I love being Catholic, but I haven’t always felt that way. Though I was raised Catholic, I spent a lot of my life living out my faith in a half-hearted way. My faith was just an extra thing in my life that I didn’t think too much about, nor did I know much about it. In college, I met a lot of really wonderful people who challenged me to grow in my faith. Thanks to these wonderful people, some powerful experiences, my own seeking of the truth, and above all, the power of God, I now try to truly live out my faith as a Catholic. Being “Catholic-ish” is no longer enough for me. There are so many beautiful things that are part of the Catholic faith that I feel like I should have embraced earlier in my life. At times, it is easy for me to fall into the trap of getting sad or angry that I missed out on these things, but I also think it’s pretty cool that I get to discover some of these things now that I am older and can have a more thorough understanding of it.
I’m ashamed to admit this, but I imagine I’m not the only one who has experienced this. I didn’t really get that the Eucharist was literally the body of Christ until I was 21. I’m sure it was discussed, but it was never really emphasized. I think it comes down to the same limited understanding I had with mercy: I knew that the host and wine were the body and blood, and I knew they weren’t just a symbol, but I never made that final bridge to it being the True Presence. When it hit me, however, it had such an huge impact that I can’t doubt the truth of it. I don’t even know what triggered the realization, but I was at Mass during the SEEK Conference, and as I was preparing to receive communion, I suddenly had this glimpse of the reality before me. What really sealed it in was listening to Fr. Mike Schmitz give his talk followed by adoration. I now had a basic intellectual understanding of the scriptural basis of the Eucharist, and then I got to praise Christ in His presence of the host while surrounded by about 10,000 other students. I can’t even begin to describe that feeling.
Obviously, I wish I would’ve recognized this much earlier because I think of all those years receiving the Eucharist where I lacked the reverence Jesus deserves. At the same time, Jesus’s presence in the Eucharist is a mystery that we will never fully be able to understand during our time on Earth. While everything pales in comparison to the beauty of the gift of Christ’s body and blood, the other beautiful aspect of this understanding was the timing it came. I was in a really broken place and was desperately seeking love, especially in the form of a relationship. Instead, I was presented with the ultimate relationship and most intimate experience as an answer to that longing for love.
I went to confession for my first reconciliation when I was in 4th grade. I didn’t go back to confession until 10 years later. Then I probably waited another year, and I’ve slowly worked that down to going at least every few months if not every month. I just never learned the importance of it. It didn’t hit me how amazing it is, and I sadly didn’t really get how merciful God could be. At the time, my understanding of confession was more like “God is merciful…whatever that means.” Now, I have a much fuller appreciation of what a beautiful gift God’s forgiveness is and how readily available that gift is for us.
I still dread going to confession. I almost have to surprise myself and show up to confession because otherwise I come up with a ton of amazing(ly stupid) excuses for why I can’t go.
I can’t really explain why I dread going. Most times, I get great confessors, and I feel better. I have also noticed a strong connection between how well I managed my depression and how long it had been since my last confession. I think it’s just one of those blocks I will need to continually chip away at as I grow in my faith.
I wish I had gotten into the practice of attending confession at a younger age, but Ben has played a huge role in encouraging me to go. Watching him as a Catholic convert express so much joy about this sacrament has helped refine my own perspective, and he also encourages me to go or helps me make intentional plans about going. The blessing in that is having a very tangible example of how my husband carries out his Vocation by encouraging me to strive for holiness.
It’s hard to grasp how many amazing Saints there. I love learning about saints, though it can be intimidating when I remember that I’m called to that level of holiness, too. However, when I grew up, we heard about very few saints. Obviously, we learned about Mary, Saint Nicholas was thrown into the bunch as well (unfortunately, the story of him punching Arius was not included), and St. Teresa of Kolkata who at the time had not been canonized but we were never taught the difference. I think of how many times I could’ve turned to the saints for inspiration or as role models, but I’m now at an age where I can research them easily (thank you, internet) and not be as scarred as 8-year-old Kate would have been when learning about some martyrs.
As I’ve explained before, it wasn’t until I was 22 or 23 that I finally realized that the Catholic Church is the only religion that contains the fullness of the Truth. I think back to how much easier my life would have been if I knew this growing up. I like to think that I would’ve avoided quite a few mistakes and had a much better relationship with God. At the same time, I think that it is also a blessing I was able to come to this realization myself. I think everyone needs to go through a time of truth-seeking and exploration to solidify their faith.
While I wish I would’ve had a stronger foundation, I also think that it works better with who I am to have discovered this Truth on my own, and I’m not sure I would’ve believed someone if they told me the Catholic Church was so True without my own seeking. Ultimately, it isn’t about how long it took me to learn the truth; it is about how i take this understanding and apply it to my life and share it with others.
Something I think a lot of people miss is how rational and logical the Catholic Church is. There are so many great intellectuals from the Church be it philosophers or scientists, but even the average person can see how well-justified the Church and her teachings are. I’ve heard several stories of atheists who came into the Church for this very reason (and I was blessed to know a man who grew up in an atheist household but converted in college while I was volunteering in RCIA), but if a Christian looks at the writings of the Church Fathers or listens to the stories from converts like Scott Hahn, Catholicism is the clear response to Jesus instituting the Church as part of His salvific plan.
As an engineer, I like (borderline need) logic, but our connection to God must also be a relationship. In my own life, one of my flaws is the tendency to focus more on learning that fostering that connection with God. God knows this is one of my weaknesses which is why I think He gave me some of those feelings that led me to grow in my faith before I was exposed to the more “intellectual” aspect. In typical Catholic fashion, it’s a both/and: faith and reason, but I know for me personally, the order in which I was exposed to different components of the Catholic faith was important.
I still experience a sense of missing out or find gaps in my understanding and faith development. Sometimes, the Devil gets to me and tells me I’m not a good enough Catholic because I’m the only Catholic in the room because I don’t know the Salve Regina by heart. Everyone has a different path to holiness, and I need to remember that though mine probably wasn’t God’s exact plan for me (He wants all of us to be in perfect union with Him, but the brokenness of the world gets in the way of that), He can use what I give Him regardless. While I am sure God would’ve loved for me to grow closer to Him earlier in my life, I am certain he used those stages of doubt and uncertainty to make fruit.