Converts in any faith are passionate and energetic. They’re enthusiastic about jumping in and exploring their faith. Of the Catholic converts I’ve known, most are charismatic and seem genuinely happy about being a part of the Catholic Church. Is this because they have made the “personal” choice to be baptized into Christ Church, or is it because everything is still very fresh and new?
As a cradle Catholic, I have always wondered about this. While attending Catholic school (both elementary and high school), I often took for granted my faith, especially since my community submerged me in a haven of like-minded individuals who all shared the same belief system. I never really questioned or contemplated my faith and if I didn’t understand my beliefs my response was an easy remedy- which centered around, “That’s just what we do” or “That’s what we’ve always done.” The question of why I remain Catholic has a deep-rooted foundation based on what I like to consider my own conversion or “reversion.”
Exposed to Different Faiths
It wasn’t until I was in college and away from my Catholic bubble where my curiosity and questioning began. I was surrounded by different faiths and denominations, or no belief system at all in my college classes. The diversity bothered me because I felt my cocoon of safety being ripped away and wasn’t prepared to defend my beliefs.. That probably seems very ignorant but I never had to question ideologies because it was just “there.” While I still believed in God and attended church on occasion, I didn’t feel equipped for battle with outside views. I started to look at other faith systems, constantly comparing them.
What makes my belief in God the right one? What makes the Catholic Church the true church? As many people in today’s modern times there often comes the discussion of religion vs. spirituality and also the idea of existentialism. I remember taking a World Religions class in college and Christianity among other religions eventually arose as one of the topics. The professor presented the material objectively adapting a more historical and fact-based approach rather than intrinsic beliefs. The Shroud of Turin eventually got discussed during one of our lectures. At that moment I felt I had the answers. Scientists couldn’t explain the markings on the cloth that surrounded Jesus. Not a single test had evidence to support how the origins of the markings and authenticity of this cloth. My world of “that’s what we do’s” grew a little larger, and I felt I had enough evidence at that moment to feel partially content.
My husband has a protestant background, but he is not a fervent or ardent practicing man. I remember in our Marriage preparation classes, I struggled with the fact that he wasn’t baptized and he didn’t go to church regularly. Still, I interrogated him why he didn’t go to church or didn’t engage in Christian fellowship.
You cannot force your faith on to someone else. In fact, the mere attempt is a complete hypocrisy of the faith and you’re not truly living it. Instead, you have to serve as an ambassador.
Was the response from Msgr. Ryan our priest who married us? He was right. I can’t be a true Catholic if I’m a mere hypocrite conveying how to live but criticizing another. A few years I became more involved with the church and made an effort to model my practices rather than merely preach them.
My brother and I had very different attitudes about our upbringing. While I was beginning to truly cultivate the faith, I believe he came to resent it. While I can’t speak for him entirely; and it would be wrong to assume how he felt; I knew he kept moving further away from the Church. His attitude projected a distrust or a disappointment in the Church. Could it be he was like many other young cradle Catholics who were leaving in droves? Was he influenced by secularism or existential ideas that criticized the Church for being outdated to modern norms? If I hadn’t been born a Catholic, might I come to this conclusion too? There are so many rules to follow and so many doctrines coming to understand the mass, with some of the leaders who have betrayed and abused their position with power, it’s very easy to see how others might move away. I would be lying to say all of these things didn’t bother me. So why did I stay and he left? Maybe it was the safety of what I’ve always known, maybe it was uncertainty. At the core, I felt there had to be some truth to being Catholic.
My brother started posting social media posts rejecting Christianity. He was openly bashing and critiquing the Pope, and to the many horrendous scandals of the priest betraying their responsibility to their position. While I don’t condone the immoral acts from certain priest my first gut reaction was not to serve God but to defend my parents. “You can’t put that on social media because you’re basically telling the world that you don’t agree with how mom and dad raised you and that our childhood was a hoax!”
Why did my brother leave the church and yet I remained? His departure planted the seed of doubt in me because we were from the same childhood, the same everything. I started to question my own faith. I hadn’t really been an ambassador as Msgr. Ryan suggested I hadn’t really looked into what I believed. I was going through the motions. I knew the prayers, but I didn’t know why I prayed. I knew the mass liturgy, but I didn’t understand the full history and its complexity. And I didn’t know if I actually believed if Jesus was present in the Eucharist. All these doubts, curiosities swirled up in me and hit me hard at the core.
