A speech I gave at Christmas Mass:
Hello. I am a parishioner here at St. William, and this is my story of coming back to the Catholic Church.
Growing up in the Catholic Church, I dreaded Mass. I recall my family obediently visited Mass each week, but we returned to our “real lives” as soon as we got home. I didn’t know Jesus as an adolescent, because sadly, those who surrounded me did not either. Church was a nominal duty to fulfill, not something we wanted to go do, but what we had to do in order to go to heaven.
After receiving my first Communion at age 11, I would not return to the Catholic Church again for nearly twenty years.
In my youth, I thought I knew everything, but of course I didn’t. I left my teen years with more tattoos and troubles than I can truly count. I lived a selfish life of sin until I got married. Thankfully, I met my husband in 2009 and we decided to seek out the meaning of Christianity together. However when we knocked, there was no answer. We were treated rudely and actually denied entry at some churches because we were cohabitating. Though it hurt, it wasn’t enough to stop our pursuit of God.
At 25, I became pregnant with my first child. That was when the Holy Spirit (who some call a conscience) struck me with conviction to raise this child in wholesomeness. I wanted my child to have a respectable mother. I wanted my child to be “good,” the opposite of me, like those “good” Christians I had seen before. Whatever those “Good Christians” had, I wanted that for my new family.
In 2011, pregnant with my son, I was married at the local courthouse and my husband, an active-duty Marine, deployed a few months after that. While he was overseas, I continued to seek out a church that would accept me. Finally, I found a nondenominational Christian church where I was warmly greeted and given a brochure that said: “You are accepted here—tattoos, tattered jeans and all”, I thought, “Eureka! This is my church!” I could belong, I could finally be accepted and therefore worship God. Little did I know, He already had accepted me—He just wanted all of me—not the tiny sliver on Sundays I was willing to let go.
The Marine Corps moved us from California to Maryland, and my husband and I continued our pursuit of Truth. Was Jesus truly the Son of God? With a new mission, I set out to find the answer, and transferred from a secular college to a Christian University. We ended up finding a solid church in Maryland and joyfully concluded that Jesus IS the way, the Truth, and the Life that we had been seeking out for so long. This was a good season.
Nevertheless, the seasons of life tend to ebb and flow, much like the tide. After I gave birth to my daughter, I battled severe Post-Partum depression. To top it off, we were “gifted” orders to Memphis, TN and I will be honest I was not at all excited about our move. Worse, I wasn’t feeling connected with Jesus anymore. Consequently, I used idols like food, wine and shopping to fill up the seemingly ever-present hole in my heart. My priorities were all over the place, and not one of them included God. I was miserable.
One night I was lying in bed wide awake and I felt deeply aware about how sinful the state of my heart was. After 20 years, I suddenly longed for Confession.
So, I googled “Catholic Church” and got connected with the deacon at St. Louis Catholic Church. At first, my husband was vehemently against the idea of pursuing Catholicism, and I had my own reservations, too. We both left the Catholic Church in our youth, and many relatives of ours did as well. When family members heard I was interested in Catholicism, they thought I was crazy—I already had found Jesus, why did I need to revert to Catholicism? Despite the backlash, I still wanted to explore Catholic Theology, and my husband decided to humor me in this process. We enrolled together in RCIA, and we spent many hours in debate and research with deacons and priests. Studying Theology at a non-Catholic University actually made me a better defender of Catholicism. I realized many people (including myself) have misconceptions about the Catholic Church. These preconceived notions can be dispelled with personal, inclusive research and study. My husband and I were ultimately confirmed in the Church last Easter. I now have faith that the Catholic Church and her Sacraments, if done right (and they call us practicing Catholics for a reason) is the closest way to walk with our Lord.
As I conclude, allow me to share with you my biggest fear. The worst thing that could happen to me is I die and Jesus says, “DEPART FROM ME, I NEVER KNEW YOU”. This fear drives me most days, right, wrong, or indifferent. Many of us have wasted the days our youth trying to fill up that insatiable hole inside of us with things, relationships, or substances…unfortunately it took me thirty years to realize that only God can fill that hole. To find God in the Church required me to drop my guard, my sins, my doubts…so that there was nothing left in my life but me and God. Only then could I begin to have a relationship with Him.
I am happy to say I figured out what those “good Christians” have…they have a loving relationship with Jesus. I went from not attending church for twenty years to going to Mass at least twice a week. Why? Because having a relationship with Jesus takes effort on my part.
Now don’t get me wrong–dark seasons inevitably will come. However, I know that our God is good. He suffers with us, and one day the hurts and the sadness…it will all be washed away. It encourages me that the Catholic Church provides the necessary weapons, if you will, for battling against such difficult times. In the Eucharist, we have the embodiment of Christ in the boldest, most tangible form humans can receive.
This year, I relish in the true meaning of Christmas. Our God, witnessing the ugly and desperate state of humanity came to our earth to save us from ourselves– and through that precious gift of his Son Jesus, God blessed you and I with a second chance at life.
It’s not too late. WE ALL CAN be born again with Repentance, Confession and Holy Communion.
I am truly humbled that God has granted me the ability to share this message with you. I finally heard God calling me out of my mess, and I pray if you are struggling right now, that you recognize His voice calling you out of yours. Let Him lead you Home.
Merry Christmas, and may our Lord’s bountiful love and forgiveness enter your hearts so you may share His message of peace and joy in the New Year. God Bless.