Growing up, I was always forced to go to catechism because, “That’s what Noni would have wanted.” Noni is an affectionate Italian name for Grandma; when I was in fourth grade my Noni passed away, and the end of her life brought an end to regular Mass attendance in my family. It was important to my parents, however, that my little brother and I both received all of the Sacraments of Initiation – sort of a “last wish” they wanted to grant to my grandmother. And so, every week for eight years my brother and I would spend an hour and half in our respective classrooms, with our respective boring teachers, passing notes and pretending to read along in our respective text books (which covered the same material every year, so they might as well have been the same). I always kind of resented having to go to “church school” right after getting out of normal school, and right before going home to do homework. My parents weren’t practicing their faith at all, and neither was anyone else I knew. As far as I could tell, CCD was a colossal waste of time.
And then, the Holy Spirit got involved, and things got a little messy.
Have you ever had someone ask you a question that shakes your whole perspective? If you have, you probably know the feeling of trying to think up a really clever answer so you don’t sound like you’re caught off guard – and then you go home and obsess over that question for weeks. At least, that’s how it happened for me.
I was in the car, on my way home from giving a horseback riding lesson on a hot summer day. A friend of mine – hardly more than an acquaintance at the time, but now one of my most trusted mentors – was driving. She is very involved in her non-denominational church, and she had just invited me to come to some sort of event they were hosting. I told her I couldn’t make it, thinking that would be that, and then she laid this one on me:
So, how is your relationship with God going?
I looked down at my lap, hoping she wouldn’t notice my blushing cheeks and nervous eyes. I promptly made up something about how I loved Jesus and how I wanted to be closer to Him (not entirely made up – it actually proved to be more true than I realized). We arrived at my house, and I got out of the car and walked in the front door. At first, nothing happened. I didn’t have a mind-blowing, earth-shattering, Saint-Paul-on-the-Road-to-Damascus conversion. But that question haunted at me. It gnawed at my heart until there was hardly anything left of it. It bothered me that I didn’t have a good answer, and I wanted to find one. I wanted to know how my relationship with God was going, and I figured the only way to find out was to…well, have a relationship with Him. Go figure, right?
So, I pulled out my Noni’s old Bible, which had been given to me after her passing, and started reading. And reading. And reading. It was like I’d been living in a drought for 12 years, and the rain had finally come. I couldn’t get enough of Scripture; I soaked it up like a sponge. It was around this time that I found out that people actually create entire websites about Jesus and the Bible. It took awhile before I discovered great Catholic websites like Life Teen and Disciples Now. Much of what I know about the Bible I learned from the Christian Broadcasting Network’s website (yes, CBN, with Pat Robertson, Joyce Myer, and all the rest – but don’t tell them that; they’d be heartbroken to know all their hard work has made a Catholic out of me).
The more I learned, the more I wanted to know. I started paying attention at catechism, and I even got up the courage to ask my parents to take me to Mass every now and then. At the time, I was preparing for Confirmation, and although I didn’t fully understand the purpose of the Sacrament at the time, I knew that it was now something that I wanted, not just something that I was being forced into.
Why am I telling you this story? Well
yesterday was the beginning of Lent, and there are a couple lessons that I took away from my reversion (does it still count as reversion if I was only 12 at the time??) that I thought might be helpful to some of you on your Lenten journey.
First, it is so important to step back every now and then, take an honest look at our lives, and ask ourselves how our relationship with God is going. Self examination is the key to growth. If your answer to the relationship question is anything less than perfect, you’ve got work to do (welcome to the club!). Lent is a perfect time to get started.
Second, you have no idea how much of an impact your life and your words are having on the people around you right now. You are either leading people closer to Christ, or pushing them farther away. If there are changes that need to be made in your life in order to be a better witness to our Lord, now is the time to make those changes. (HINT: If you are a human being, this one’s for you)
Third, you are the product of someone else’s prayer. I am convinced that my conversion was an answer to my Noni’s prayers on my behalf. We all know someone who is bored out of their mind with all things Jesus-related, or who has abandoned the Church altogether. Be a prayer warrior for those people in your life who are looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places; don’t let them slip through the cracks without a fight.
Each one of us has a story of how God’s love has transformed us and given us new life. Some stories are very dramatic and extravagant; others are simple and quiet. But allof the stories God writes are glorifying to Him, because He uses each one to lead hearts closer to Him. Cradle Catholic or atheist convert, He finds your story of grace absolutely breathtaking. Thank Him for it! And share it with someone else if you get the chance – after all, it led you to Him – maybe it could do the same for someone else.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Michelle-Burnes-e1324411269311.png[/author_image] [author_info]Michelle Burnes is a recent high school graduate who is taking a gap year to serve as a foreign missionary with Mission Youth Corps for a semester. Afterwards she will be attending Franciscan University of Steubenville in the Fall of 2012. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, baking, running, swing dancing, backpacking, and spending time with the Lord in adoration. She is a California girl who, by the grace of God, wouldn’t be caught dead in daisy dukes, bikini tops, or any combination thereof. Her patroness is St. Therese of Liseux, and like her, Michelle does not wish to be a saint by halves.[/author_info] [/author]