If you're reading this blog, chances are you are probably three things: one, Catholic. Two, a mom. Three, someone who is looking for ways to grow in your faith. And I'm right there with you.
I was born and raised as a Roman Catholic -- I was baptized, received first Communion and the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Confirmation. But I feel like my family was much more culturally Catholic than anything. I know my mother always had a very spiritual side ot her, and believed in God. My dad was proud of his past as an altar boy. But we didn't read the Bible together as a a family, we didn't have family prayer. We didn't pray the rosary together, except for when my Nanny came to visit us.
Despite this, I was a very spiritually attuned child. I always felt a closeness to Jesus and Mary. But when you aren't surrounded by things to keep you strong in your faith, chances are you will fall away from it. I'm not saying it's a guarantee -- but when we don't incorporate our faith in our homes, when we just rely on taking our children to Mass each week but don't live it out within the four walls of our homes, our children can easily be led down paths that lead away from Rome.
When I was a teenager, in high school, I became good friends with some girls who attended the local Mennonite Brethren church. It was officially Mennonite Brethren, but it definitely felt like a non-denominational Bible church. As a Catholic, it was completely new to me! I liked the upbeat songs, the fresh preaching. I liked how many young people there were there -- people who didn't just go through the motions, but who actually had a passion and love for the Lord.
Now, don't get me wrong. I am in no way chastising or taking anything away from our Protestant brothers and sisters. They are our family in Christ. And we have heard much from Pope Francis lately about Christian unity. I heard a particularly moving homily at my parent's church the other day about this very topic -- about how we must not only feel connected to other Catholics, but to everyone who professes a belief in Christ.
Still, there is no doubt that my interactions with this type of Protestantism -- going to youth retreats and worship concerts -- did lead me away from the Church of Rome. I was at an age where I was very open to new things, and passionate too.
Sadly, this passion cooled when I started college. I stopped going to a church of any kind and I rarely read my Bible or prayed. I still considered myself a Christian, though. It was in college that I met my first proper boyfriend, J. He was attending a college two hours away from me. I was living at home and attending my local college, taking media production and journalism. We met through my best friend at the time, a girl he had dated for a short time in high school, but was never serious with.
I fell in love with J very quickly. He was, and is (spoiler alert: he's my husband!) the most caring, kind man I know. He is hard-working, tender, loving and really relaxed. He takes life as it comes and doesn't worry too much about anything -- he doesn't stress, he takes action. He's exactly the kind of man I needed then, and still do now.
After our college programs were complete, we moved in together. Yes, we were living in sin, as the saying goes. I had been away from the Church for quite awhile, so this isn't surprising. But when we got engaged a year or so later, I decided it was really important for me to get married in the Catholic Church. This was the first of many calls home that I, sadly, didn't follow up on.
We started attending weekly Mass, and went through wedding prep courses. But then, we moved eight hours away and some family complications led us to having our wedding in a completely different location. To keep things simple, since we were planning it from a distance, we ended up getting married at a country club by a non-denominational Christian officiant.
Shortly after getting married, we decided to try for a baby. My mom had always told me that women in our family are very fertile, and she was right. We got pregnant right away, and we couldn't have been happier. But I knew I wanted my baby to be raised in the Christian faith. But some things kept holding me back from the Catholic Church -- I'd been given a lot of anti-Catholic rhetoric by some of the less kindly people I had run into in the world of born-again Christians, and some of this stuck with me. And I felt uncomfortable with what I perceived at the time to be the Church's old-fashioned stance on the LGBT community.
I shopped around for a church when my daughter was very new, with my husband supporting me and coming along. He was baptized Anglican, but never attended any services as a child and didn't have any spirituality as part of his growing-up years. We tried the local Mennonite Brethren church, the Anglican, Lutheran and United. Finally, we tried the Presbyterian Church. It's funny, because looking back now, the things that drew me to it are the things that reminded me of the Catholic Church. I liked the more formal liturgy and traditional hymns. It all felt very home-like to me.
So, this is the church that we attended faithfully for about two or three years. We had a wonderful pastor, who helped me through some of my issues with post-partum anxiety and depression. But later on, he and his family moved to Southern Ontario where he became a pastor of a church there.
During this time, I kept on feeling urges to return to the Catholic Church. These are very hard to describe, but the best way I can think of to explain it is like there was a very insistent, inward tug at my soul. It was almost a physical thing. I started yearning for the Church of my childhood, for the faith of my family. Sure, my parents may not have been very fervent Catholics, but my grandparents had a true love and passion for the faith.
For some reason, over and over, I kept rejecting this call. Sometimes it was because I'd get caught up in scrupulosity about the supposed "rules" I felt the Church imposed on people. At the time, I didn't understand the fact that these rules were not to make us live lives that were fearful and constricted, but to keep us living out Christ's teaching and anchoring us in Him and His love. Sometimes it was because I couldn't align myself with the Church's teaching on certain issues (and I'll post more about how I got over this later).
But eventually, finally, I came home. Now, we attend Mass regularly. I am excited to put my daughter in catechism in the next few years (she needs to be in Grade 2 to start, and right now she's in Kindergarten). We had her baptized Presbyterian, but our parish priest told us she would become what is known as a "naturalized" Catholic, so long as we continue her on the path of the Sacraments. We had our son baptized shortly before his first birthday, and we had our marriage convalidated around that time, as well.
At home, we typically (unless we sleep in) say Lauds (morning prayer) and Vespers (evening prayer). I strive each day to read my daughter her daily devotional and a book called "Tell Me About the Catholic Faith". I read the daily Mass readings and other Catholic material, and I try to spend time in silence each day, coming to the Lord. I attempt to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation each month (at least). I listen to The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM radio (I love the Jennifer Fulwiler show!).
And I pray. I pray that I can grow in faith, because the Lord knows I've got a LOT of growing to do. I pray for my husband. I thank God that he is so supportive of my faith, and willing to help me pass this faith on to our kids. I pray that his heart will turn towards God in love and that he will come to know Jesus as his Friend and Saviour. I pray that my children will have a lasting faith in God and His Church as they grow, a faith that will be with them their whole lives. I pray for my family and friends who do not believe, and I pray for the world, that seems so far from God at times.
I'm a work in progress. Pope Francis says that our journey of faith is a constant walk with Christ. We should be always moving. I trust that God will continue to teach me and instruct me in the Way, and that, despite the many mistakes I'm bound to make, I can somehow make a difference in this world, even if it's just raising kids that love God, each other and the world around them. And I am infinitely grateful that I was born and raised Catholic, and that despite being away from the Church, God kept calling me home. He never gave up on me. He kept calling me until I returned to His loving arms.
I hope my story helps you if you've ever felt far from the Church, or if you weren't ever part of it but have been curious about it. May God bless you on your walk. I'm praying for you.