Bright Maidens: Becoming Myself By Getting Closer to Him

 
Week Seven: Why We Chose Catholicism

This is the seventh blog post in a series from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!
 

Becoming Myself By Getting Closer to Him

When I was a sophomore in college, I lived in a beautiful Swiss town.  The Church that was associated with an English speaking high school in the area had canceled it’s English Mass, and the nearest Church was a 15 minute walk into town, with the Mass times limited to very early morning and 11:30 a.m. in Italian.

The cues at Mass were different.  When exactly was I supposed to go up for Communion?  There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the way people left the pews.  I always felt like I was doing something wrong.  What was the priest saying?  I had many excuses for missing Mass, and I found myself in the habit of going to Mass every other week (or less), not entirely happy with my quasi-devotion, but considering it better than not going at all.


During this time, I was going through a period of Hillsdating, and the emotional instability of it all wore me out.  I just felt so…off balance.  Impatient.  Quick to anger.  Annoyed.  Sad.  Highly critical.  What was wrong with me?  Why couldn’t I get my act together?  I didn’t feel like me anymore.

One day I went to open my mailbox and a small package fell out of it.  I happily looked at the return address and grinned – mail from my grandparents (aka, Grandma)!  I gleefully opened the package, my breath catching when a beautiful blue rosary slid into my hands.  My Lutheran grandparents had sent me a rosary?  Unusual, but not too unusual for my family.  The accompanying note said they’d visited Notre Dame in Paris and thought of me.  

As I looked at the rosary in my hands, I thought, “Oh yeah, maybe I need to pray more.  I used to pray all the time.  Is this why I feel so strange?”  Due to packing constraints, I hadn’t brought a Bible, a prayer book, a rosary, or any spiritual material abroad.  While making room in my suitcase, I’d left my prayer life at home.

Google it!

I viewed the gift as a sign of love from my grandparents and an invitation from the Blessed Mother.  After graduating from a Marianist high school, I was very familiar with the phrase, “To Jesus through Mary,” and I knew that Mary worked tirelessly on her Son’s behalf to bring us closer to Him.  It was time to take my faith a little more seriously, especially if the Blessed Mother was reaching out to me! 


“As mariners are guided into port by the shining of a star, so Christians are guided to heaven by Mary.” 
-Saint Thomas Aquinas

“Mary, I’m not quite sure how to do this,” I told her honestly, soon after the arrival of the rosary.  “Duh, Google it,” she responded.  “Wasn’t that the reason you didn’t feel bad about leaving your prayer books at home?  You said you could find anything you needed on the internet.”

Oh yeah.
So I started to pray the rosary, printed the St. Patrick’s Breastplate from EWTN and taped it to my wall, and began trolling all the Catholic sites I could find.  Almost immediately I felt a change in my heart.

But I still wasn’t going to Mass too often.

Beautiful lago
On Sundays, my group of friends (none of them church-goers) and I would sit on the balcony overlooking the lago, brunching and drinking cappuccini. 
“So,” one of them asked me, “what makes Mass worth going to one week and not the next?”

“Excuse me?” I sputtered, my stomach tying in knots.

“Why do you go one week but not the next?”  he repeated.

“I…well…Sunday Mass is really important…I shouldn’t miss it, ever,” I answered, feeling flustered.  The question from my friend suddenly seemed like it was coming from Jesus Himself.  Wasn’t “Keep Holy the Sabbath” one of the 10 Commandments?  Why was I so contentedly breaking it?

 “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice…Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2181)

I wish I could tell you that after that conversation, I went to confession and attended Mass weekly.  Alas, no big changes happened overnight, but something inside me was uneasy.  If I was a professed Catholic, I needed to start walking the walk, not just talking the talk.  Through prayer and my friend’s probing, I realized I missed God.  I missed seeing the world through lenses of love.  On my own, I was petty, bored, cruel, and easily disheartened.  With God challenging me to love and grow, my world became “broad and light, not boring but filled with infinite surprises” as Pope Benedict XVI said it would.

“When God made your heart and every other heart, he found it so good that he kept a small sample of it in heaven and then sent the rest of it into this world where it would try to fill up all the love it could, but where it would never be really happy…It will never be happy until it goes back again to God to recover that piece that he has been keeping for it from all eternity.”  – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
“You seem different,” a friend told me that summer.
I smiled and shrugged.  “Nah, just more myself.” 

St. Patrick, pray for the Irish!

Once upon a time, I lived in Switzerland and had easy access to lots of wonderful destinations in Europe.  For a friend’s 22nd birthday, we jetted off to Dublin for a three-day weekend celebration.  I was horribly sick with a cold, and thus a very cranky travel companion.  Thankfully my dear friend put up with me!

Today, in honor of St. Patrick, I’ll post some of the pictures I took there.  It was so exciting to visit one of my ancestral homelands, and I can’t wait to do a full tour of Ireland one day!  I still dream of the leek and potato soup I devoured there. Mmm!

Christ Church Cathedral
Ha’penny Bridge
Temple Bar area
The Liffy
To you, Triune God,
confident in the loving protection of Mary,
Queen of Ireland, our Mother,
and of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and all the saints,
do we entrust ourselves, our children,
and the needs of the Church in Ireland.
Amen.