Always need to be reminded of this!
Always need to be reminded of this!
Before you read this, take a second. Pray, breathe, stretch, do whatever you need to do in order to have a clear mind and an open heart. This is a tricky subject and I’m not writing about this to pass judgment on anyone, I’m simply explaining the Catholic stance on this issue. Ready? Here we go.
Two weeks ago we discussed contraception in RCIA and it could not have been at a more opportune moment. It was when the legislation Obama presented about birth control really started coming to the forefront of the news and was what everyone talked about. Deacon Larry did a wonderful job at this talk, being informative but at the same time sensitive to the fact everyone in class comes from a different background (so hopefully I’ll channel him in this post). The first point to make when it comes to the Catholic Church’s stance against contraception is that sex is something that is do be done in marriage. God intended it to be a way to both unite between the spouses, but also to be procreative and make cute little babies. Sex is not something to take lightly and isn’t a game. I know most of you out there are thinking “it’s human nature to have sex.” And you’re totally right. But it has a time and a place. It’s like sweets. They’re delicious and you definitely crave it, but if you have it all the time or at the wrong time like say breakfast (though cinnamon rolls are amazing), then it loses its value and can become bad for you. Just look at our society- we’re becoming so sexualized and blase about it that commercials are becoming soft core porn videos and kids are now on average sexually active by age 10. The Church says that a huge reason for this downturn is the inception of contraception.
When the pill was introduced, studies were conducted about sexual activity and divorce rates, as proponents of the pill made a lot of promises about stronger marriages and a reduction in unwanted pregnancies. The divorce rate pre 1960 was about 25%. After 1970 it jumped to 50%. When it comes to unwanted pregnancy rates, in 1960 5% of white pregnancies and 22% of black pregnancies were unwanted. Compare that to 1994 and 22% of white and 68% of black pregnancies. Today, there are about 1.5 million abortions a year (disclaimer, these stats are from class that I wrote down and therefore do not have the sites, so don’t yell at me). What appears to have happened with the introduction of the pill, if you look at these statistics along with cultural shifts, is that the responsibilities of sex have gone away and now there’s a belief that sex does not have consequences. What’s interesting is that there were five promises made by proponents of the pill about how it would affect society. Pope Paul the VI created counter arguments in his encyclical “On Human Life” detailing how each of those promises would be invalid, basing his argument on the Bible and Catholic teaching. Guess who was right?
For all you environmentalists out there, you might get a kick out of this. Due to a result of widespread usage of the pill in Boulder, CO, there was an increase of estrogen in the water (pill puts estrogen in the body, leaves body through urine, urine to water). This influx of estrogen caused the fish to go from 50/50 male to female ratio, to 5/90/5 male to female to intersex. Switzerland, Western Washington, Canada, there is evidence of this all over.
There are many known medical side effects of contraception. Increased risks in breast cancer and heart disease (which, aren’t those the two main health issues women face today?), as well as weight gain, irritability, infertility, and decreased libido. The way contraception works is that at first it prevents ovulation. If it doesn’t do that, then it acts as a barrier to sperm by increasing the viscosity of the mucous. And just in case that fails too, it makes the lining of the uterus hostile so if an egg is fertilized, it aborts it. In my opinion, none of that sounds fun. The health risks alone turn me off. And then to top it off, it turns my natural body into a machine. Menstruating is normal. It sucks, and once a month it causes me to eat my weight in chocolate and watch The Notebook over and over, but that’s part of being a woman. Controlling that makes it seem like it’s some kind of disease and there’s something wrong with women. If you don’t believe me, just watch the latest episode of Modern Family. It seems to me like this kind of contraception enforces that. And as a last resort it will abort the fetus. I think we all know how Catholics feel about abortion, so no need to get into that.
