Finding a New Home
Just like a job transfer that requires a move, I began "church shopping" for a new denomination to call home.
Eeegads. Isn't this what my Protestant friends do? Find a new place to call home if they "outgrow" their current affiliation based on their church changing its theological perspective...or a beloved pastor leaving...or a fallout with Church elders...
I don't know how to do this...I've been Catholic my whole life. My. Whole. Life.
I began testing the denominational waters by calling or lunching with girlfriends that were either fallen-away Catholics or faithful Christians but never Catholic. Interestingly, not one of those girlfriends steered me towards their church. They engaged me in deep, theological discussions, sharing their "issues" with Catholicism, but never extending an invitation to go to church with them.
Today, I look back with fascination at that fact. Was it because they knew I was not ready to leave Catholicism? Was it because they believed that each person needed to find their own way home (wherever that took them) without any influence? Or did they wish not to be culpable of me leaving the Catholic faith?
Besides discussions with girlfriends, I began following a lot of blogs that were either written by Mormon wives/mothers or non-denominational Christian women. These women fascinated me. They displayed such a deeply profound love for Jesus Christ and for their families. They put up Scripture quotes on their sidebars...and statements proclaiming their identification with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. These women were living their faith while raising children and proclaiming their love for Jesus publicly! Who does that???!!! Many of these women have become true "virtual" friends, and I love that I have gotten to know them through blogging.
Giving Up All This
But when it came right down to it...even after all of my research...I could not do it. I could not pull the trigger and walk away from the Catholic church.
- I could not give up my deep love for the Holy Trinity.
- I could not give up my deep love for the Eucharist and my belief in transubstantiation.
- I could not give up my belief and love for all of the Sacraments.
- I could not give up my deep love for Our Lady, Christ's own Mother whom He gave to us!
- I could not hurt my parents and surviving grandparents...who are such defenders of the faith...and turn my back on my cultural connection to Catholicism.
- I could not convince my husband that we needed to leave the faith. *wink*
- I could not imagine not raising my own precious kiddos, who I had dedicated to God and pledged to raise as Catholics at their Baptisms, in the Catholic church.
But where did that leave me? What did that leave me with? Could I remain with the Church, identifying myself as "Catholic" in name only (CINO)? And how would I explain that to my children???
Oh look...my mom holding Blessing #3...Luke Alexander born July 2010
Openness to Life...
...the gift that keeps on giving!
Born one month before my 41st birthday!!!
The Journey Home
During all of this soul searching, I reconnected with a sweet friend from high school. We found each other via Facebook, and I discovered that she too had a blog. A Catholic blog. (This could only be a God thing!)
(Hmmm. Interesting. I didn't realize that Catholics had blogs, too.)
Neen's blog was/is amazing! This homeschooling, mother of ELEVEN children, lives out her Catholic faith (the best she can!) every single day. She is an inspiration to many.
While navigating around her blog, I saw an EWTN link on her side bar. EWTN...what was that? As I visited the Catholic television network website, I saw a tab for a program called The Journey Home. I was intrigued and set my DVR for record.
"Moving" is the only way I could sum up the episode I saw. I can't even tell you who the guest was or what religion they converted from. But as I sat and listened to the convert share their faith history background and what led them "home", I knew then I could not leave Catholicism.
But what about me? The cradle Catholic who had erred? I was just a tiny bit jealous of the converts from atheism/agnosticism, Protestantism, Judaism, etc. who were able to walk away from their past mistakes and be welcomed into the Catholic church. (It's truly not that simple!!!)
It was a few weeks later when I caught a segment of the Journey Home that welcomed a "revert" to the faith. Revert? I quickly learned that a revert was a fallen-away Catholic who returns to the Faith. These guests' stories intrigued me as much as the converts. And, I could relate.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation
In addition to reconnecting with my high school friend, and discovering EWTN, I joined a newly formed Women's Group through my parish. This dynamic group of women were stay-at-home moms like me that were interested in doing Catholic bible studies.
What??? Catholics do bible study???
It was through my interactions with these incredible moms...each with their own story of brokenness (shared in confidence)...that I began to understand sin, mercy, and forgiveness. As I sobbed out my own shameful story to these very fertile NFP-ers (LOL), I was embraced with kindness, love, and encouragement.
Encouragement to return to Confession...to visit Father to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
They promised me it wouldn't hurt. Okay, my heart might be hurting, but they reassured me that what I had to share with Father would not be so shocking...and that grace and absolution was all that he would give. They also told me to be prepared for a life-changing experience.
It took several weeks for me to build up the courage to return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It took a humbling of heart...a dispensing of sinful pride...an acknowledgment of brokenness...and desire to be made whole...to walk into that confessional.
But as I choked out my story and was granted absolution, I felt an amazing weight lifted from my shoulders. For the first time in years, I felt a lightness of heart, and a desire to be on fire for Christ. All this time, the Holy Spirit working on me!
A Work in Progress
As my desire to know Christ...to understand the teachings of the Catholic Church...and to raise my children with Faith continues to grow, I learn more and more about just how much I have to learn!
The relationships that I have developed with the ladies from my Women's Group will be life-lasting regardless of where life takes each of us.
The knowledge and understanding that I've gained by researching the "whys" of the Faith (using my trusty Catechism) continues to deepen my love for the Church.
And the network of Catholic women that are on-line that I have come to discover through blogging are amazing! These women are inspiring...crafty...and down-right hilarious. "These women are living their faith while raising children and proclaiming their love for Jesus publicly! Who does that???!!!"
My Catholic girlfriends do that!!!
So Why Write All This? Why Share This Very Intimate/Private Faith Story?
The Profession of Faith
166 Faith is a personal act--the free response of the human person to to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
I love that statement from the Catechism! So full of truth. "the believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others."
I read this out in blog land..."Exactly when does one become Catholic? At their Baptism...their Confirmation...on Holy Saturday at their Initiation into the Church?" The blogger went on to say, "One becomes Catholic when they become Catholic in their heart."
My religious affiliation has always been Catholicism, but I haven't always been Catholic "in my heart". And I'm certain I wrote a post or two about IVF that goes against Church teaching before I knew the error of my ways. I have since removed (or tried to remove) those posts, but their titles sometimes still pop up in the "link within" add on at the bottom of my posts.
But as much as these past three infertility posts have been about being transparent...they are also about the above statement from the Catechism. If I can save one woman...one couple..from experiencing the pain of separation from God...than I willingly put my story out there.
I am a sinner...saved by grace...not once, but every single time I ask for it (and I need to ask for it!)...striving to live a holy life...developing a deeper "personal relationship with Jesus"...and Mary...and the Saints...
Thank you, dear readers, for allowing me to share these posts that left me feeling raw and vulnerable, but that were also deeply cathartic and well received.
And in the words of Mother Teresa,
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”