Tag Archives: faith
1 Mar

So…shortly after my last post my mom went back to the hospital for multiple health problems, then my dog got cancer, then my diabetic dad stopped watching what he was eating, then my deployed fiance was indefinitely stuck overseas for three months, then I read my roommate’s journal (Totally wrong of me, but in my defense it was lying open on MY bed.) and I discovered all the things she hated about me, then in an effort to fix my relationship with her I admitted to her that I had read it and that conversation ended with an unspoken agreement that for the duration of the semester we would not be on speaking terms, then it was finally time to put my dog down, then I nearly failed my science class which would have kept me from graduating, then my senior capstone project refused to go as I’d planned it, and then as quickly as all that bad stuff entered my life…it was gone.

I graduated from college. I moved back to my parents’ house for a few months to relax and catch my breath before my wedding. I adopted a dog from the shelter and brought him back to health – and as much as I’ve helped him, he’s done twice as much so for my own healing. S FINALLY made it home from deployment and safely back into my arms. My mom had a couple surgeries and is doing much better. My dad is still struggling to eat right, but mom and I are helping him along. All is well. Kind of.

On the outside of me everything is back to being okay, but on the inside things are still a bit muddled.

Those were long months of loneliness and depression for me. Honestly, I don’t remember much about them. I know that I was sad all the time but I couldn’t cry. I know that for the most part I stopped talking in general. I know that I lived on coffee, cigarettes, and spaghetti. I know that I rarely slept for more than an hour at a time. I know that I woke up one day and realized I had a drinking problem. I know that it took me a few weeks to work up the courage to get help with that problem. And I know that I spent a lot of time at the park sitting on a bench and holding my rosary but not being able (or maybe willing) to pray.

Now that things are better and I’ve finally found respite…I’m not sure how to feel when I look back at that dark time. I’m disappointed in myself – I thought I was stronger than that and that in times of stress and adversity I would rise to the occasion rather than slinking around in despair. I turned to vodka and camel reds instead of my faith. I was self-destructive…and that scares me.

Looking back I don’t even know when or why I stopped going to Mass, or studying the Bible and Church teaching, or praying…I just know that I did. It wasn’t by any means a conscious decision…it just happened.  And then it turned into a vicious cycle where I didn’t want to go to Mass, or even see people who might have a speck of religion in them because I knew that if I did I wouldn’t be capable of covering up what my life looked like and I was ashamed of what they would have seen. Honestly that mentality even went so far as to keep me from posting on here…because I didn’t have anything fun or joyful to write about…I just had cold, hard, embarrassing honesty.

I have healed a lot…but there are still parts of me struggling to catch up – my faith, my ability to respect myself, my desire to know and seek God…

 

7 Apr

My parents’ words are poisonous…

“Don’t you dare tell your grandmother. Don’t tell anyone even.”

“You might as well have become a Mormon. In fact, I wish you had.”

“This is just a phase. I’ve signed you up for a conference that’s going to fix you and get you through this faster.”

“You’d better not be thinking about becoming a nun.”