Until 1930, all Christian churches were against contraception. So what changed? My guess is that churches decided to become “progressive” and in order to retain members, bent the rules and allowed contraception. Progressive is a funny word, and I think we need to be careful before we do something we think is progressive. Ending slavery? Absolutely the right progressive move for our society. Easy access to abortion? Not so much. Something I worried about before hearing all the facts was family planning. I want to have children, but I want to make sure my husband and I are ready emotionally and financially for when that day comes. The Church is a huge believer in Natural Family Planning, and while at first I was skeptical, now I’m on board. First off, it has the same success rate as contraception at 96%. But the best part is the mentality it creates with the couple. It increases communication, sex is viewed as a gift rather than just another activity, and divorce rates for NFP couples is almost 0. Oh wait, I didn’t mention the side effects for women. That’s because there are none.
There’s this stereotype out there that people who are against contraception think anyone who uses it is a whore. Let me just say right now that is not true. Rush Limbaugh is a jackass and what he did is inexcusable and embarrassing. I have many friends who are sexually active and use contraception, and whore isn’t even the last word I would use to describe them because I would never use that word for them as they are amazing people. But what I think the message that unfortunately is not getting across is the culture surrounding contraception and the mentality of it. Are you using the argument that it’s human nature to have sex, so I’m going to take the pill and go out and have a bunch of one night stands? That situation might need an examination of conscience and a lot of self-reflection about your reasoning. The Church does not want to control your body, but rather you control it through your actions rather than your medication. And let’s not take the responsibility from men- you guys out there, are you more sexually active because now society has put the responsibility in the hands of the woman so now you’re free? This is such a huge issue and if you’ve read this far, thank you and I apologize if I offended you, as that was absolutely the very last thing I would ever want to do. Oh gosh I just realized I didn’t even touch on the fact that this legislation is a major violation of freedom of religion. But alas, maybe that will be another post. Easter is coming up very soon, so please pray for not only me, but everyone who is being confirmed. Love you all!
Last week I participated in the first public profession of my conversion. It’s called the Rite of Welcome and I am now officially a candidate for confirmation. I was a little nervous about the whole thing, mainly because my RCIA leader just told me to follow along and I’d be fine. Let me just say that when it comes to Catholic rituals, you can’t just follow along and be fine because you will be so unbelievably confused. Luckily I had an amazing woman, Sarah, stand in as my sponsor and she calmed my nerves through the whole thing. All of us who were being welcomed (or accepted if you’re unbaptized) stood in a circle in the parish gathering space. I was just standing there talking to Sarah when all of a sudden I heard singing and people shuffling. I looked into the chapel and saw all of the parishioners walking towards us with their hymn books in hand, following Father Scott and a woman carrying a huge crucifix. Honestly it was one of the most intimidating sights I have ever seen.
Father Scott and the woman went to each of us individually and asked us what we sought for in our confirmation journey. We had to put our hands on the crucifix and answer, with mine being “full communion in the Church.” After we all said what our intentions were, we walked into the chapel and stood with our sponsors at the foot of the altar while the parishioners walked back to the pews. Father Scott then had all of the sponsors turn to their candidate or catechumen and make the Sign of the Cross on various parts of the body. Our eyes so that we may see Jesus, our hands so we may do His work, our feet so we may walk in His footsteps, you get the idea. Afterwards we were dismissed to the pews for the rest of Mass. The picture up top is a great one Mom took during all this.
I loved all the pomp and circumstance that came with this. It made the weight of the Church that much more important. You can’t just walk in and be Catholic. There’s a process set because there are so many traditions and teachings, and out of respect for Jesus and the Church people need to be taught what they are getting into. Becoming Christian is a huge deal and should never be taken lightly. I know of churches that do massive baptisms where anyone can jump out of their seat and get dunked. While saving people is fantastic (and if you’re not baptized I encourage you to look into it!) they don’t know what they’re really getting into. I was reading the Book of James this morning and he talks about how faith without works means nothing. Well, if you’re baptized on the spur of the moment and have no idea how to be a Christian, you’re doing yourself and the Christian community a disservice. Now to become Catholic, there is not some kind of interview where the priest decides who does and does not become Catholic. Everyone is accepted, it’s just that everyone needs to know what they are doing before they take the Eucharist.
