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Perspective on Pope Benedict XVI’s Resignation

Catholic Sistas welcomes back seminarian Craig DeYoung as he writes about Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.

At St. Mary’s Seminary, ecclesial rumors spread like wildfire.  By 6:15 this morning, news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation was making its way through our ranks.  After morning prayer and meditation, there was an explosion of speculation and opinion at the seminary.  Indeed, my first class this morning was dedicated to a discussion about the event.  This is no doubt to be expected as everyone comes to grips with the situation but I would like to make a few observations about what is happening and offer a hopeful perspective regarding Pope Benedict’s resignation.

I have observed among my brother seminarians that each is absorbing the revelation in their own way.  Some in silence, some in conversation, and others in the chapel.  Shock and sorrow seem to be the theme of many hearts, including my own.  Catholics (and non-catholics) have fallen in love with Pope Benedict XVI over the last eight years.  His teaching is profound, his heart warm, and his leadership solid and foresighted.  He has done much for our Church as the Vicar for Christ over these last years.

When I began checking the news before my first class I didn’t have to go far.  Rumor and speculation are at their peak as to why the Pope is retiring, what will he do after he retires, and will he will go back to being a Cardinal?  There is an unending discussion about who the next Pope will be and what the future of the Church will look like.  Will there be this change or that change in the Church?  And the list goes on.

As you’ve undoubtably noticed, everyone is talking about it.  Twitter and Facebook are wild with comments, links, and thoughts about the Pope’s decision.  News stations are calling anyone connected with the Church for comment.  Heck, I’m even writing a blog article.  Why is everyone talking about it?  Simple, it will effect the whole world and the course of history.  Kind of scary when you think about it that way.  At least for me it is.

I have my own thoughts and opinions on these questions but I’m more occupied with the growing sense of anxiety and anticipation among the faithful about what will happen after February 28th.  It is to this anxiety and anticipation that I would like to speak and offer the perspective of faith.

When Christ died on the cross, his disciples were devastated.  They had lived with Christ, fallen in love with him, and believed him to be the messiah sent by God.  When he died they were shaken deeply.  They did not know what would happen, where they would go, or what they would do.  Everything that had happened and that they had believed was put into question by Christ’s death.  Simply put, they were desolate.  With eagle clear hindsight you would think they would have remembered Christ’s words predicting his death and his promise of resurrection but they did not.  We, however, have something the disciples did not:  the resurrection of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The joy of resurrection and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit assures as Christians today that Christ’s promises are true.  When any sort of storm comes upon us in the bark of the the Church, of which there have been many and will be many, we must hold fast to the promises of Christ and your faith in him.  Because he is always faithful, his promises are true.

What is happening now is not unlike what happened then.  We can lose track of the unshakable promises of Christ in the midst of the storms of life.  Remember now his words and promises.

Christ spoke to us along with the disciples who were terrified amidst the storm saying, “Courage, I am.”  (Matthew 6:50)

Jesus makes a promise to Peter about the Church that “the powers of death shall not prevail against it”. (Matthew 16:18)

About himself he promises, “lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  Also, he says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”  (John 16:13)  We have the assurance of Christ’s presence in his Church and his protection, along with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Moreover, we can be sure of Christ’s compassion for those who scripture tells us that, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  (Matthew 9:36)  Immediately after this Christ sends out the twelve to preach the Kingdom of God and to minister to the crowds.

As we reflect upon the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, I think it is important to hold fast to these promises in our hearts and pray faithfully to the Lord now and always.  Ponder these promises and remember that Christ will not leave us without himself, his Spirit, or shepherds to guide us!  Put every event within the perspective of our faith and do not let your courage be shaken when storms come.

