Published by guest blogger Kathy Brents
Last week, Tod Warner started something wonderful with his beautiful and powerful post, “Why I am NOT leaving the Catholic Church. This touched something in many of us who have lately been hearing how Catholics are falling away in droves (not accurately being portrayed) and enduring the Catholic Church being picked apart by a couple of supposed “big names” fleeing not very quietly into the night. Tod’s post was followed by delightful posts by a couple of his friends and then a couple more and then now today by a call-out from Elizabeth Scalia to Catholics from all corners of the interwebs to participate in what is turning out to be an all-out extravaganza that is shining a little light on the subject of why we are here and why here we will stay, "Dear Catholic World: Why do YOU Remain a Catholic?"
I hope you get a chance to read them all. The stories are interesting and entertaining, poignant and beautiful. Here is mine.
I was born and raised a Catholic. My family was very Polish, very Catholic, but down through the generations, a lot of the whys were lost and it came to the point where we just did it because we did, from my perspective anyway. When I was a child, I mostly loved it, a lot. I didn’t understand it much, but there were some things that just captivated me and for my whole life I have held these buried somewhere deep in my heart. In my late teen and early 20’s, through my own rebellion and ignorance, I started to fall away from the Church and even from God. I still said my prayers most nights, had my children baptized and went to church once in a while, where I would sit in the back row and pretty much openly weep tears of despair. I still thought of myself as Catholic, I didn’t know any better, but I had heard that once you were baptized in the Catholic Church, that was for life, and so that's what I was. There was never a day in my life that I did not answer “Catholic” to the question of what religion I was.
A turning point in my rebellion was my civil marriage, civil because the Church wouldn’t marry us without my husband having his teenage marriage annulled. I was not only impatient, but I felt the Church did not have my back. Not helping matters was marrying a Protestant who felt he knew all the ways in which the Catholic Church was wrong, wrong, wrong – and I didn’t understand enough to have a leg to stand on in defending her, so I did not do that very well.
I continued to fall further away from it all. In hindsight, I realize that there were times that nothing but the thinnest thread held me to God and any kind of religion. At some point, when our children teenagers, we realized we were not close enough to God. Attending a Billy Graham revival in Oklahoma City helped me with that realization. I started reading more books, all Protestant, as I had gotten something (not sure what) from that revival that I hadn’t been getting at all from my nonparticipation in the Catholic Church. We started trying different Baptist churches, but even though I finally had an understanding of Jesus dying for my sins and the incredible gift of salvation, I did not like the Baptist churches. I felt something was missing from the services. When I came out, I didn’t even feel like I had been to church.
Then in 2004, my father passed away. His funeral mass (in the desert, at St. Jude’s) was the first time I had been to a Catholic Mass in several years. As I prayed the prayers that I still remembered even after so much time away, I suddenly had the realization that THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG! The words to the prayers stated everything I had come back to believe and finally better understand was true about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!! And when I came out of Mass, I knew that I had WORSHIPPED God. I explained this to my husband and after he attended Mass with me, he could not disagree. But I still had a long row to hoe. I could not receive the Eucharist because of the civil marriage. After a few more years, he started addressing that. In the interim, every single Sunday at Mass, speaking the words, “Only say the word and my soul shall be healed” caused me to openly weep bitter tears. I knew He would be saying that word soon, but could not stand each week going by without that word being said. I was completely humiliated and humbled at what I had done to my life and to my Lord, how close I had come to losing it all forever.
Then it happened. I went to Confession. I was forgiven. On Palm Sunday last year, He said the word and I WAS HEALED. I received the Eucharist and openly wept yet again, but these were tears of the most amazing relief and gratitude and JOY!! And I am so grateful to be back. I adore and cherish every single thing…the saints, the smells, the bells, the beauty, the music, the reverence, the tradition, the magnificence, the minutiae, the mysteries, the closeness of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Sacraments, the love, the pain, the comfort, the hope, the adventure, my people…the ridiculous JOY of every bit of it.
And even though I pretty much freely just about gave it all away at one point in my life, this love and this life will never, ever be pried out of my heart and soul again.
THANKS BE TO GOD!