Having my mom there for it was absolutely incredible. She is my rock in all of this and it meant so much to me that she not only came, but took me out to a great dinner and really made this an event for our family. Her support means the world to me. What I realized that night, though, was that I have the support of my entire parish. When Mom and I were walking out, an older man walked up to me and shook my hand, congratulating me on my decision to become Catholic. “I am so excited for you, and know that you are in my family’s prayers.” I have no idea who he was and he was so kind and genuine that I really want to personally thank him for welcoming me. Having a stranger’s support made me realize how wonderful of a community I am joining. My family and my friends from Newman have been supportive throughout all of this, but a stranger? He doesn’t even know me and I’m in his prayers. If you are reading this and you are considering conversion but feel like you have no one there to support you, you’re wrong. You will have people you have never even met supporting and praying for you. You will be welcomed into this family with open arms, excited that you want to become Catholic. It is a love reminiscent of Christ. He doesn’t care who you are- as long as you come to Him, you’ll have His love.
First of all, I’m so sorry for the lack of posting during the holiday season. I’d like to say it was because I was so incredibly busy when really it was just because I forgot. RCIA was cancelled for a couple of weeks and I put this blog on the back burner. But now, RCIA and I are both back in full swing, which means many more blogs!
Last week we began our series on the Commandments and we paid particular attention to the Commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain. I have never taken God’s name in vain, ever. If I ever say “God willing” of “Oh God help us” it is always a cry to Him, not just a mere evoking of His name in conversation. So you can imagine my boredom when this topic came up. But once again, God teaches me something through my catechists. Whatever Catholics do it is always in the name of God. The Mass itself is in His name. The first thing we do when the Priest comes in and leads us is we all cross ourselves and say “In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” I’ve said these words for who knows how many Sundays, and it never crossed my mind how meaningful that was (another example of how Catholics think everything through). John, the catechist leading the discussion, brought up another way we break this Commandment. How many times do we tell someone we will pray for them, but we never do? We say it because we want to seem like a good and Godly person when really we just don’t know what else to say to someone who is pouring out their problems and we just feel uncomfortable and awkward. I’m not too proud to admit I’ve done this a number of times. I’ve told someone I’d pray for them and then never did. I wanted to seem like a good person but then my selfishness pushed it out of my mind and when it came time for my nightly prayer I prayed for myself and things that affected me and nothing else. Telling someone you’ll pray for them without a true intention of doing it is taking the Lord’s name in vain. You’re evoking a spiritual act with no follow through. I’ve never realized I was taking His name in vain when I did this. I thought that as long as I didn’t say His name I was good. But isn’t God bigger than a name?
God has really been working through some amazing people in my life and I just am so grateful to Him for all of my family and friends. For a while Mass was really difficult for me because I was going all by myself. I brought this up to my mother, who is not Catholic but an incredibly devout Christian, and the next weekend when I woke up for church I found out she was awake too because she said she was coming with me. At first it was weird for her (which for anyone who has been to Mass and not been Catholic will tell you) but she has grown to absolutely love it. Now every Sunday we go to Mass and then out for brunch afterwards. That is God’s work right there. I’m so blessed to have a mother that not only accepts my new faith, but supports me by going to Mass with me voluntarily. I’ve also gotten to go to Seattle a lot lately to see friends I made while at the Newman Center, and my goodness they are just fantastic. I honestly cannot remember the last time I saw my friend Dawn but when we met up for lunch it was as if no time had passed at all. She is the only person who I feel truly understands all of me, not just the part I show the world, and we only met one year ago at the retreat that introduced me to Catholicism. Tyler and I went to see Mat Kearney and Florence + the Machine a few weeks ago, which was so much fun. I’m a concert junkie, so to share this part of my life with him was fantastic. I have the Rite of Elect in a month (which I of course will explain in a later post) and Ty is coming up to act as my sponsor, and I’m so grateful to God to have friends willing to drive and sacrifice their time for me. Hopefully Alex, who I got to see at Christmas, will be able to be here for Easter (still working on the kinks on that one) but I know I have a ton of people who have my back and are supporting me in my faith.