::Craig DeYoung, a published contributor with Catholic Sistas, is a seminarian for the Diocese of Austin and, God willing, will be ordained to the presbyterate in 2014.  A graduate of Texas A&M University, he became Catholic while in college and often refers to the Easter Vigil when he entered the Church as the happiest day of his entire life.  His deepest desire is that his heart be conformed to the Sacred Heart of Christ.  His favorite prayer is “Lord Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto yours.”::

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Sistas Weekly No. 3

Welcome to the recap of the Catholic Sistas blog for the week of September 10 – September 15! Hopefully you will find this new feature a helpful assist in keeping up with our wonderfully diverse posts. We wouldn’t want you to miss a thing!  😆

As part of our blogging schedule we have agreed, as a group, that we will not be doing individual blog posts on Sundays. Our week in review, Sistas Weekly, is set to auto-post so that we can keep holy the Sabbath and spend time with our families.

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Hey Catholics, Did You Know…?

The Sign of the Cross One day while perusing around Facebook, which I have a tendency to do, I came upon a great image posted in my newsfeed: (Image posted by the page http://www.facebook.com/TheCatholicChurch, maintained by http://www.uCatholic.com) Many of us Catholic Sistas (and friends) began discussing the image.  I was surprised by how many had never heard of this tradition!  I had actually been taught this while I was in high school, with a slight variation – to cross myself with 3 fingers (thumb, index, middle) as the sign of the Trinity, while bending the other 2 (ring and pinky) as the dual nature of Christ. Other ladies had their own ways that they were taught. Read more »

God’s Instruction Book for Parents

As parents, we are always looking for extra support in rearing our children as people of God.  I have collected a few quotes and would like to share those that always help me:   “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  Matthew 3:17 I say this to my children often.  I want them to know that I love them with the unconditional, undying love of a parent—the love the Father showed to His own Son, Jesus. Read more »

 

Taking Your Enemy Off The Cross

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven”. -Matthew 5: 44-45

Once upon a time I had a job outside the home, a career even. As a middle school teacher at a Catholic school, I enjoyed my job, but there were a few days out of the year I loathed. Two of these days were our staff retreats. You see there are few things more torturous to a teacher than to use one of her days without students, namely the day before Thanksgiving, as a day to put her in a room full of crabby women and insist she do ice-breakers and reflections. Read more »

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Finding My Path to Holiness

I stared at the simple white host in the monstrance and waited. It was silent and still in the small, brick building that served as a perpetual adoration chapel on the campus of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.  It was an ideal place for listening, and that’s what I was there to do.  I was in the middle of a crisis of sorts, and I had come to present my problem to the Lord and beg Him to show me the way. Read more »

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From Agnostic Theist to Seminarian: Part 4

Catholic Sistas welcomes the fourth and final installment of seminarian Craig DeYoung’s beautiful conversion story. You can click on the following links to reach the first, second, and third parts of Craig’s story. The last two months have been an incredible blessing. I had the opportunity, for the month of July, to make the 30-Day Exercises of St. Ignatius. The exercises were an incredible experience, during which I fell even more deeply in love with Jesus and He showed me how real His love truly is. He drew me deeper into the mystery of His desire for my heart, and called forth a greater self-gift. Read more »

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PURGE ALL THE THINGS!!!

I moved halfway across my state a month ago. And if you know Texas, that’s pretty far. In an effort to reconnect as a couple, my husband and I decided to leave a well-paying job for lower salary that would allow us to be closer to my family and significantly improve his family time. So, in 2 weeks, I had to pack up a 1300 sq. ft. house.

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The Seven Sorrows of Mary, our Mother

Seven Sorrows of Mary If we are temples of the Holy Ghost; if we are made members of the Body of Christ at our Baptism; if the Body of Christ is our Holy Mother the Church; how much more so then is Mary both our personal model as believers, and the model of the Church?