“You’re wrong, and you don’t know what you’ve done.”

~~~

I’m just not responding to them…so far if I’ve said something they’ve twisted it. It’s hard to twist silence. It’s hard to turn unsaid words into something ugly and poisonous.

I’m trying really hard to keep in mind that they haven’t even known for a week yet. There’s plenty of time for them to calm down.

S, on the other hand, is still furious. I’m trying really hard to keep him informed without telling him too much. I don’t want to make it hard for him to be a good son-in-law to them…but even based on the overview I’ve given him of my parents’ behavior this past week, he’s started to say that he doesn’t want them involved in our children’s spiritual lives at all. He also wants us to start saving so that we can pay for our own wedding.

I agree with him…is that wrong? Will that just cause further un-doable damage and hurt?

Father, Spirit, Jesus, help me. Save me. Love me. Guide me. Give me grace for my own sins so that I can extend grace to others for their sins against me. Give me words of comfort and wisdom for myself so that I can give those words to others. Help me to know when to be silent and when to speak. When I am to be silent, help me keep my mouth shut. When I am to speak, give me words. 

Well…the Catholic cat is out of the proverbial bag…

3 Apr

I sent my parents an e-mail this morning that said this.

I literally could not sleep last night because I couldn’t stop thinking about how I needed to tell them. I feel a lot better now because it’s not a secret anymore…

We’ll see how they react.

In the meantime I’m asking for all the prayers I can get. I even stood in the shower and timidly asked St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for her intercession.

I’m an adult and I’m obeying the Lord. There’s no reason I should be this worried…

All you holy men and women pray for me and pray for my family.

Pray for me, dear readers.

1 Apr

Easter Vigil was absolutely wonderful – such an indescribable and great night. Even thinking back on it now…it makes me just want to smile and sing.

I’m so grateful for my sponsor and her family. They have showered me with love, prayers, kind words, books, and gifts throughout this whole process. The night of the vigil they all sat with me and then Easter day they invited me to have lunch and spend the day with them.

One of the books I got as a confirmation gift is The Illustrated Lives of the Saints. Since it separates the saints based on the days they’re celebrated, I’ve decided to just read through it day by day, starting yesterday. I’m excited to get to know the saints and also to have a new saint to ask to pray for me each day. For some reason this book is helping me to let go of some of the stigmas I’ve been holding against the saints…

I also got a Catholic Book of Prayers. I’m super excited for this one, because I was relying on the pamphlets I’d picked up here and there and on a Book of Common Prayer that I picked up at a used bookshop a few years ago. While all of those things were great, I needed something a little more portable and a little more Catholic. I’ve looked through the prayers, and my sponsor put little sticky notes in it to mark the ones she thought would be important for me, but I’m hoping to figure out a way to pray through the whole book. Maybe I’ll just say a few new prayers every day and then start over when I reach the end.

I’ve had a Catholic Bible for quite some time now, and I’ve looked through some of the “new” books, but I have yet to actually sit down and read through them. I can’t decide if I want to just read the whole Bible and therefore have a better appreciation of context, or if I just want to start reading the “new” stuff. I’ll probably end up with a mixture of both.

I also received quite a few prayer cards. I LOVE these! Yet another thing I wish I had had when I was growing up. Today I had a test that I was kind of nervous about and right before it I took out the card with St. Thomas Aquinas‘s picture and prayer on it and was able to pray it right there. I’ve sometimes made up prayers for tests before, but this one was nice because I didn’t find myself stumbling for words – it was a nice quick prayer that said exactly what I wanted to say.

Feelings

30 Mar

When I was growing up I went to a lot of churches who were out to make me cry. I went to churches who existed to evoke emotion – to make their congregants feel something.

In a culture where we are constantly in touch with our feelings, sometimes it’s difficult to actually feel. Emotionally driven books, movies, TV shows, Facebook and blog posts, songs, and pictures bombard us. People respond to emotion, so those who want to be heard appeal to our feelings – and while it works for a time, eventually we become desensitized.

We’ve felt  so much – and our hearts need a break. Years of exposure to emotional appeals leave us needing time away from feelings – a repose from the ups and downs. So we allow callouses to form on our hearts. We allow them to become hard.

I think this is why I’ve seen so many churches that wanted the attention of my feelings. It’s good to feel. It’s good to have catharsis – to purge our emotions. It’s good to be excited. It’s good to have a nice long cry. Churches know this – and they also know how to evoke feelings. They know how to stir up our hearts and get us excited, or how to make us feel as guilty as Hitler, or how to reduce half of the congregation to tears.

And while those things aren’t bad, per se, I’ve seen a lot of churches who made evoking emotion their main goal. If people weren’t running or dancing or crying or expressing some extreme emotion by the end of the service, then the church had failed.

The problem is that when we focus on creating a feeling, we’re not focusing on God.

This Holy Week I’ve found myself feeling. I have felt joy at the grace of God, I have felt uncontrollable sadness over the pain of Christ, and I have felt overwhelmed by the love and goodness of the God I serve. But no one set out to make me feel those things. Rather, in meditating on the Lord and the things He has done, I found those feelings flowing as a natural result.