I received a message from someone who is going through RCIA as well, but unfortunately does not have the support of their family for this process. To the person who sent that, you’re in my prayers (and I actually mean that!) and I hope that your family one day sees how Catholicism is the right path for you. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read these posts, and please message me if you want advice or can give me advice :)
I pray. A ton. When I’m in my car, when I’m working out, when I grocery shop,
I pray. Sometimes these are elaborate prayers for guidance and help. Sometimes
it’s just a quick note. Like “wow, thanks for the great parking spot God”
or “God give me patience to not run this pedestrian over.” I like to think
of these as little text messages to Him. You know all those things you text
to your best friend or brother? Well you can’t text that to God so instead
I just say a little comment. For me prayer is the way I feel closest to
Him. I remember getting into a discussion with a friend of mine about when
we feel closest to Him. For her it was the Bible. For me, it’s prayer. Whatever
you do that makes you feel closest to God then by all means do it. This is
just my two cents on prayer.
I think prayer has a bad reputation. People get so intimidated by it. People
ask themselves if they’re praying right, are there special words or phrases
they need to say, whether or not they have to kneel. Let me tell you this-
there is no wrong way to pray. If you don’t know what to say there are tons
of prayers out there, all you have to do is recite it and say amen at the
end. Simple as that. If you do know what to say, then go for it. God just
wants you to talk to him, He doesn’t care what you say. Think about your
parents who are happy when you call, even when it’s just for a recipe. They
just want to hear your voice. Same with God. He just wants to hear your voice.
Last week at RCIA we learned about praying the rosary, which is one of the
most sacred prayers in Catholicism. It’s actually a collection of prayers
said over and over (for more info on the rosary, go here). I’ve only prayed
the rosary once in my life, and that was only at a Newman retreat. I had
no idea what I was doing and had to look at a cheat sheet for it. I wish
I prayed it more but repetition just isn’t my thing. I get bored and too
easily distracted. But that night after RCIA I got into a, well let’s say
disagreement, with a friend of mine and driving home I kept thinking about
it. Hearing Deacon Larry’s voice in my head, I decided to pray at least part
of the rosary. I got about one Our Father and a few Hail Marys out before
I got to my driveway, but for someone who doesn’t pray the rosary I felt
that was pretty good. Before I said Amen I apologized for not praying more,
but asked that I hoped it would be enough. I got out and went to go get the
mail and in my mailbox, addressed to me, I found a pamphlet from a church
I had never heard of, all on praying the rosary. It honestly freaked me out.
The first time I ever pray it on my own volition, and I get a book about it anonymously. If that isn’t an automatic response from God, then I don’t know what is.
People get upset because they say they pray, but God doesn’t answer
them. God answers prayers. Every single one of them, without fail. He just
might not give you what you want, but rather what is best. I have never had
a prayer go unanswered. In fact, I became a Christian because I prayed for
something and realized six months later God have given it to me, just not
in the package I’d expected. I believe one of the biggest jobs for believers
is seeing Him answer prayers. We have to constantly analyze our life and
connect the dots between prayer and what happens. And we need to remember-
prayer isn’t instant. If you pray for a better job, it might not be years
until you get it. But I promise you, you will. Those times that you feel
God isn’t answering you, maybe silence is the answer. He might be teaching
you patience or to trust in Him and not to waver. Is any of this easy? Abso-freaking-lutely not. It’s by far the hardest thing in my life. But when He does answer, I remember it’s also the best thing in my life.
Lady Gaga is the new face of pop culture. And love her or hate her, everyone knows who she is and has an opinion of her. You can’t avoid her and her Little Monsters. Even on Thanksgiving she had a special on ABC after Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (symbolism there? Old vs. new traditions? I think so.). She’s sold out stadiums, started dance crazes, and worn a good rib-eye to an awards show.
But I’m not going to talk about that.