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Broken Childhood Healed by Christ

Rushing to my pew, quietly and quickly, I tried to go unnoticed. A shy college student, I had no one to really go to Mass with me – well, not as often as I wanted to go, which was daily. Pulling the kneeler down, I felt my knees hit the leather chocolate brown cushion, folded my hands in prayer and closed my eyes in adoration. Just a few minutes later, I heard little feet scuffling the tile floor of the center aisle; I didn’t have to open my eyes because I knew it was the Sanchez mother and her nine little ones. In admiration, as I heard the last set of feet pass my pew, I opened my eyes to catch a glimpse of this lovely family which stood out like a sore thumb at our parish of over 500 families because of the size of theirs. Read more »

 

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From Agnostic Theist to Seminarian: Part 4

Catholic Sistas welcomes the fourth and final installment of seminarian Craig DeYoung’s beautiful conversion story. You can click on the following links to reach the first, second, and third parts of Craig’s story.

The last two months have been an incredible blessing. I had the opportunity, for the month of July, to make the 30-Day Exercises of St. Ignatius. The exercises were an incredible experience, during which I fell even more deeply in love with Jesus and He showed me how real His love truly is. He drew me deeper into the mystery of His desire for my heart, and called forth a greater self-gift.

It seems fitting to me that Jesus should draw out my desire to love in such a graced way during my final preparations for ordination. He has done so in a way that rekindles in me the incredible joy that first helped me to recognized God’s call to seminary.

In Part 3 of my conversion story, I spoke about the love that brought me to the Church. The love I saw present in Catholics who lived their faith with an authentic desire to be always with Christ drew me in and stirred up the desire in my own heart to have that same love live in me. It was love that brought me to Christ’s Church; it was the joy of living out that love that called me into the seminary.

Three months after becoming Catholic, I went to confession with Fr. Kurt Lanzrath, a Franciscan priest who came to St. Mary’s frequently. A priest of 50-plus years and more than 80 years old, Fr. Kurt overflowed with joy. He was hardly ever seen without a tremendous smile on his lips and a playful gleam in his eye. He would swing his cane over his head with a laugh and almost fall over trying to stay on his feet.

One Monday, while I was in the confessional with him, the thought struck me, “If I could be as happy as this man, I could see myself becoming a priest.” It was his joy that called to me and I began to realize that the most joyful people I knew were priests…

Me, kneeling in front, during Seminary Sprint.

At first, the thought seemed a passing fancy, but I indulged it and began to attend discernment dinners at the rectory with other college-aged men. At some point, the possibility came up to attend a discernment event called Seminary Sprint. Seminary Sprint is an event put on by the Diocese of Austin that takes men discerning the priesthood and religious life to visit various seminaries and orders. I saw it as an opportunity to put my thoughts of the priesthood to their final rest.

We visited diocesan seminaries, a Dominican friar, a Cistercian monastery, a Carmelite monastery, a Trappist monastery, a hermit, a Benedictine monastery, and a Jesuit. It was a lot to take in, but it began my discernment and gave me what I needed to consider the call seriously.

I realized then that I wanted NOT to be called to the priestly life. I wanted to check it out, to say I’d considered it, but that in the end it was not for me. What happened over the next three years, however, made me identify readily with the prophet Jeremiah when he writes, “You duped me, O Lord, and I allowed myself to be duped.” For the Lord had planted the seed deep and began growing it in me.

I kept meeting joyful priests: Fr. Keith Koehl, Fr. Brian McMaster, Msgr. Mike Sis, and Fr. Italo Dell’Oro. The Lord was rather subtle, I think, so as not to scare me off, but eagle-clear hindsight has allowed me to recognize His handiwork. After two years of discernment, I decided not to worry about seminary, and began to pursue dating and a career. The dating didn’t work out, but work prospects seemed to line up perfectly.

During college, I majored in Industrial Distribution and I did well in my classes. The summer before my final year of studies, I interned with Siemens Energy and Automation in Houston. At the end of the summer, they offered me a job in their management training program for when I graduated. I accepted with great enthusiasm, knowing the position would require me to move four times in two years.

