Good snowy East coast Sunday. We made it through the worst of the blizzard of 2016!
encouraged me to reflect on my faith journey thus this post. I concur with all this beautiful blogger wrote, so please give her entry some shares and a read. 🙂
“When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host, you understand how much Jesus loves you now.”
I have written some of my story about returning home to the Catholic Church in various entries. Such as Why I am Passionately Pro-lifeThis is often a universal trend for many young adults who are seeking spirituality that is meaningful to them. The goal of this entry is to write about my early beliefs, how they have changed, what changed them, and how God is present in my life today.
Before I begin my rambles, this entry is not written to be self-serving; it is my attempt to show that if god is able to work through my humble life and varied experiences, He can work through anyone and everything. No matter where you are, where you have been and where you go, there is a God who loves us always and forever.
Faith has always been an important part of my life. As a child, my Mother converted to Catholicism and my parents were married in the Catholic Church. I believed I would join religious life and often would read the Bible for fun. A dear deacon who was close to our family would answer my curious questions about God and religion. Growing up I feared God with a capital F. I distinctly remember in fifth grade hearing somewhere about the world ending which was terrifying, especially when I would think back on how vividly descriptive the Bible was about the end of the world. Not only did I fear God and judgment, I also feared making back choices or sinning. This may sound quite trivial according to today’s standards, but during the same year I feared the world ending we had to run the mile in gym class; out of frustration and having a need to feel as if I fit in with the popular kids, I dropped the F bomb. As I sat in Math class I felt a sense of impending doom. I thought God would certainly punish me for my bad language and knew I had to go to Confession in order to be forgiven.
As I got older I experienced “Catholic guilt.” Whether it was not attending Mass or majorly slacking in CCD class, I viewed God as a tyrannical distant figure who was watching over me ready to drop the gavel at the slightest injustice.
It has been said middle school is never easy which was an absolute truth for me. It was not that kids bullied me or I didn’t have friends, rather I began suffering from depression and anorexia. During my hospitalizations I felt God had purposefully distanced himself from me because I was not treating my body with respect. I felt spiritually desolate, emotionally deadened and socially isolated.
I will never forget my Confirmation day in eighth grade. Not only was it a big event at the Hershey arena and I nearly passed out from the sweltering indoor temperatures, for the first time as the beautifully smelling chrism oils were placed on my head I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. I felt the comfort of something greater than my limited understanding.
As years went by, I was far from a dutiful daughter. I began to drift from attending church because I was told in CCD I was an adult and could decide whether or not to attend Mass. While I may not have gone to Mass, I still regularly prayed, however, my prayers morphed from fear into a friendly relationship. I still feared hell, sin and judgment, but I began to view God as a friend whom I could talk with about anything.
As I entered my first years of college, I went to Mass out of obligation. However, one Sunday evening at the Christopher house Padre clarified something that still resonates with me till this day. He said something to the effect that if you don’t want to make your faith your own, then don’t come to church if your heart isn’t into it. That was the first time I realized my faith could be something I could choose out of love for God instead of obligation to a religion.
Proceeding this prolific epiphany, I became more active in the Catholic Campus Ministry, attended pro-life events and did my best to learn as much as I could about this Catholic faith I began to slowly fall in love with. Not only did I have wonderful Catholic friends and an awesome priest who took us on powerful spiritually enriching retreats, I began to meet other Christians through the Kutztown Christian Fellowship who were so alive in their faith.
Although I did not have all the answers to the few criticisms I received about being a practicing Catholic, the fear I grew up with began to evolve into a healthy respect for the God who created me for some unique purpose.
After my beloved cousin died by suicide, I became very detached from church and God. I got sick and relapsed into the eating disorder and depression. After two attempts to complete semesters I had to medically withdraw.
When I left for Iowa, I relinquished my morals for a different way of life. I vividly remember the emptiness I felt. No amount of sinful activities could take those feelings away. I became very skeptical about religion and god. I had many questions and I was stuck in an angry phase. I was like a rotting tooth that became infected. When I would talk to Christians who would share their beliefs with me I became very confrontational and combative. I now understand why I reacted the way I did. They were speaking the truth. I had so many barriers placed up when it came to Church or anything having to do with God. As expected when something is infected it begins to wither. I regressed back into my old ways of the eating disorder. I sought therapy which helped me mentally become stronger, but I still neglected my spiritual health.
I’ve had to learn from my own doing rather than listening to my wise and experienced role models, but I do not regret all the experiences which have taught me invaluable lessons. I felt like such a failure; I had morals that I threw out the window. I didn’t respect my body and what I knew was wrong. I became pregnant as the result of an abusive relationship.
After my daughter was born, I still was skeptical about religion and felt distant from God. What was so amazing was God spoke to my hardened heart through a highly controversial televised funeral Mass for Ted Kennedy. Something within me was awakened after lying dormant for years.
After watching the Mass I felt a calling to return to the Catholic Church and have her baptized into the faith I grew to love so many years ago. I wanted my daughter to grow up with morals, values, and a strong support system. I do not want her to make the same choices; but most importantly I want her to be proud of her faith.
As I worked toward my BSW degree, I continued to grow in my faith and develop a healing healthy relationship with God. God has placed people along my faith path who have challenged, inspired me, and modeled what it means to be a practicing Catholic.
G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “The difficulty in explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.”
I no longer attend Mass out of habit; I worship God with my mind, body and soul because Jesus is there on the altar and comes to us in the Eucharist.
I am no longer part of the Universal Church out of obligation or fear, rather I am Catholic because I am one of many who seek to learn and grow in the truth the visible Church brings to the world to which the Bible says the gates of hell will not and cannot prevail. (Mt 16-18)
I no longer fear God and his retribution; through the traditions and scriptures given by His Church us flawed humans experience his mercy which is new every day.
I am one example of how the Potter can take a broken, cracked pot and make a new creation and I wholeheartedly believe we never know in what ways God is working in someone’s life. If it weren’t for that controversial Mass on television which so many Catholics scoffed at, I don’t know if I would have come home.
Let’s not simply seclude ourselves in our little church circles, let’s be Christ to everyone we meet.
Until next time,