It’s no secret that Lady Gaga is pro gay. She fights for gay marriage, delivers speeches at rallies, and makes many gay references in her videos. So I know that I’m not telling you something new there. But did you know that she is also a very devoted Catholic? Born into an Italian family in New York, she went to Catholic school all throughout her childhood. Even today she still goes to Mass, takes Communion, and prays regularly. Yet due to being “controversial,” so many people say that she’s not a true Christian and “doesn’t believe in the Jesus I believe in” (direct quote from someone I had this debate with).
How is Lady Gaga not a true Christian? She prays, goes to Mass, and is using her music to spread God’s message. Her newest album has three songs that are all about Jesus, and most of the other songs make at least one reference. In “Born This Way” she sings about how no matter what, God loves you. “Believe capital H-I-M” is a line in which she is telling her audience that it doesn’t matter what those bullies on the playground or in the pulpit are saying, He still loves you. “Judas” was another one that was controversial as the video was released during Holy Week last year. However again this is a song about how she adores Jesus, but she can’t seem to let go of her sins, her Judas. Raise your hand if you never sin and can’t relate to this song… Let me guess, instead of raising your hand, you’re thinking about the last sin you committed. How you’re in love with your Judas. Her third blatant Christian song is “Bloody Mary,” an homage to the Virgin Mother and her presence in our faith.
I say these are the only blatant Christian songs on the album, but really they’re all Christian. They are either about loving yourself and being the best version of yourself, or are a confession of her sins. Just because this album has dance beats rather than a singing choir of children in the background doesn’t make it any less Christian. In RCIA last week we learned about judgment and how Jesus is the only true judge of one’s heart and whether or not their actions are sinful. Our job is to love one another because God loves us, no matter what. That’s what Lady Gaga is all about- love. We live in a Christian culture that condemns people who are homosexual because it is a sin. What I think is hilarious is that those who are yelling the loudest in public are the ones having affairs in private. I honestly do not know if being gay is a sin. I have many gay friends, all of whom are devoted Christians, and they tell me they were born that way and they believe God made them to be gay. Who am I to tell them otherwise? My job is to love them, no matter what. Jesus Himself said the second most important commandment was to love one another. I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to go against what He commanded me to do. And neither is Lady Gaga. She and her mother just started the Born This Way Foundation that fights bullying against the LGBTQ community. The motto is for the organization is “Bravery. Acceptance. Love.”
Bravery, acceptance, and love. Those are three themes in this one Book I read.
But you’re right. A woman who devotes her life to helping and empowering others by spreading the message of God and His love through her music obviously isn’t a true Christian. What was I thinking?
Hello to anyone who reads this. I’m sorry for not posting in a while. I went to visit family in Texas and then had family come visit me, so needless to say I’ve been a little busy! But I’m back at it with RCIA and now dismissals. Dismissals are something catechumens and candidates (which, paperwork is done so I’m officially one!) do at Mass every Sunday. After hearing the homily, we all go to the front of the church in front of everyone (cue social anxiety), be prayed for by the priest, and then go in another room and discuss how the homily affected us. I know a lot of people hated going through these, but I actually like them. After you see a movie, what’s the first thing you want to do? Talk about it! Same with church. After the Gospel reading and homily, I want to talk about it. It’s nice to have a built in time for that.
While I was visiting family, I went to some old missions and Cathedrals in San Antonio. It surprised me how at home I felt. I had never been to any of these places before, but it was so comforting. Texas truly is a completely different country than the other 49 states and I was feeling homesick. Walking into those churches… it’s hard to explain. It felt like I was home. Alex always tells me I could walk into any Church for Mass and it would be the same. I nodded whenever he said this but didn’t really get it. Now I do. Catholicism really is universal which is so comforting. Wherever I go, I’ll have a home to visit.
RCIA last week was all about the changes in the Creed (profession of faith said at each Mass), and Father Scott focused on all the parts of the Creed and what they mean. The line he spent the most time on was “We believe in one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic church.” He said this was vital because it was the foundation for the Church (structurally, not theologically). Let me break down what he said:
One- it is one church because, like I experienced in Texas, it’s all the same church. No matter where you go in the world, there will be a Catholic church, and the same Mass will be celebrated there. Nepal, Azerbaijan, Peru, it’s all the same. Same readings, same Eucharist, everything. While we all go to a certain parish, our parishes are part of the same Church.