Soon, however, I realized I was unsatisfied. Something nagged at me, saying, “You need to stay in Texas.” I didn’t understand what it meant, but finally began looking for a more local job. I quit before ever starting with Siemens, which was a very sickening experience. I quickly found another job with Womack Machine Supply and thought I was ready to go to work.

But then Easter came.

After Easter Mass, I was at a friend’s house with 10 other people. Among them was Fr. Brian McMaster (associate pastor at the student center), Fr. James Ekeocha (then a transitional deacon), Marcel (one of the campus ministers), and two other college-aged men. A conversation began on the back porch, where Marcel asked Fr. Brian which of the young men he thought would someday be a priest. Fr. Brian cryptically said he thought one of us would be, but refused to say which one. This got me thinking seriously about the priesthood again, though to my great amusement, it later came out he was not thinking of me. (Aside: He is now my vocation director, a.k.a. my boss.)

Soon after this, the Virginia Tech shootings occurred. The event struck me deeply and I went up late one night to pray in the Church. Deep in prayer, I was overcome with a sense of the sin in the world, the sin of what happened in the Church during the sexual abuse scandals, and my own personal sin. I felt a great remorse and sadness, but immediately began to feel a warming joy for what Christ offered in the sacraments of the Church for healing and forgiveness. In this joy, I was filled with gratitude, and had the strong desire to give my life to share with others what I received in the Church, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation.

After talking with Fr. Brian, I contacted the vocations director at the time, Msgr. Mike Sis. We met and talked for a long time. At the end of the talk, he said he considered me a good candidate for seminary. That same week I presented my final project in class to Womack Machine Supply, then informed the company I would not be joining them after all.

I was a messy mix of emotions. Anxiety, guilt, fear, excitement, joy, and probably some mix of every emotion a person can feel. The summer was anxious and midway through, I received my acceptance as a seminarian for the Diocese of Austin.

For five years now, I have been in seminary and I will, God willing, soon be ordained. It has been an amazing pilgrimage, which has strengthened me in faith, hope, and love by the gift pure grace. Jesus has accompanied me and become my best friend and beloved. But that is a story for another time.

My final word is this: It is love and joy that make me want to be a priest of Jesus Christ.

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From Agnostic Theist to Seminarian: Part 3

Catholic Sistas welcomes the third installment of seminarian Craig DeYoung’s beautiful conversion story. You can read the second part of Craig’s story here. Please check back soon for the fourth and final installment in this inspiring series.

In Part II of my conversion story, I wrote about how my life was simply blah. God was present and working in me, but I couldn’t see him very well. I didn’t think him very important, nor did I think of him much at all. I believed there was a God, but not a particular sort of God. But I deeply longed to be loved and to love. In college, he revealed himself to me as the God who loves me in a scandalously particular way!

It’s hard to write a story when so much of it is a mystery even to the one who lived it. So much of God’s work in my life is still hidden to me. I see the harvest of much labor, but can only marvel at the growth of my soul.

Me at Texas A&M, where providential friendships would lead me to a true friendship with the Lord.

It was a special providence that brought me to Texas A&M University to begin my college studies. Texas A&M began in 1876 as a land grant college, and was a military academy until many years later. It retains many traditions from those days and the heart of the school is still the traditions upheld by the Corp of Cadets from its ROTC program. Over the years, it has remained a conservative school and the practice of religion is more common than not. I’d estimate 80% of the student population is Christian, with 25% of those being Catholic. The Catholic center of the university is the very active St. Mary’s Catholic Student Center.

Being in the top 10% of my high school graduating class, I was automatically accepted to any public university in Texas. I didn’t particularly want to attend A&M, but chose it after visiting the university twice. I knew hardly anything about the school until I attended “fish camp,” a camp for incoming freshmen designed to teach students about university traditions and help them make new friends. The camp is often referred to jokingly as a brainwashing session. It was at fish camp that I met my first college friends, and developed a crush on a camp counselor named Becky.

