, which he said had both positive and dangerous aspects.

After he began meditating regularly, he realized that about 90 percent of his thoughts were negative, and started trying to constantly filter out those negative thoughts and foster more positive thoughts. He described those efforts as using one hand to hold up a wall that was about to crumble, and with his other hand, “digging for how to be more compassionate and loving.”

“I thought I had it all figured out,” he said.

Hooreh said he “started to realize there was an escalating level of complexity” to his negative thoughts, and he began to believe that there was an evil personality behind them.

“I believed in the devil before I believed in the divinity of Christ,” he said.

Meanwhile, he noticed that the “good voice” in his thoughts “never made an argument, it simply said the thing I should do,” he said.

The more attuned he became to these spiritual forces, the more he saw the tricks of the devil everywhere, he said.

Meanwhile, Hooreh talked to his best friend Robert, who is Catholic, about what he had been thinking. His friend asked him what he thought about when he thought of the Catholic Church, and Hooreh listed all negative things. His friend pointed out that Hooreh saw and recognized the devil’s tricks everywhere else, but hadn’t wondered why all of his thoughts about the Catholic Church were negative.

Hooreh began to think about how if he were a military leader, he would want to take down the opposing leader in order to take power. He began to believe that the devil was fighting against the Catholic Church for a reason, and since he hated the devil, he decided to give the Church a chance.

When he told his friend this, his friend insisted on finding a parish for him to go to, and called many parishes in the Washington area to talk to the people in charge of religious education, in order to get an understanding of whether they could handle the philosophical questions he knew Hooreh would ask them. When he reached Anna LaNave, the pastoral associate at Our Lady of Mercy Parish, she convinced him that Mercy was the right place.

After he started RCIA, Hooreh said he realized, “if I am going to become a Christian, I will have to pray to Jesus.”

Because of his background in meditation, he could recognize when his prayer was not coming from deep within him, and was filled with shallow thoughts. After he sat in prayer for a while and “simmered down,” he said he was able to pray to Jesus with his “full heart.”

“I said, ‘I hope that you’re real.’” Hooreh recalled, noting that he had always had a relationship with God, but it had felt like that of coach and athlete. He always heard Christians talk of a deeper relationship of giving and receiving love, but was afraid that because he never really had a father figure in his life, that would interfere with his ability to know God.

“I said, ‘Please open up my heart. Show me what it is to give and receive love,’” he recalled.

The next day, he said he could feel the difference in his mentality. Holding up the wall to keep out the negative thoughts was significantly easier, “like someone was holding it for me,” he said.

“I didn’t have to dig, it was like someone was digging for me, handing it to me,” he said.

He prayed to Jesus a second time telling Him that he was going to submit himself completely to Him, when he felt Jesus asking him, “Do you fully submit?”

“I said, ‘I don’t know, it is scary,’” he recalled.

Hooreh felt as if Jesus was calling him to trust Him, and he responded, “I empty my cup for you Lord, please fill my cup.”

The next day, he passed a lady with a flat tire on the side of the road, and heard in his mind all of the temptations and reasons not to stop and help her, but ultimately pulled over, reversed his car, got out, and changed her tire for her.

“I felt so happy,” he said. “I could feel the Holy Spirit in me was happy as well.”

After this experience, he thought, “how many times have I been on the shoulder with a flat tire when Jesus came to offer help and I said, ‘No, I’ve got this figured out.’”

“Now that I do accept His help, I can feel the rejoicing of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “…That solidified my desire to continue to grow with Christ.”

When he read the Gospel, “I cried harder than I’ve ever cried,” because Jesus’ words saying, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another,” were very powerful “now that I’ve felt that love in my life,” he said.

Reflecting back on his experience with Buddhism, he said behind that ideology is “the same fundamental, prideful human lie – we can be like God,” said Hooreh, who added that he knows now, “Only through Christ you can be saved, and it is supernatural, it is not natural.”

Hooreh found out that as he was going through this spiritual journey, his friend Robert, who lives in Florida, had gotten a month’s worth of Masses said for him. When Hooreh is baptized at the Easter Vigil this year, Robert’s mom, Renate, will be his godmother.

“I’ve always felt he was a brother to me, and now that his mother is going to be my godmother, it kind of solidifies that on a spiritual level,” said Hooreh.

Through RCIA, Hooreh said he has come to have a respect for the apostolic tradition of the Church and the ability to learn from all of the theologians who have passed down teachings. He described the Church as the trunk of a tree, with the roots as Jesus and the apostles.

“Particularly now, I think the Church needs people coming in with a love of Christ and a love of the Church,” he said. “Now is not a time to leave the Church. Now is the time to be a force for good…If I can be a vessel to make the Kingdom on Earth more reflective of the Kingdom in Heaven, that is what I want to do.”