Holy- Matthew 16.18 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church.” Jesus Himself established the Church and this is the most important aspect of this line. Protestantism broke off from Catholicism, with denominations being born out of a man’s idea of Christianity. Catholicism was born out of Jesus.
Catholic- we say we’re Catholic not because we think we’re better than any other Christians. This is a common misconception because sometimes when people are asked if they’re Christian they respond “no, I’m Catholic.” Okay, well they screwed up, because obviously they’re Christians. If you believe in Jesus and His fulfillment of scripture, congratulations, you’re a Christian. The reason we say we’re Catholic is because the word Catholic means universal, encompassing all peoples, not just those who worship Christ. We are all God’s children, therefore it is our job to love and serve one another. People who say they are Muslim, Lutheran, Hindi, they’re only connecting themselves to others of their specific faction of faith. Here’s an example- instead of saying you’re a Washingtonian, you say you’re American. We all live in different states, but part of the same country.
Apostolic- harken back to what I said about Peter, and you’re pretty much on the money with this one. The first Pope was an Apostle. Jesus and fellow Apostles put their hands on his head and made him the leader of the Church. To make other men what we now call priests, Peter and the Apostles, out of respect for the tradition founded by Jesus, laid their hands on men’s heads and anointed them as priests. So basically, Jesus laid his hands on Peter’s head, who laid his hands on some other guys’ heads, so on and so forth, who then laid their hands on my priest’s head. It’s an unbroken line back to Jesus. Boom.
Sometimes when I think about this entire process of becoming Catholic, with the classes and the rituals and how much there is to learn, I get a little overwhelmed. Scratch that- I get incredibly overwhelmed. I get seeds of doubt as to whether or not I should be doing this. And then I think about this line in the Creed. About how Catholicism was founded by Jesus and the Apostles. That what I do every Sunday at Mass, they did when Jesus was alive. We say the words He said. To say my Savior’s words is so comforting to me. I now realize that when I get these moments of doubt, I know it’s coming from someone who doesn’t want me to get closer to Christ. He doesn’t want to lose any hold he has on me because I know that as soon as that oil touches my head and I’m confirmed, and the moment I drink the wine, he won’t be able to have any control over me. If anyone out there is reading this and feels like there’s a force trying to hold you back from God, newsflash: there is. And he’s sneaky as hell (pun definitely intended) so you have to be on your guard. Now I’m not a huge spiritual warfare, we’re all warriors for the Kingdom of God, type of person, but I do believe there is someone out there whose mission is to keep us from God. Don’t let that happen to you. Pray for God to protect you, to comfort you, and to keep you close. Just watch this video, you’ll understand http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSwCOs-uXzU&feature=related
Once I become passionate about something, I’m all in. I couldn’t just love Harry Potter, I had to name my dog Gryffindor. I couldn’t just be a Liverpool FC fan, I had to have an entire room in my house dedicated to them. (By the way, these are both true stories.) So when I decided to become Catholic I dove headfirst into it. I bought book after book on the subject, started planning a trip to Italy, even set up automatic tithing on the internet (which is genius seeing as none of us carry cash anymore). I go to Mass at my church Assumption every weekend now but I feel like I’m in this weird limbo. I don’t feel comfortable calling myself Catholic since I can’t take communion, yet I wouldn’t consider myself anything else now. This is why I’m so glad RCIA is finally starting up- it means this limbo is almost over.
At our first RCIA last week, it was very apparent I was not at the Newman Center anymore. Actually, it’s been obvious to me for the last couple of weeks. Assumption is a family church. There are kids everywhere, married couples galore, and a substantial older crowd. At times this is frustrating. Being 22 and single I obviously want to meet people my own age who aren’t married (preferably tall with brown hair, a Spanish accent, and loves to read. Just in case anyone out there has a cousin who fits this bill.) This was something Newman had in spades (minus my Spanish reader) and was one of the reasons I felt at home so much there. I was surrounded by people like me. But, God in His infinite wisdom knows that one day I will be one of those married ladies with kids and thus Assumption is a church I can grow old in. One of my best friends Lindsay said something about our old church, that it wasn’t one we could grow in because it was full of young people. At the time I didn’t get what she meant. Now I do. I’m easily one of the youngest at RCIA, with maybe twenty or forty years between me and my RCIA mates. But, with their age comes experience, and I’m excited to learn from them.
