I want to thank Dana for allowing me this outlet to get some of my random thoughts out and speak my heart. I’m not 100% sure where this will go, but I will do my best to let the Holy Spirit lead. I will do my best to speak in truth and charity in all circumstances. Please forgive my mistakes and know I am praying for you!
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”St. Teresa of Calcutta
Here is a little introduction to my journey as a cradle catholic who chose to remain catholic. Like many of you, I grew up in a typical catholic home. My mother was a convert and my father grew up catholic. We went to Mass most Sundays, maybe on a holy day of obligation, we said prayers before meals and bedtime, and begrudgingly said the Rosary once in a while. It was a loving home and childhood, and I’m still close with my parents and two older sisters. We moved around a lot due to my dad’s job so we grew close in our little community, our family. We didn’t do much in the parish life and I had good friends over the years, but I was never able to settle into a group or church, because within a few years, we moved again. I was always envious of those who had their same friends from elementary through high school. For us, it just wasn’t in the cards. When we reached Littleton, Colorado in 2001, right before my 8th grade year, we began to settle. My parents still live in the same house – this was my 6th house (or apartment) at age 12.
When we moved to Littleton, the dust was still settling from the Columbine shooting and the terrorist attack of 9/11 was just about to happen. We began going to the parish that was still raw from the wounds of Columbine (the parish is within 2 miles from there). I believe that through the suffering in that church from that shooting, it is exactly what brought everyone together and made it such a life-giving parish. I was first truly introduced to Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration in February 2002. The community and sincerity of faith at St Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in those years was foundational for my faith. I learned what true Christian friendship looked like, and community as the school of learning to love others with Christ’s love.
“Keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who Himself said, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35. I became heavily involved in the ministries available in those formative teen/college years: I participated in over 35 retreats, attending or helping between Catholic youth group as well as Young Life. As I became the “Jesus freak” in my family, they lovingly reminded me multiple times to not go off the deep end. So naturally, I kept at it. After high school, I got involved in FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) at my college, where I continued in my “Jesus freak” status.
What attracted me to the faith was the community, and what kept me there was the history, the traditions, the stories of saints, martyrs, and regular house-moms that became great witnesses and sowed the seeds of faith for us. I have had many friends fall away from Catholicism for various reasons, but even when I was very tempted as well, I know it holds the fullness of the Truth. God wants more for you and me that we could even imagine. We Catholics believe that when He broke bread on the night of the Last Supper, He was truly leaving the gift of Himself. That He would be with us, spiritually, but also physically in the mysterious Eucharist, until the end of the age.
I have participated in Holy Masses said in English, Spanish, Navajo, Latin and Italian all over the world. (Side note: if you have no idea what I’m talking about with the Eucharist, start with the Gospel of John chapter 6, and the early Church Fathers interpretation of this). Holy Mass (or “missa” aka “mission”) is the re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary and participation in His Body and Blood. Mass is celebrated somewhere, somehow, every hour of the day, around the world, for all peoples – for you and me.
It Started with Jesus
It is easy to forget that the Catholic Church did not start off with gorgeous cathedrals, fancy vestments and grandiose organs. It started with Jesus, his twelve mismatched friends who went camping and evangelizing for three years, who were all but one martyred. They knew the Truth and died for it, or should I say Him. I love that the first disciples shared the Eucharist in their homes, which were the first churches. “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47. These folks shared their very selves with each other, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, they risked absolutely everything, and raised a Church with their own bloodshed – a church that has withstood the tests of 2000 years. We easily forget it was only 500 years ago that the Protestant church broke off.
We are a church full of broken and sinful people worshiping a Messiah who is all mercy and truth
As God has crossed my paths with many people along my life, I have heard stories and shared in the pains of loss, hurt and suffering of others. I lost classmates to car accidents and suicide in high school, and nearly lost my sister from an accident as a wild land firefighter. As I have prayed for and with my suffering friends and family, I meditated frequently on the site of Mary, the Mother of God, kneeling at the Cross, watching her Son suffer. She knew how this felt to watch others suffer and only be able to offer her presence. I learned to listen and to pray. We all just want to be heard, seen and loved. I have experienced this in the Face of Jesus at the foot of the His Cross, and in my own crosses. We are a church full of broken and sinful people worshiping a Messiah who is all mercy and truth. As we all fall short of the glory of God, He is there, always waiting for you to come to Him. He is there, always standing arms outstretched. He is there in the pain, hurt, sorrow, confusion and joys. He is there in the Eucharist, waiting in every Catholic Church and chapel, for you.