I went back to the college days and realized I needed to convince my brother by having hardcore facts and evidence. Come on Shroud of Turin, what else can I find? But I realized I couldn’t put all my faith into a cloth. How could I explain the Eucharist or miracles? How could I give him what I believed he needed? Evidence?
Digging Deeper Into My Faith
My desire to dig deeper in my faith came to fruition about the time my mom discovered some devastating news. She was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The doctor said that there was no treatable cure but they could prolong her life as long as possible. I wasn’t ready for my mom to die or the caregiving involved. My mom was only 64 and she still had so much left and so much more to give. I needed refuge because I couldn’t bear to go through this next part of the journey and I knew I needed the strength to keep going. I started praying, and I mean “really” praying. I also felt called to do something bigger.
As fate would have it, some friends and I decided to start a women’s ministry and this gave me a great outlet that I could submerge myself while enduring the feelings of sorrow surrounding me. The next year we started planning ideas within our parish, formulating activities for women to participate. One of those main activities was a Bible study. I hadn’t really delved into the Bible and couldn’t fully explain all the books and their understanding. We started simply with a timeline of the Bible.
Slowly, over the next few months, things started to grow and I felt the ministry around me lift me up. I recognized the new gift I had of bringing people together. I was hungry for the word. I was hungry for any book or conversation that helped me know more about God, the history of the church, the saints, Mary, and Jesus. In a sense, I felt like a convert excited and enthusiastic about God, except I was a “Revert”. I remember at one of the first studies my friend, Sonny, shared with me, “There is no such thing as coincidences.” Her words stuck with me.
Mocked For Praying
During one of our mom’s treatments, my brother and I got into a small dispute because he mocked me for praying. He didn’t see the value in it, and he was very angry at me for whatever reason; I’m not sure. A few weeks later, I approached him at a holiday gathering, and I finally laid it out on the table and took a stand to defend my faith. The funny thing is, I think my brother was looking for me to defend it in an angry or aggressive way. I think he was looking for me to attack him on the way he lived but I didn’t do any of that. I only told him that I’m not going to stop praying and I would even pray for him.
I found out much later he cried over the interaction. It scared me; shook me to my core and I broke down and cried too. A few months later we lost our mom. We were blessed to 26 months together after her diagnosis. In the course of her illness to now (a year after her death), my faith has hit an all-time peak. I am grateful that she witnessed me start a women’s ministry but sad that she knew my brother and I quarreled.
After her death I started researching Heaven since I wanted to know more about life after death, and if my mom would send me messages from up above. Yet the constant prayer I had was for my brother. I prayed that he would continue to remember Jesus. I prayed that he would come to know God again. After my mom’s death, I began praying the Rosary. This was not something I regularly did before, and I found great comfort in it.
I think where I was most perplexed is when a friend of mine told me she had run into my brother and he had told her he would pray for one of her sick relatives. My brother was praying! I didn’t know if he was praying Catholic prayers or if he was doing something different but he was praying. Knowing that his faith wasn’t completely lost was all I needed. I felt, at that moment, the Holy Spirit take over me. I felt that God had answered my prayers. I knew that I still didn’t have all the answers but I knew that I had God, and he was listening. It was definitely not a coincidence.
So to the real question…Why do I remain Catholic? I believe in a nutshell my answer comes down to a simple response that it is fully and substantially the truth. The more I dig, the more I find how true this faith is. Jesus surrounded himself with sinners and loved us anyway. He loved our flaws. He loved our being, and despite our rejection of Him, He opens Himself to us time and time again. He revealed Himself to non-believers to believers to Saints, sinners, and even the Devil himself.
I remain Catholic, not because it’s popular but because it is the truth. I remain Catholic even in scandalous time because my faith cannot be defined by those who fail to practice it correctly. I remain Catholic even in a culture that does not agree with what might be considered outdated or less contemporary social issues because, despite relativism, Christianity has and will continue to stand the test of time. I remain Catholic because our blessed Mother helps us in our weakness to seek out Her Son. I remain Catholic because I have a huge abundant of Saints that are praying on the other side of the veil, cheering and rooting us all on. I remain Catholic because God’s infinite mercy and love is and always will be here.