Author hopes his experience inspires others
Those who doubt people hear announcements at Mass need to talk to Tim Rinaldi.
At Mass in 2008, Rinaldi heard about a Honduran mission trip with Tulane University’s Catholic Center.
“And it sounded exciting, and I decided to go, not knowing what to expect,” he said.
Little did he know how that trip would steer his life to take eight mission trips to Honduras, one medical mission to the Dominican Republic and another to Kenya and that he’d meet his wife on Mission Honduras and write a book about it.
As with any life transformation, it’s the little steps along the way – while not always discernable when occurring – that lead up to the change.
The same goes for Rinaldi, 26, now living in Lafayette with wife Emily and son Luke Francis named after Pope Francis whom they met on their honeymoon in Rome. He works in marketing and branding for a start-up company and is a parishioner at St. Pius X in Lafayette.
Jesus worked in his heart
He said he grew up Catholic, attended CCD classes and was confirmed at 16, but said he wasn’t a regular churchgoer as a youth.
That began to change on an Episcopal School of Acadiana senior trip to Paris when he found himself inside Notre Dame Cathedral in awe of its beauty. If that wasn’t enough, a friend was in line for confession, and he decided to join him.
“For some reason, I stopped and sat in line,” he said. “When I spoke to the priest, I started crying, trying to explain why I didn’t go to Mass. That was part of my conversion – I was crying and didn’t know why. The priest very calmly explained the power of the Eucharist and how we experience it in Mass. I started going to Mass again in high school.”
Mission trip changed him
At Tulane University – earning a degree in neuroscience and minoring in religious studies – he appreciated Mass more and participated in adoration. His faith grew with every mission trip – taking two with his brother Patrick, also at Tulane – as his heart opened to God’s love through people who were poor monetarily but rich in faith and love.
After the first mission trip, Rinaldi became chair of Tulane Catholic Center’s service committee, encouraging others to take mission trips, coordinating student service opportunities, leading retreats and a guys’ prayer group.
After college, he moved to Houston for medical school, but once his wife became pregnant, medicine was not where his heart was.
“I discerned I wasn’t made to be a physician,” he said. “In Mass, I was praying to be a doctor but called to spread the mission message to as many people as possible.”
Book opens heart
His personal transformation from the missions prompted him, last year, to write a 312-page fictional book – “Mission from the Depths” – to help others realize how life can change by serving others. It’s available on Amazon ($12 paperback, $5 ebook) and at www.tim rinaldi.com. Ten percent of sales goes to mission schools
“The missionaries who live in San Pedro Sula lead our mission work, and they’ve decided that the proceeds from my novel’s sales will go to build a new school in the mountain villages,” he said. “The importance of education for the children there is an important theme in the novel, so I’m very excited about this opportunity.”
In the book, the main character Michael Rhoades parallels Rinaldi’s real story of building a medical clinic in the La Fortuna mountain village that opened in 2012.
“I wanted to make it fictional so people who read it will be entertained but witness the main character’s transformation and the joy he received from the people he’s met while receiving God’s love,” Rinaldi said. He learned being selfless is the easiest way to find happiness and true joy.
After college in 2011, he drummed up support for the mission clinic, especially in his home parish of Sacred Heart in Broussard, La. This parish has raised thousands of dollars and traveled on mission trips since 2012.
Even though Rinaldi said he hasn’t been on a mission trip since 2012, his friendships from there have lasted, and several fellow missioners stood in his wedding.
“We were a group of 20 -year-olds uniting and impacting people in a developing country. We saw the best in each other when we were in Honduras. It’s a good experience to see who people can be – the best version of their self.”
If he could change anything in his life, he said he wished his younger self had known the lessons of love he learned from the missions.
“I wish I could go back to the high school me and have learned the lessons sooner,” he said. “But I know it all happened when it was meant to happen. I am thankful and blessed it did.”
He said transforming one’s life is not a simple fix.
“Experiencing God’s love is a constant journey,” he said.
Read more about Rinaldi or donate money to the missions on his blog post at timrinaldi.com