It is difficult to be a faithful, practicing Catholic. We are made to live in this world, but not to be of this world. We need help and support to live out our lives as Catholics. Sometimes that is so very difficult to do. Sometimes it feels nearly impossible.
I was brought up in a Catholic family with 8 children. We were all baptized, made our First Holy Communions, were confirmed. We all went to church every Sunday and attended Catholic school through 8th grade. My family was Catholic. We got ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday, prayed before dinner and before bed, and wore crucifixes. We were Catholic. We have each gone on different kinds of faith journeys - many have led away from the Catholic church and a few have remained.
Through my later teen years and college years I fell away from the Church. I didn't understand Her. I just didn't see exactly how She fit in my life. I most certainly did not understand Her teachings. Even though I had 8 years of Catholic schooling my catechisis was not as strong as it could have been. I felt closer to God near water or watching a sunset than I did in a church building. Even though I didn't quite know what the Church's place was in my life, every time I entered a Catholic church something inside me felt at home and at peace.
When my husband and I were getting married we wed in a Catholic church even though at the time I was going to church very sporadically and my husband was not Catholic. That is one of the greatest blessings of my life. We received all the graces of the sacrament of matrimony even though we had know idea about their power when we walked down the aisle. How these graces have poured out for us many times in the years since we were wed!
I began to attend Mass again regularly and we welcomed our first child and then another. We also had our children baptized. As I began to view my faith with more adult eyes I had questions. There was so much I didn't understand about my faith - birth control, abortion, women's roles in the church, just to name a few. Because of the churches we attended, the priests and people God put in my life over these years, the scales began to fall and the depth and beauty of my faith began to get a little clearer.
As I would learn about the Catholic faith and Her teachings I began to make changes in my life. They were not always easy, but they were always good and always strengthened us as a family. I also began to learn that we are called to be witnesses to the faith. This also has been challenging. Speaking out when there is so much that I don't know is daunting. Yet the Spirit will always help you along the way.
All along my journey, I would come into contact with so many different kinds of Catholics. Some still go to church here and there, but practice more of a cafeteria approach to their faith. "Mmmm. I'd like a little of this and a little of that. Eww. That is a tough one. I don't want that. Thank you very much!" Some have left the Catholic faith and follow other demoninations. Some fall under the Chri-easter Catholic and show up on Christmas and Easter. Some have left the Catholic faith all together and are atheist. Some are strong and faith-filled trying to live the Gospel of Christ and following the teaching of the Church to the best of their abilities. There are so many different roads and we are all at so many different junctions.
The journey ahead is long and I have so very far to go. I am but a poor sinner who falls every day. However, every day I get back up and pray and hope to do better the next time. I do wish that I could share this journey more fully with my family. We were all raised Catholic yet I am occassionaly looked at as, well, a little TOO religious. I would love to be able to get together at family gatherings and really share my faith walk. Yet that is difficult and often painful to do.
However, God has placed in my path some dear friends who lend me support and love. God has given me a husband who, although he is not Catholic, embraces my journey and allows me to dig and learn and be as good of a Catholic as I can be. God has given me three beautiful children who ask wonderful questions about our faith. If I can't answer their questions, we seek out the answers together so that we can all learn and understand what our faith teaches and why She teaches it. I continue to seek out those people who God wants in my life. The people who will lift me up, help me on my journey, and give me sustenance and strength through friendship and love to keep living out my faith as best as I can.
It is difficult to be a faithful, practicing Catholic. We are made to live in this world, but not to be of this world. We need help and support to live out our lives as Catholics. Sometimes that is so very difficult to do. Sometimes it feels nearly impossible. Yet when it feels nearly impossible I am always reminded that when I feel all alone, I am not. God is always there for me, through the good and through the bad. All I have to do is seek Him out. He is waiting for me and wants to show me the way. He's waiting for you, too.
"God of our life, there are days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and weigh us down; when the road seems dreary and endless, the skies grey and threatening; when our lives have no music in them, and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have lost their courage. Flood the path with light, run our eyes to where the skies are full of promise; tune our hearts to brave music; give us the sense of comradeship with heroes and saints of every age; and so quicken our spirits wthat we may be able to encourage the souls of all who journey with us on the road to life, to Your honour and glory"