My RCIA leader, Deacon Larry, is fantastic. I’ve never met anyone who could explain Catholicism and the Bible more fully than this man. I walked in and was handed a packet with the handouts for the next few weeks. Looking over them, nothing’s really new since it’s mainly the foundation of Christianity, but when he talked I still learned some amazing things. One of them was so simple, but still so moving. The subject of drinking came up (well, I was in a room full of Catholics) and Deacon Larry said Jesus’s first miracle was turning water into wine, and His last miracle is now turning wine into blood for communion. It wasn’t an earth-shattering revelation, but it still completely blew me away. I can’t wait until we start diving into the deeper issues about Catholicism and its connection to Scripture, because this kid is a champ and I know I’m going to learn so much from him.
What’s interesting about this process is that I’m doing it with a huge support system behind me, but at the same time I’m doing it all on my own. I know everyone at Newman completely supports me, and now that I’m a youth group leader at Assumption I’m starting to make more connections at the parish. My mother is my rock in all of this. Last weekend we were at a festival and a group of nuns had a booth full of Catholic-ness, and Mom spent more time there than I did. She bought beautiful pendants of St. Joseph and Gabriel, and now wears Gabriel around her neck. So I know I’m not doing this alone. But when I walked into RCIA and saw no one I knew… I felt pretty darn alone. And it got worse when I had to fill out my sponsor’s information. I wish Alex was here, or at least in the same time zone. I miss him so much and I have so many questions but I don’t want to constantly be calling or texting because I want him to really enjoy his new life in Madison. Going through this also makes me miss Tyler, my “foster sponsor,” and is the person I saw go through this last year. But again, I don’t want to bother him with questions because he’s, you know, a grown up with a job and all now. All I really have is God, and while I really wish those guys were with me through all of this, maybe it’s good I’m alone. It forces me to be strong and rely on myself for everything, turning to God for guidance. And in the end, isn’t that what faith really is? A journey by yourself following God? You know when you’re in a room full of people you know and love, and yet you’ve never been lonelier? That’s kind of how this is, but less melodramatic. I know I have the love and support of countless friends and family members, but it’s still just me.
This weekend I’m going to Mass at Newman and I can’t wait to see everyone. I’ve been able to go a couple times this summer, but I still get excited. Now that school’s about to start most people will be back from summer vacation. Alex is home for the UW-Cal football game, so it’ll be great to go to church with him again. Even for nothing more than a chance to do something with my sponsor besides talk on skype. RCIA is tomorrow night, so I can’t wait to fill him in on everything. Of course, I will blog about it and fill you (anonymous reader who if you’re still reading you’re now my new favorite person) in on what I’ve learned. <3
So many people use your name in vain
Those have faith in you sometimes go astray
Through all the ups and downs the joy and hurt
For better or worse I still will choose you first
I’m becoming Catholic. It still sometimes seems unreal to say that, even two months after I decided it was my calling. I think it’s because when I think about my first real encounter with Catholicism, it wasn’t love at first sight. One of my best friends Alex asked me to go to Mass with him at the UW Newman Center and just out of curiosity I said yes. I hadn’t found a church I liked at school and since I had a church back home I loved, I didn’t really feel like looking. It was, after all, my senior year in college. What’s the point of finding a new church when I had one I was happy with? (I hope by now you’re all smiling at the irony in all of this.) Now I knew that Mass was full of rituals and unlike my Protestant church so I asked Alex what I should do. “Oh, just follow me. You’ll be fine.”