And you know what? If I had felt nothing it would have been okay – because God doesn’t command us to have a feeling. He blesses us with feelings, but He only commands that we obey Him.

In her book Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality, Mother Angelica says, “Spiritual dryness is a gift from God, because it removes the soul from the emotional level and puts prayer on the level of the will, where I am a child of God who does the things of God because I decide to do so, not because I am depending on emotions outside of me.”

These past few months I have been a mess of feelings. (S is worried I have a hormonal imbalance.) I have spent Holy Week weeping for God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I have wept for the pain of the Blessed Mother, and I have wept for the sins of humanity. And I am absolutely overwhelmed with excitement for when I enter the Church tonight.

But I know that in a little while these feelings will fade. The dailiness of my spiritual life will take over. But that’s okay. Feelings are not the goal. Jesus is the goal, and feelings may or may not be a result.

My First Confession

14 Mar

Well…I’ve made my first confession.

I hadn’t been nervous about it until it was time for me to drive to the church. I got in my car and I was shaking so badly I could barely drive. I rarely drive with the radio off, but today it was grating on my nerves. I snapped it off impatiently.

When I walked into the church, the secretary said hi to me, but I couldn’t force a response out of my mouth. Father saw me and knew immediately that I was more than a little unnerved. So rather than go to the confessional he suggested we sit in his office and talk.

I pulled out my two page list of sins and glanced down at it. “There’s no way this can cover the nine years worth of sins I’ve amassed since my baptism,” I thought.

I looked at Father.

Then back at my list.

Then back at Father.

He folded his hands in front of him and said, “I don’t have anything else scheduled for this afternoon. We will take as long as you need. Even if all you need is to collect your thoughts.”

I sat for a second and took a deep breath.

“I…I…I have taken…” and that’s when the tears started. And they didn’t stop until I was two sins away from the bottom of my list.

It had been so long since I’d sat down and actually examined my conscience. I had forgotten what it feels like to ponder my own frail human nature. I had forgotten the feelings that accompany guilt – the terror of Hell, the desolation that comes from knowing you’ve hurt the One who loves you the most, the feeling of being despicable and unworthy of forgiveness – things I hadn’t felt since I gave up Protestantism.

This past week exhausted me for that reason. Ever since I had scheduled my confession with Father, I had been reflecting on the things I ought to share. And I began to feel much like I did prior to leaving the Protestant Church. I cried a lot this week, because I was afraid that I was entering into the same thing I am running away from.

Each time I remembered a sin, it felt like I was picking up an item from my room and putting it in a box. The box grew heavier and heavier as the week went on, and I carried it with me everywhere. Sometimes I would see someone or walk by a place and it would spark my memory – and then more things would go into my box. I felt myself beginning to despair because there was so much weighing me down.

“This isn’t what I want,” I thought. “I am entering the Catholic Church to get away from this. Yet here it is, following me everywhere I go.”

And then I went to Confession.

When I looked down at my list, each line seemed to taunt with evil glee, “You’ll never be able to say me,” one would say. “I’m too embarrassing to confess, you’d better hold back on me,” another would suggest.

So I started at the top, with the hardest things first. And I overcame that list, line by line. And at the end I tried to look Father in the eye, but the guilt was still there. It was almost tangible, I thought.

But then something happened that I had forgotten was going to happen.

Father absolved me.

And through Father, Jesus reminded me that He didn’t condemn. He forgave. And He will continue to forgive and to ease my guilt.

The Gift

3 Mar

I’ve never struggled with loneliness the way that I have been these past few weeks. Right now I’m in different spiritual, mental, and emotional places than the people around me are. Not that the place I’m in is better or worse…it’s just different.

This morning at Mass when I walked in I had no clue what was going on. It hadn’t started yet, but everyone was praying prayers I don’t know yet and I was really struggling to follow along. Usually I don’t have this problem, and today it was really discouraging.

I sat there thinking, “I don’t fit anywhere. Not here in this place, and not there in the place I’ve come from.”

So I looked up at my Christ on the cross and I prayed the only words that would come to mind: “I can’t do this. Help me do this. Please.”

When everyone got up to take Communion the lonely feeling persisted. I know it’s only a few weeks away now, but I haven’t taken Communion in a really long time and I miss it. I miss the feeling of being one with my fellow believers. I miss knowing that I’m partaking in Christ’s body and blood.

Then the woman sitting next to me got up to receive the Eucharist. As she walked past me she stopped and touched my arm. When I looked up at her she took my face in her hands and just smiled at me. Then before the tears that had formed in my eyes slipped out, she was gone.  I don’t know if she knows the gift that that seemingly tiny gesture gave me.

I sat there and for the first time in weeks my soul was quiet enough to hear the still, small voice of the Lord. He said to me, “Don’t you think the cross was a lonely place for Me? I have felt the feelings that you are feeling. You are not alone.  I have surrounded you with people to love you and encourage you and pray for you. Not only that, but even if you were the last person on earth I wouldn’t leave you by yourself. I will always be with you. Always.”