Becky was a beautiful young woman, full of energy and joy. All of which was attractive to a young man who longed for both. She was also a devout Baptist and truly in love with Jesus. Our Lord was the center of everything for her. It was, perhaps, my first glimpse of the joy that having a relationship with Jesus can bring.

When I told another counselor I liked Becky, she told me I would have to be more in love with Jesus than Becky was for her to want to date me. So when Becky invited a group of freshmen to attend church with her one Sunday, I went. The most vivid memory I have of going to church that day was being very uncomfortable at the service.

As Becky dropped us off back on campus, she invited me to attend another event and I immediately said yes. I didn’t know what the event was, nor did I really care. All I cared about was that Becky had invited me.

When I showed up it turned out to be a Baptist Bible study for freshmen called Upstream. As soon as I showed up, I saw Becky, who introduced me to her boyfriend, Casey, and then left. Needless to say, I was less than thrilled to find out I was at a Bible study, that Becky had a boyfriend, and that she wasn’t even going to attend. Casey, to my disappointment, turned out to be a good guy.

As we were talking Casey introduced me to another guy named Jason. By now I was biding my time and looking for an opportune moment to slip out unnoticed. So when praise and worship began and Casey went in, I thought I’d have my opportunity to leave. Jason, however, stayed and kept talking to me. It must have been apparent how uncomfortable I was, because he asked if I wanted to sit and talk outside. It’s funny how such a small moment can change everything.

Outside the Bible study, we sat and talked. He asked me what I believed about God. He didn’t challenge me or tell me about Jesus or tell me what I believed was stupid. Instead, he listened and cared about what I had to say. When praise and worship ended, I went back in with him and was assigned to his Bible study group.

I began attending every week and to my surprise, looked forward to it as the best part of my week. At first it was because of the friendships; I simply enjoyed being with Jason and the others. As we studied the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, I realized I had something to offer the group: questions…I was full of them! Many of my questions remained unanswered and that challenged the group to go deeper. In studying Scripture with my Upstream group, I felt valued and loved. I felt closer to truth and it felt great.

As it turned out, Jason was a Catholic but was co-leading one of the Upstream groups. He saw it as giving back to Upstream, which had been influential in his life. As a leader of a Baptist Bible study group, he was not allowed to explicitly teach the Catholic faith. What he did do was love me, affirm me, and build me up in my quest for truth. He also invited me to my first Catholic Mass.

At the time, I was still unconvinced of the truth of Christianity and was attending different services on weekends more out of curiosity and loneliness than any sort of religious devotion. I went to my first Mass alone; I didn’t go with Jason but just sort of showed up. I was very lost and had no clue what was going on. I did, however, remember my time in the Episcopal Church and went up to receive Communion. In my ignorance, I received my first Communion. After I received and was walking back to my pew something told me I shouldn’t have received and without knowing why, I never went up again except for a blessing.

Except for that prick of conscience after Communion, there was nothing remarkable about my first Mass. I remember thinking the priest seemed kind of fake, though this turned out to be far from the truth. After Mass, I saw Jason and he invited me to the parish’s Sunday Catechism classes and I began attending sporadically.

Not long after, Jason invited me to a Catholic student retreat called Aggie Awakening. This retreat turned out to be the single most influential event in my conversion. It was on this retreat that I realized Christianity was real. The love present at this retreat was tangible. God was active and working in the world. Jesus was not just 2,000-year old history, but was present in the here and now; I saw him working in and through all those who led and staffed the retreat.

I left the retreat convinced Christianity was true. I wanted to be Christian, but I wasn’t going to do it halfheartedly or blindly. But even then, I wanted to know what I was committing myself to, so I began to explore what seemed to me to be different kinds of Christianity. I went to the Lutheran church, the Baptist church, and others searching for the truth. After a while, I was attending only the Catholic Church, involved in many of the ministries, and was going to Mass every day.