There was kneeling. There was holy water. And at one point, everyone recited the exact same thing at the same time. I don’t think anyone would blame me for being, oh let’s use the word intimidated. Afterwards on the way to the car, Alex turned to me and apologized. “Gosh, I bet you think we’re a cult, don’t you?” Well it was a long time before I went to Mass again (understandably), but I did go on SEARCH, a weekend retreat in February with the Newman Center. At the time I felt spiritually empty and had been looking for a place where I could just focus on my relationship with God and nothing else. This retreat felt like the perfect opportunity, seeing as I knew no one there and could just be alone and focus on me. Also, Alex was in charge of it and asked me every day to go on it, so shutting him up was a nice perk. He said it would change my life, and dammit he was right. I met some of the most amazing and loving people I have ever known, and experienced what Catholicism really is. It isn’t just going to confession or knowing all of the saints or having the Catechism memorized. Yes, these are incredibly important and an integral part of the faith, but what Catholicism really is is humbly loving God with all your heart and being in community with your brothers and sisters in Christ. I didn’t know any of the people at Newman before this retreat. Now, they’re some of my dearest friends in the world.
After SEARCH, I started going to Mass every Sunday. I also started going to RCIA since Alex was a small group leader and, once again, an opportunity arose to have him stop pestering me. Now, either you already know this about me or will soon see from my posts, I’m a very blunt person. If I have a question, I’m going to say it, no holds barred. I hit my Catholic friends and priests with every question imaginable. Mary, saints, confession, papal authority, you name it I asked it. And even afterwards I would go online and search the reasoning behind Catholic practices. I bought books on Catholicism and read voraciously. I wanted- no, needed- to know the purpose behind all of the traditions. Was it all just some elaborate ritual, or something else?
I realized, after months of RCIAs and Masses and conversations and books, that it was something else. It was biblical. Every single ritual, practice, tradition, whatever you want to call it, is based on scripture. Jesus himself picked the first Pope, Peter. "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it," (Matt. 16:18). No one can argue that. And the more I learned, the more I saw how once one understands the biblical backing of all the Catholic practices, you can’t disagree. It just makes sense.
I’ve been praying for what seems like forever asking God if I was doing this right. You know, this whole being a Christian and worshipping God thing. I’ve been Baptist, Presbyterian, non-denominational, “a good person,” and I’ve never felt fulfilled. I always felt that I was just in a big room with a lot of people on a Sunday morning who were just as confused as I was. But since there were a lot of us, then we must be on the right track, right? God answered my prayers. I’ve been friends with Alex for a long time, and I always felt that our friendship was good, but meant to go deeper. That we had been friends for so long for a reason. And now I know. God puts people in our lives as instruments, to bring us to Him to glorify Him. He brought me to Catholicism (two “he’s” in one) and answered my prayers. Catholicism is a faith whose roots are Jesus and the Apostles. All of the practices and rituals are from the time of Christ. We are saying the same prayers today they said. 2000 years later, with over one billion followers, Catholicism is still as strong as ever and as Christ said, has not been overthrown. I no longer have to worry about whether or not I am worshipping the right way. I’m doing what Jesus said and did. How can I argue with that?
If you read all the way to here, thank you. Becoming Catholic is a long process and I want to share it with as many people as possible. It is the most important thing that will ever happen to me, and I know a lot of people will have questions about the faith and about why I’m doing this. I am so blessed to have the support I do in this process. My mom, who has always been my best friend and my rock, is behind this 100% and is even coming to Mass with me. My grandparents who are Catholic have given me essentially a Catholic survival kit, complete with a Pope-blessed rosary. Already this process has brought us closer together and I haven’t even officially started RCIA. I’ve already said how important Alex has been in all of this, so it’s no surprise to say I’ve asked him to be my sponsor. Unfortunately he now lives in Madison, WI so there are a lot of things he cannot be there for. But I know I already have an amazing Catholic community ready to support me. Tyler, Dawn, Matt, Paige, and everyone else I met at Newman, whose love I still feel even now that I’ve graduated and moved away. This is going to be a long journey, but I know it will all be worth it when on April 7th, 2012 I can say it.
I am Catholic.