I was baptized as a Catholic when I was six weeks old. I was raised with pictures of the Blessed Mother everywhere. Pictures, blankets, big rosaries, little rosaries, statues of saints and crucifixes, they were all very normal for me. My family is Catholic, but the only time I went to Mass was when there was something special going on. We went to Mass every now and then on Easter and Christmas. We always gave up something for Lent and tried our best not to eat meat on Fridays during Lent, but I don’t think I ever made it all the way until Easter doing that. I always gave up halfway through. I knew all the “Catholic” things to do when walking into a church-sign of the cross and genuflect, kneel and pray then wait for the boring Mass to begin and try not to fall asleep. I don’t know how many Masses I have attended all my life without knowing that they were reading the Bible, that there was a sermon, and that Jesus was right there in front of me and I didn’t even care to receive Him. I do know it was a lot. 33 years of weddings, baptisms, quinceañeras, funerals, Easters and Christmases. How many times did I sit there thinking of all the things I had to do while Jesus was hanging on the cross calling my name? I don’t know.
For most of my life I went to a Baptist church. They taught me about Jesus, who He was and is and how much He loves me. I will forever be grateful for them and what they gave to me. I never understood what the difference between Catholics and Protestants were. Nobody had ever told me. When they asked me what religion I was I would say “Catholic” and they would say “Oh that’s good”. Even when I was at a revival or answering altar calls or going on protestant retreats, nobody ever questioned it. Until I was about 12 or 13 and a new youth minister came to our church and somehow it came up that I was Catholic. I will never forget him telling me about how Catholics worship idols and how the Pope was the antichrist. I remember that it was around the time that John Paul II had come to San Antonio and I saw him on TV and thought “That man looks so holy, so loving and so kind. HOW can he be the antichrist?” But this guy made some really good points and so I, being a kid, believed him, because I had no idea what Catholics believed. I did know they had a lot of statues, pictures of saints and they never talked about loving Jesus. So everything the youth minister said to me made complete sense. That was when I began to turn my back on God. Because as much as those Baptists loved Jesus they didn’t have what I needed. You see I had been abused from the age of five until the age of 11 sexually and I was starting to act out by the age of 13. I didn’t just need to know about Jesus, I needed HIM. No matter how much they tried to get me to understand who Jesus was it was never enough. I answered at least a hundred altar calls, I was baptized twice as a Baptist and once as a Pentecostal. That is all they could offer me.
So of course I just quit going to church all together. That Christian life was not for me. That was for people who God loved and it was all the luck of the draw and I didn’t get the magic ticket. So I would take it upon myself to take care of myself and do as I pleased. All those Christian rules were just for people who were boring and had no idea about real life. I still believed in God, I knew He was there. I started worshipping the “hippy, all loving, no matter what you do it’s ok, because I’m all merciful god”. I don’t know if any of you have ever met this god, but he’s the “cool” god. He allows you to sleep with anyone you want, drink all you want, pop pills, ignore your kids, sleep with married men, and he will still let you get to heaven because he’s that cool. I worshipped that god for a long time. Until one day I was sick of it. That is a whole other story but it ends with me walking into a Catholic parish tired and broken. I had run out of answers and I was sick of who I was and I was sick of the god I was worshipping and I wanted someone to tell me what kind of God allows people to go through the crap that I had been going through. That is where I found the most amazing RCIA director. The first night I heard him speak I honestly thought I had come to the wrong place. I thought I had somehow ended up in a Baptist Church. This man talked about Jesus like a friend. When he talked about the love of Jesus he would have tears in his eyes. The talk that night was on the Love of God and afterwards I spent 20 minutes in my car sobbing. I cried because I needed God to help me understand. That was the night that God reached out to me, He promised to never leave and He took my hand. That is the night that my life changed. It has not been the easiest journey but it has been the most joyful. You can read about more of it here.
I now know the Truth about what the Catholic Church teaches and not because some person told me but because I searched for the Truth. God said if you SEEK Him, you will find Him. It isn’t about what people say to me about Church teaching. It is about the fact that I love Jesus and I follow HIM to the Truth. Sometimes that Truth is not comfortable. I am nowhere near where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be. I am now one of those “rule following Christians” because I love Jesus and He said “If you love me, keep my commandments.” It is all about seeking God every day. There is always something to learn and we will never know it all on this earth, but we have to keep seeking. Understanding Church teaching has to come from an obsession with seeking the Truth. Because Jesus is the Truth and He is the Way to God. Everything the Church teaches is all about Jesus. If you don’t know that, if you’ve never heard that then please start seeking, you won’t regret it.
Blessed John Paul II pray for us!