Terry Jeffrey
About a decade before he began a Nashville recording career that has included five platinum albums, Collin Raye was singing at a nightclub in Beaverton, Ore., when he experienced something he would later recognize as an act of Providence.

There was a couple that came every weekend to see him perform.

"As I was working the crowd, I would sit down with them," Raye told me in an interview for CNSNews.com. "I realized they would have a glass of wine and a beer. But they never really partied. They just came because they liked my singing and they liked our band."

"I noticed that Lil always had a crucifix around her neck, which I knew meant she was probably a Catholic," he said. "So, I started asking them about it."

Soon he inquired, "Can I come to Mass with you sometime?"

That Sunday he joined them at Our Lady of Sorrows in Portland. "It's still there, a little bitty parish," said Raye. "I just was moved, and I felt like I was home."

He signed up for the Rite of Catholic Initiation of Adults, the process by which the Catholic Church introduces the faith to potential converts. "It didn't take me long and I was in, and I knew that it was the true church," said Raye.

At age 23, he was confirmed. Musing on the unlikely fact that his conversion began in a nightclub, Raye said: "God will lead you where He wants you to be, and rarely is it the path that we think it's going to be. Isn't it funny?"

"God is way smarter than any of us," he said.

Raye is thankful he found the church before he found stardom. "I guess -- well, I don't guess, I know -- that God made sure that that happened to me first before I got into that other world," he said.

His first solo album, recorded in 1991, included "Love, Me" -- a ballad about a grandfather who shows his grandson a love letter the boy's dying grandmother had written decades before when the couple had tried and failed to elope. The song hit number one -- swiftly assuming the status of an iconic love song.

In 2000, Raye's own first grandchild was born. Her name was Haley Marie Bell. "I would just worship the ground that she walked on," said Raye. "Then eventually she didn't walk," he said. "Then she couldn't crawl. Then she couldn't hold her hands up. She would fall over. She couldn't control her head. She lost the ability to speak."

Haley had a neurological disorder that doctors at the nation's most prestigious medical centers could not diagnose. "This all started going wrong about four, and it was a very fast downward spiral," said Raye. "Over the next six years it was just brutal. It just got worse and worse and worse."


Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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