If you know me, you've probably noticed how passionate I get, especially about Catholicism. What's up with that? Isn't Catholicism just the religion in which I choose to believe? Isn't it just something I do on Sundays? And what's up with me wanting to bring others into the Catholic faith, why should I care what religion people practice?
Allow me to share my faith journey, which should answer these questions.
I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school from kindergarten-8th grade, where I gained plenty of knowledge about the faith as well as memorized many prayers, yet, I lacked any real understanding or appreciation of it. I decided to go to a public high school because I was sick of wearing uniforms (shallow reason) and the Catholic schools near me were considered "college prep" schools and I wasn't sure at the time if I even wanted to go to college. So, I went to Naperville North, but got very actively involved with my parish's high school youth ministry program, which in hindsight, was more protestant than Catholic, but I didn't know any better as a young teen. I made several good friends, including two high school seniors named Becki & Sammi who assisted my Quest (the name of the Confirmation-prep class) group.
Yet, my faith life still lacked the proper understanding, and thus had little substance, which is why it crumbled into pieces after the youth ministry fell apart after my sophomore year of high school. The beloved high school minister left our parish; I was very close to him and took it hard. At the time, Confirmation took place in the spring of junior year, so I still had awhile left in the Confirmation-prep program, which I did continue and did receive that Sacrament. Unfortunately, my misunderstanding led me away from Catholicism, I thought that once I was Confirmed, I was an "adult" member free to decide how to practice the faith -- so I stopped going to mass since I saw it as boring.
I redirected my passion to running. After the youth minister announced he was leaving in the spring of my sophomore year, I knew I had to find a new activity. I just happened to have the girls' Cross Country coach as my Government teacher and he seemed pretty cool, plus I'd heard good things about the team. So, I randomly approached him at the end of class one day and asked what I'd need to do to be on the team. It was March and the summer running camp started in June, and Mr. Iverson told me I would need to able to run without stopping for 30 minutes by then. So, I pushed myself and got up to a half hour after about 1.5 months. I do the summer camp and then had a successful first season in the fall. Running/XC became my new passion, with my faith trailing on the side.
Then, during my senior season, we got a new volunteer coach, a young woman (mid-20s) named Lauren, who also happened to be a Young Life leader. Although I had become a non-practicing Catholic, I still retained a basic belief in God, and wanted to do something with it. Young Life appealed to me because it was open to all Christians (although it's rooted more in Protestantism) and didn't affiliate itself with any particular denomination. It was held twice/week as a small group bible study, making the bible applicable to teenager's lives and then as a large group crazy-shenagigans-that-relate-back-to-God night.
It satisfied my religious convictions for senior year, I figured I was "fine" since I was reading the bible and even praying a little. Then, I went to a Young Life camp the summer before going to college. It was there that I started reflecting on which religion I wanted to pursue while at college. I could have become a Young Life leader in Peoria, but being carless would have made that difficult. So, I knew I had to make the decision between choosing a Protestant denomination or going back to Catholicism. I remember praying, begging God to show me which was the right religion, since I could see legitimate cases made for each.
Come August, I left Naperville for Bradley University, where I only really knew one other person named Tina, who was friends with Sammi (one of my Quest leaders) and who I had met a few times in the past. So, I was hoping to find her and Sammi told me that she thought Tina would be at the Newman Center. I wasn't sure if I wanted to try the Newman Center (the Catholic campus ministry) since I had a distorted image of it in my mind and still had mixed feelings about Catholicism. However, I did want to find Tina since it would be cool to know an upperclassman. So, I went over to Newman's annual cookout on the Monday of "welcome week". I went alone and found myself waiting in a looong line outside of the Newman Center; I felt so insecure and had no idea what to expect. I eventually get inside and there were religious sisters serving food (intimidating!), I get my food, head out to the parking lot, where numerous tables were set up and sat down at a random table where a few female Newman leaders were sitting. They seemed pretty nice and after we finished eating, Charissa gave me a tour of Newman, then I wound up hanging out in the main room (the Cafe) and find out that Newman has its own running group, YAY (I was still passionate about running even though I was done with Cross Country).
I could keep going, but, the gist is that I continued to meet more of the Newman people, who gradually drew me back to my Catholic faith. In November, I went on the Koinonia retreat, which finally actually explained the faith (and mass) in a way that made sense. At some point, things started to click and I was reminded of my prayer to God begging to know the right religion.
God led me back to His, one true Church! Fast forward to the summer after sophomore year and I randomly found the blog that went beyond the basics and explained more of the teachings about the Church, especially in regards to those moral issues. I got hooked on Leila's Little Catholic Bubble and not only learned the teachings, but through the comments section (which regularly draws in Catholics, Protestants, and even Atheists), learned how to have discussions about the faith and teachings.
Ever since then, God has been drawing me nearer and nearer to Him. And it's not just me that He wants, He wants every single human!
I've seen the beauty of God's Church and His teachings and I want everyone to share in that beauty. I'm tired of the false stigmas and false reasonings.
I humbly admit my human brokenness and sinfulness, while striving daily to rid myself of my faults and sinful habits/attitudes. I know what it's like to struggle, to want to do things my own way, to think I know better than God. Yet, where has that led me? What if I (and you) surrendered to God, entrusting Him with our lives? Is He really going to lead us to misery?
I dream of the entire world becoming Catholic, so that everyone can experience God's glory, grace, mercy, and perfect love.
It genuinely makes me sad to see people lost in sin and stubbornly rejecting God and His ways, which aren't the easiest, but are the way to eternal life with Him in Heaven.
I care too much for people not to speak up against sin. That's why I am how I am - why I'm so passionate about Catholicism and morality.
I welcome any and all questions, comments, criticisms, concerns, etc.
May God bless you now & always :)