It was then that Christ became my friend. He was no longer a stranger, but someone I longed to be with all the time. Life was no longer blah but exciting! I was changing and becoming more of who I was meant to be, a child of God.

I constantly found myself on the same page with the teachings of the Church, though there were still some things about which I remained unconvinced. It was a long while before I would pray the Hail Mary, for example. Once when I was praying with a group and I didn’t pray it along with the others, some of the girls asked me why. They were surprised to learn I wasn’t Catholic since I was always at St. Mary’s..

The priests at St. Mary’s made a huge impact on my life, too. They taught and proposed the faith through their examples and homilies. Monsignor Mike Sis was especially influential in my spiritual life and became my hero. But it was during prayer at Mass that I found real peace.

At the beginning of my second year at A&M, I began RCIA to continue learning about Catholicism. Even then, I didn’t intend to enter the Church. That changed after I came back from staffing an Awakening retreat while attending Mass one Sunday. At this Mass, there were baptisms, professions of faith, first Communions, and Confirmations. I remember watching and saying to myself, “I want that!” I went home at Thanksgiving and told my mom, “I’m becoming Catholic, I’m changing majors, and I might be dating a girl.” Her response was, “What’s her name?”

I asked Jason to be my sponsor and during Lent made my first Confession, which took an hour…poor Monsignor Mike! I chose St. Jude, the patron saint of lost and impossible causes, to be my confirmation saint and I entered the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass in 2004. It was the happiest day of my life and my jaw was sore the next day from grinning so much. Right after the profession of faith, I turned to all my RCIA classmates with a cheesy smile on my face and said, “Guess what…we’re Catholic!”

I had come joyfully home to the Catholic Church! For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had a home. The sacraments, by which Christ is present in a special way to his Church, became my life. From that time, things only became better, thought they have never become easier.

In the fourth and final part of my story, I’ll share how God called me to the seminary to become a Catholic priest. Thanks for reading!

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From Agnostic Theist to Seminarian: Part 2

Catholic Sistas welcomes the second installment of seminarian Craig DeYoung’s beautiful conversion story. You can read the first part of Craig’s story here. Please check back soon for the next installment in this inspiring series. 

In Part I of my conversion story, I emphasized how God’s presence in my life was hidden but active.  Last week,  I discovered how he was more active than I have even remembered.  My mother and I were able to revisit my early life from her point of view, something I have never had the courage to do before. God, it seems, was very present to our family though my mother.

Early in the life of my brother and I, my mother took us to Sunday school on a regular basis, taught us about God, and taught us to pray each day. We attended church regularly, though I remember none of it. However, she told me she didn’t believe in Christ, but in God, and was undecided about Christianity. Essentially, she was an agnostic theist, too, though she wouldn’t use the term. As it turns out, I was more like my mother than I’d ever known.

As you’ve seen,  God was tilling the soil and planting the seeds for conversion from the earliest moments of my life. By means of grace, he had begun his good work and was bringing it to completion, as he still is even now.  In Part I, I left off with a happier period in my life and to my memory, the best of my childhood.  It was the calm before the storm.

My family was a typical secular family and like many such families our ship wrecked upon the shoals of divorce. Up until this time, my family had already moved many times and one of the wounds of my heart was feeling like I didn’t have a home, a feeling which only became worse after the divorce.  It was while moving from Arlington, Texas to Georgetown, Texas that my parents began to have more serious marital problems, which ended bitterly with divorce.

I don’t condemn my parents for divorcing.  Right or wrong, it happened, just like so many other miseries in the world. It’s enough to say that their divorce is the single greatest wound I carry on my heart. At the age of twelve, my world fell apart.

At the time we were living in a duplex and I remember the anger in the house.  There was fighting, screaming, and yelling.  When the divorce happened, my father moved out while my mother, brother, sister, and I stayed in the duplex. As a family, we went from having some money to having practically none.  My brother and I started receiving free and reduced lunches at school.

