I was raised in the Catholic church, but I wandered away from the faith in my early teen years. I recommitted in my mid-twenties, then roamed off again in my 40’s. I have been a roamin’ Catholic.
As a youngster, going to Mass was an obligation, part of my Catholic school training – Mass once a week at school and always on Sunday.
If I missed Mass on Sunday, I was probably going to hell.
As a senior in high school, I came to know Christ in a personal way through a non-denominational bible study, and I preferred non-denom services. I would be praising God with my hands in the air, blessed and humbled, and loving it, but still wondering if I was condemned because I wasn’t at St. Jude’s with my parents.
I was married in the Catholic church but continued to favor the non-denom services. After our first son was born, I realized how little I knew about guiding a young mind through a rough, selfish world. I began to pray in earnest about how to raise our son, and I found myself back in a dark wooden pew preparing for communion. I wanted the power of the Eucharist and the sacraments and the Blessed Mother. (Having a son myself, I now related to her in a way I had not before.)
I wanted the most direction and support available; I suddenly felt very vulnerable to getting it all wrong.
Our three children graduated from the same Catholic high school, they attended youth group throughout their high school years, and were part of summer service projects. They all went on mission trips sponsored by the Church. We invested all we could in their Catholic education. They didn’t always like it, and at times it was exhausting and expensive, but I always felt our kids were worth the investment. I didn’t want to answer to God later about why we were slackers when it came to faith formation.
When one child was in college, my husband and I went through a difficult time with some of the choices this child was making. Our church and our priest did not have answers for me, so I drifted towards a local non-denom church pastored by a great teacher. For four years, I soaked up his lessons and praised God through worship music and my tears. It was a place where no one knew me. I didn’t have to give anything or speak to anyone if I didn’t want to. I simply soaked up God’s mercy and love.
Slowly, I began to miss the Eucharist.
And I began to see this non-denom church didn’t have answers for me either. There were no answers, because we couldn’t change the choices our child was making; this child was not under our authority anymore. I eventually realized I could continue to be saddened by something I could not control, or I could give this child back to God – whatever the outcome – and put energy back into my own life.
I didn’t want to be in that dark place anymore, so I chose to give our child to God and focus on the positives in my life. Shortly after that, our prodigal called home in tears. This young adult child (aren’t they always our babies?) had gone back to church and had a healing experience through the Eucharist. We all cried.
On faith alone, I returned to the Catholic church. It had been waiting patiently, the same steady rock it had always been. The Eucharist began to heal me as well. For a long time, and often still today, tears well when I receive the host. It is the closest encounter with Christ I will ever have on this earth.
I brought my babies to church, and I brought my teens. I brought my middle-aged angst, and until recent years, I brought my parents. (Mom passed in Jan. 2020.)
My folks were handicapped in various ways, and even though Mom slept through most of the Mass, she and Dad were both eager to attend every week. They had lost many freedoms in their lives, but in church they felt as free and secure and loved as they did when their bodies were cooperative.
Many people complain that the Church does not change with the times. What I love most about the Church is that it does not change with the times. The Church’s truths are eternal, and in this life, when disappointments and betrayals can come one after another, my peace lies in the steadfast rock of the Church.
God is always in control; people never are (even though we think we are.)
For me, it has taken decades to see the truth, beauty, and wisdom of my Catholic faith. God let me roam, but I am so grateful He always called me back. With Covid-19 and current racial tensions, with all the anger and unrest in the country today, my only security lies in my faith.
A final thought: none of today’s problems are a surprise to God; He has seen us hate and destroy each other since Cain killed Abel. I’m sure God is grieving – here they go again. I pray daily for the conversion of hearts, that we will look at ourselves honestly and see our need for God.
We will not solve human suffering with human judgment, reasoning, and argument alone. After all, we created these messes through human judgment, reasoning, and argument. The same prideful hearts and flawed thinking will not help us change course. We need a new formula.
My own faith journey has been bumpy and often painful. I think that’s how we grow up. Responding to God’s prompting (and He is always pursuing us) is the path to true justice and healing and peace.
I pray that we listen to what poet Francis Thompson called “the Hound of heaven”…and respond.