Of course, with the knowledge that I have now, I wish I’d been more open and willing in my journey to faith but the truth is my investigation into the Catholic Church was initially driven by pride and spite rather than a deep sense of morality. I didn’t begin learning about God out of a desire to know Him better as I suspect is the case for many Catholic converts.
I began going to church because I wanted to be able to have an educated conversation with my parents about why I was not Catholic. In short, I wanted to be able to better argue my case. I spent my days pondering the faith and trying my best to poke holes in it. Eventually, in addition to attending Sunday mass every week I also began participating in Right of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) at my home parish in order to dive deeper into the scripture and truly understand the Catholic perspective. This was one of the best decisions I could have made at the time as RCIA is designed to educate skeptical non-Catholics like myself as well as guide them through the process of being received fully into the church through the Sacraments of Initiation.
Here there were no silly questions and I was encouraged to voice my concerns and hang-ups about the faith. Each week we dissected the Sunday liturgy to give context to the Bible readings before diving into a group Q&A. Through this process I realized that all of my resistance to the faith could be boiled down to just a few questions which I’ll be discussing on this blog soon. However, on the whole, my values were very much in line with Catholic teachings. I already actively sought to live a generally Catholic life despite my previous lack of formal worship, particularly on topics like marriage, the right to life and Catholic virtues.
During my high school years I sometimes attended weekly mass with my parents and on one of these occasions I took a good look at the people there. I was struck by how similar they seemed to me in dress and mannerisms. Even then I knew that it was a crowd in which I could easily fit in but I would have been doing it simply to make my parents happy. That seemed a poor and dishonest reason to convert to the faith and was quickly dismissed. Years later in RCIA I was hit with the same realization but with a much stronger understanding of the faith. I still generally looked and acted like a Catholic but now had a solid basis for doing so beyond the fact that it was just how my parents raised me.
I do believe that God intended for me to be Catholic despite the first 21 years of my life that were spent without worship. Although some church teachings were harder learned than others, I’m happy to have had the opportunity to come to the faith as an adult and to truly choose God with my whole heart.
Although it’s fun to imagine finding God as a momentous occasion punctuated by a colossal clap of thunder or flash of lightning as one might see on the big screen at the theater, my Catholic beginnings were much more humble. I didn’t suddenly wake up from a Godless life in an instant of understanding and fall to my knees then and there. There wasn’t a single moment that brought me to faith, but many moments over the course of many years.
Consciously or not, my parents successfully seeded Christian undertones throughout my upbringing although we were Chreasters (Christmas and Easter Christians) at best. When I was in high school they both returned to the faith and our family dinner table discussions about religion became much more intentional. My sister always had a knack for debate and firm conviction in her idea of right and wrong which made for some interesting dialogue. Despite my parents’ lack of organized religion during our formative years, they were always our greatest cheerleaders and my sister and I both grew up believing that we were capable of anything we set our minds to.
We both made it through high school and difficult technical college degrees through our own grit as well as constant encouragement from our parents. Only now, upon reflection, do I realize that all of those wins in school were actually answered prayers that my parents had sent up on our behalf. Long before I consciously accepted God into my heart, He was there with me in my struggles. This realization was the first of many to lead me to the Catholic church.
No matter what trials I undertook in my life, things always seemed to work out the way they were supposed to. When I was little I would’ve said that I was the luckiest person on Earth. This belief persisted into my early 20s when I suddenly found myself living, working and even thriving in the flatlands of Indiana, over a thousand miles away from all of the friends and family that I knew and loved in Colorado. How could I be so lucky to have come this far and still found success and happiness in such an unfamiliar landscape?
There were two possible answers to this question. The first and more unlikely answer was that I had solved the riddle from the start and actually was the luckiest person on Earth. I’ve always considered myself a generally good person but hardly the best of them. When compared to the average generally good person there was nothing that set me apart from the crowd. If luck had anything to do with karma, there was no reason for me, a shy, polite 21 year old engineer, to be granted the ultimate lottery. Therefore, the only logical alternative was that there is a God and He loves me.
I always accepted that there was some higher power at work in the world watching over me. During my childhood, that was sufficient. It was enough to know that things would eventually work out for the best. However, it took being on my own to begin to wonder exactly who it was I had to thank for all of the wonderful things in my life. Thus, for the first time in my memory, I got myself to church on Sunday.