The tension and the pain of all that happened was unbearable. Everyone found their escapes. My father escaped into work. My mother into alcohol and her boyfriends. My brother used drugs.  My sister, who was only three or four at the time, got the worst of it and I have no idea how she coped. I escaped into fantasy books, TV, video games, and acting out through vandalism and fighting.

My father struggled to make ends meet while paying lawyers and child support. My mother started dating and going to school to become a nurse. Her schooling was paid for by a full athletic scholarship she received for running. Schooling and running then became her primary focus and occupied most of her time. The rest of her time was occupied by surviving and taking care of us.

Among the children, my mother’s  time was mostly filled by caring for my sister Rebecca, who was still very young.  My mother was responsible for too much.  The consequence was that Doug and I were mostly left to ourselves and we became more and more self-sufficient. After a time, Doug began getting into trouble and using drugs.  Then came the fighting between him and my mother; screaming, yelling, and punching walls was common.  I cried a lot and retreated even further into myself. Any notion or thoughts of God had fled long since the divorce. I was too busy surviving to care, though had I known it God would have been a better refuge.

During all this, we were visiting my father every other weekend, attending school, and running wild. There were too many happenings to recount, but I was very unhappy during this time. It was then I decided to go live with my father. I think I might have done anything to get out of my living situation.  There was a court date and I had to tell the judge that I wanted to go live with my dad. It was finalized and I went.  I know this decision deeply wounded my mother and has had far-reaching consequences.

A year after the divorce, my father remarried and I moved to a new home in tiny Bruceville-Eddy, Texas with him, my stepmother,  my stepbrother Nik, and a new brother on the way. My father and stepmother went to work early and got home late and because he was older Nik was always off doing his own thing. I was even more on my own at my dad’s than I had been at my mother’s, but at least there was no fighting.

Did I have any faith during these lonely times?  I suppose I might have had some as a pure gift from God.  At one point, my dad gave me a Bible. He hadn’t given me any particular instruction along with it, but I tried to read it from cover to cover. I got through Genesis and quit reading. But prayer stuck with me and I remember at the darkest times praying to God.  In those moments God was a final refuge but when difficult situations became easier I soon forgot him.

Once, I went to a Baptist church with a friend from school.  There was an altar call and I went up.  Something in me longed for what God was giving.  I’d grown raw with emotion during the time of the divorce. In some ways, my heart was super sensitive but in other ways, I was numb from  feeling too much, too often.

During high school, we moved again. This time to Temple High School, a large school in central Texas. It was very different from little Bruceville-Eddy. My freshman class was something like 900 students. Most of the time, I felt like I was on the outside looking in.  I played sports but had few friends, nor did I really know how to have a friend. Outside of classes, I was absorbed in online video games.

The few friends I did have were agnostic or atheist. Sometimes other students would ask me what I believed and I’d say I was a Christian but not mean it. To me, “Christian” was just a word; I knew nothing about it. For example, I thought reincarnation was a belief held by Christians. I had no inkling that Christ was the Son of God come to save or any of the rest.  To me, God was still a stranger.

I certainly thought there was a God in a vague and general sort of way, but I didn’t think you could truly know him.  Frankly, I didn’t give it much thought, but when I did, my thinking sounded like, “Yeah, there’s probably a God, but who knows which one it is or what he’s like?”  God was an unknown so I didn’t worry about him much. Somehow, through the events of my life I had become an agnostic theist.

This was my thinking through high school and into the early part of college. It wasn’t a very happy life, but nor was it a horrible one.  Everything was simply blah. I’d been wounded by divorce. I felt very much on my own and longed for companionship. More than anything, I felt empty and was ready for something more. And in college, I was about to find it.

Coming next: the third chapter of my conversion story from agnostic theist to seminarian. Hope you stick around for Part 3!