If you missed part one, see here.
Reminder: This is my own personal story. I firmly believe God speaks to different people differently and however He chooses to do so. It just so happens that He chooses to speak to me through the Catholic church. I am not here to point out a right or a wrong for everyone, but to tell what was right for ME.
By and by, I started to break away from the church I was raised in and attended a Southern Baptist church with my high school boyfriend and I liked it much better. The atmosphere was much friendlier in general, though I missed some dear people I knew at my old church. I found, though, that it wasn’t just the atmosphere or the people who got to me at my old church…it was the basic principles that were being taught. The questions that plagued me then, plagued me still. The people were sweet, God-fearing people and I have no doubt they are true Christians, but none of that helped me reconcile my questions about the history/science of the world with my faith. I still couldn’t wrap my head around “faith without works is dead” if we only needed faith and not works. I still could not, could NOT understand sola scriptura. Didn’t it actually SAY in John 20:30 that Jesus did many more things not written in this book?
My new church held a debate in the youth group, and if there is one thing I love, it is a challenge. The debate was whether God existed. To be honest, I was at a very low point in my faith and I wasn’t sure at all whether He existed. I accepted the challenge of proving His existence, mostly to prove it to myself. Proving He existed seemed harder than proving He didn’t. I won the debate by a landslide, but it certainly wasn’t hard because who there was going to admit God didn’t exist no matter how good or sucky my points were? At the end, I still wasn’t convinced and I was more upset at the sheep-mindset of the people around me than ever before.
I became pretty jaded and left church altogether for a while, but after my son was born I felt renewed in my personal faith and needed a community to foster it. God DID exist…I could look in my son’s eyes and practically see his soul. I could hear God calling me, wanting a relationship with me, and I was reaching up for Him. “Here am I, Lord!”, just like little Samuel.
I looked for Him everywhere…and I found Him everywhere else that I didn’t bother to search before…the intricacies in the wrinkles of my son’s fingers, the veins in leaves, the vastness of the night sky, the eyes of the poor and suffering. He wasn’t JUST buried in the Good Book. He wasn’t just in the rules and regulations set upon me. And he certainly wasn’t JUST in the only type of Christian or person that I knew.
I found all kinds of people from all walks of life, that had great stories and interesting views, but I didn’t yet find a church home. Some people don’t need a community or a building—lucky them, but I had a deep stirring to know God better and so many questions still. I floated from denomination to denomination, trying on churches like shoes. I went several times to each kind to be sure how I felt about it and I read up on their beliefs. I walked around in those beliefs, trying them out, wearing them in. I really liked the nice Methodists and I suppose the zeal of Pentecostals was certainly inspiring, if it was an exact wrong fit for my introverted self.
I sifted through internet articles and church websites for hours upon hours. I read tons of books and scoured the bookshelves of libraries and bookstores…and finally I found a book that spoke to ME..written exactly for ME . I have read it about 17 times and it is all marked up, and it never gets old. “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic” by David Currie really fanned my flames and knocked my socks off. I sure would love to listen to a lecture from that guy in a college course or something, because he sure is very learned.
So, I researched more. I called my dad, who was raised Catholic and I asked why he wasn’t Catholic anymore. “ I wouldn’t say that I am not Catholic…I think you kind of always are…but I met your mom and went to church with her, and then when I didn’t like that, I just stopped going. “ So I asked him if he had anything against Catholics… “Nope. I mean, I wasn’t terribly fond of the nuns that nearly broke my thumb for writing with my left hand when I was little, but nothing against Catholics in general. Whatever floats your boat.”
So, I gathered my courage to go to Mass. I had no Catholic friends and had never seen a mass. The only priests I saw were on TV. I knew Catholics stood up, sat down, knelt down and prayed in unison, but I didn’t know when or how or the words to say. I sat in the back and played “Simon Says”. You know what I noticed immediately? 1: No political or hate-filled speeches about anyone. Nothing about liberals or gays or anything, just a call to love, a call to come to Christ. No one preached AT you, but truth just overflowed and filled my heart. 2: All senses were on board…beautiful windows and murals and vestments, incense, movement, chanting, community prayer. There was too much to take in to nod off in boredom. 3. Bible verses. Lots of them. More than I would normally hear in a month of Sundays. No one brought Bibles with them because large chunks of the OT, NT and the Gospels were written in a book along with Psalms and the week’s prayers…my old, tattered KJV sat sternly beside me unopened, but I checked the verses myself and they were the same. No one pulled a fast one on me. Plus, the priest kissed the Gospel, raised it over his head…it was revered. No one could doubt that Catholics believed the Word of God.
I went to Mass again and again because my holes were healing. I found such a comfort in the familiarity of the Mass—you kind of always know what to expect, but it is still new every time. I memorized the prayers and responses, though I could not officially be one of them. My heart ached when we got to the part about “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” because I so desperately wanted Jesus under my roof whether I was worthy or not. The part in the Lord’s prayer about “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…” really hit me between the eyes…especially the “AS” part. No wonder I couldn’t find Jesus in the other church I attended– no one as forgiving as Jesus forgave us, so they could hardly expect any sort of lasting peace. I also realized I needed to forgive THEM: I felt marginalized and ostracized pretty much my whole life for having opinions, which led to bitterness and pulled me away from God. God was there for them and for me to seek out, but with all the meanness of Judgy McJudgersons, no one could get at Him and His peace.
I devoured more books and then eventually called the priest who was a jolly, funny Irishman that looked just like Mr. Bean. I joined RCIA late because it had already been in session for a few months, but I was like Hermione Granger in the front of the class with my hand raised at every question. Father was so impressed with my zeal that he sought special permission for me to join the flock a little early. I was already Baptized, so I had the choice of jumping right in or waiting until Easter. I decided to go for it…February 14, 2010, Jesus became my “valentine” and I was born again Catholic.
Becoming Catholic has been the single best thing that has ever happened to me. Since then, the Eucharist has sustained me and given me a feeling of true peace—Jesus is under my roof. If, for whatever reason, I missed confession or missed Mass, I got a healthy dose of what some may refer to as Catholic guilt. It wasn’t so much as me feeling guilty (though I did), it was about me just MISSING Jesus. Like I was keeping him at arm’s length and depriving myself of the peace and joy He brings me. As a Baptist, I would miss church because I felt sick, felt tired, was out-of-town or for any myriad of reasons. Whether I went or not didn’t really impact my peace so much because there really wasn’t anything the pastor couldn’t tell me that I didn’t already hear or know before or couldn’t find out for myself and I had no peace to start with. Often, going to church made me feel more wretched than if I had just stayed home. Going to MASS is like giving a big hug to Jesus or like being a little child crawling up into his lap for comfort.
Like I said before, God talks to us in different ways and people are drawn to him through different journeys. This was mine. We don’t all have to be Catholic, though for myself nothing else makes sense for me. I still communicate regularly with my Baptist friends at my old church and I have absolutely nothing but love for them. Very few understand my choice or reasoning, but that is ok. They pray for me, and I for them, and God loves us all. I plan on giving them the shock of their lives when I meet them in Heaven and we will all have a good laugh 😉