I attended the retreat this past September. When I arrived at the retreat I received a warm welcome and any hesitation I had, quickly faded. There were people of various ages attending, some had been on previous retreats and for others it was their first time. The speakers were relatable and they motivated me to look deeper into my relationship with Jesus. We had time for personal reflection and time when we would gather over a game if we chose to do so.
While at the retreat I shared the following story about my faith journey and Adam has invited me to share my story with you. I remember being drawn to another faith around the age of 12. A friend of mine belonged to another denomination and she exemplified a truly Christian life. At that time I was also questioning some of the Catholic rituals. Later, as a young woman, the man I married was of another faith and I soon joined his church. We relocated several times in our married life. Since I desired to grow in my faith, we would church shop with each move, and eventually we joined another denomination. I always felt something was lacking in the way we worshiped but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. Years later, we divorced and I began to search for another church to attend. For 2 to 3 years I went from one denomination to another.
One day while absorbed in a TV show, out of the blue, I clearly heard “Go to Mass”. I was startled and expected to see someone as I looked around, but I was alone. I had no explanation for the direction I was given but I was NOT going to Mass. I felt the Catholic Church had far too many rules that were impossible to live by. Looking back, I realize I didn’t fully understand the church’s teachings and that God’s mercy was always there for me. A few weeks later I heard the same thing again while I was caught up in a show. And then a third time while watching TV, I was directed again to “Go to Mass”. I thought three strikes and you’re out. I couldn’t ignore God’s direction anymore. I knew that He was calling me to be obedient. I longed for a closer relationship with God and I knew I needed to quit resisting and allow Him to lead me home.
The following weekend when I attended Mass I could feel God working on my heart. It was beautiful to once again experience the reverence Catholics show throughout the Mass by gestures such as bowing, genuflecting, making the sign of the cross, etc. When it came to the consecration of the Eucharist and the priest said “This is My Body and This is My Blood” I realized I had found what I was looking for.
I went to a Catholic book store and found several books by Scott Hahn on the different sacraments. I also picked up a couple of books on the saints and started reading a short story each day about a saint. A few months later I went through the most difficult time of my life. God knew what was ahead for me and I believe that is why God in His goodness, brought me back to the Catholic Faith. For 2 years the pain and grief I felt was almost unbearable. It was during that time that God was showing me I needed to trust in Him. Even though I had wanted a different outcome, God had His plan. His ways truly are better than mine.
To this day, I am grateful for God’s unfailing love and persistence and to my parents who were steadfast in their faith and living examples of Christ’s love. I am also grateful to my protestant friends who encouraged me to read scripture and study the life of Jesus. It is through those studies and the beautiful faith of my parents that I have come home to the Catholic Church. I am thankful that through my Catholic faith, I had St. Monica and the many saints who came before me to turn to during my most difficult times. There is something about knowing the saints’ struggles and heartaches that made me feel less alone. They are like an extension of my family. I have learned to ask for the saints’ intercession just as I would ask my family members for their prayers.
I still get teary eyed during certain songs at Mass or during Communion. My joy of celebrating Mass after being away for so long is sometimes overwhelming. My story is still unfolding, I still struggle, but I know that God in His mercy is always there for me.
Yours in Christ,