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Week Seven: Why we chose Catholicism

“Young Woman at the Well” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

This is the seventh post of a blog post series called “Bright Maidens.” We three are 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!

During His travels, Jesus came to Samaria and sat by the stone wall of a simple well. He asked a woman there for a drink, which was confusing for the woman because of the tension between their nationalities.

Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4: 10).

He proceeded to show her how much He knew about her, though she thought Him to be a stranger. God revealed Jesus as the Messiah to this flawed, yet attentive woman.

Jesus came to me in this way many times in my life, but I was inattentive and failed to draw Him a drink.

I grew up a cradle Catholic in a home full of people who went to Mass, challenged me to ask questions, and who stressed the need for a relationship with God. I was elected “Class Chaplain” all four years at my Catholic high school and my knowledge of Bible stories was above average (or so I thought).

(I don’t own the rights)

As it tends to do, life got busy. My child-like faith needed more maintenance and I started going through the motions of faith.

I recalled the Younglife, Protestant kids I knew in high school and how lit up they acted in their faith. I also recalled the few, yet loud, hypocrites who didn’t act like Christians, especially when they were damning me for idolatry, following the Pope, worshiping Mary, etc.

That memory made me cling tight to my Catholic roots and avoid those who asked questions about my faith that I couldn’t answer. My closest friends were those I met through the campus ministry in which I was involved in college, but I wouldn’t allow God to light my heart on fire.

In college, I transferred before my junior year, shaking my routine. Many times in my life I have encountered varying levels of depression and this shift to a bigger school and a new routine hit me hard.

My prayer life was more of a nightly whine session. I never once asked, “God, what do YOU want me to do?”

To my delight, a journalism training organization offered me an internship for my last semester of college in Washington, D.C. The binds of depression loosened during that semester as I met countless new acquaintances.

My D.C. home was a large dorm full of international students and professionals. Sadly, this meant it was full of several types of religious apathy. We partied, we discussed politics, and we enjoyed friendships based on a love of cultures as well as a shallow foundation of worldliness. I left D.C. with the friendships of those from several countries, whom I love to this day.

But I was still thirsting.

Next stop: Chicago

My next internship was that summer under the umbrella of an libertarian-leaning education organization and it sent me to Chicago.

The Chicago summer surprised this Virginia gal with its beauty (albeit chilly beauty that hovered around 70 degrees most days), the little I saw of it. My rented Evanston apartment was a forty minute commuter train ride away from my office packed with libertarians.

Libertarianism philosophy values self above all others and holds that a selfish rule of thumb supposedly serves others in the end. There is a slim chance escaping the black cloud of selfishness when it hangs in the office air you breathe.

It’s also tough to avoid the pressing questions from atheists, as the libertarian world is high in their number. The influence of a few atheists in the office had a deep impact on my summer. Their persistence and my lack of bravery in combatting their questions of faith steered me back to a dark place.

(I don’t own the rights)

I was in a strange city, commuting ninety minutes a day instead of socializing, surrounding myself with bad influences, and concentrating my conversations on selfishness and politics. I was the devil’s playground, complete with a dry, thirsty sandbox.

I started to wonder about the very existence of God for the first time in my life. I started to doubt it. I was doubting Him.

Deep in depression, by the grace of God, another question washed over me: Had I been duped? What about my two decades of belief? Was I finally un-stupid?

My resounding answer was, “No!” yet the doubt remained.

I was not an idiot my whole life prior to that summer. I had not been duped and neither were my parents, Godparents, or grandparents. All of the most loving, best people I knew were Christians, most Catholics.

I decided I needed to reclaim myself and my faith.

My fasting week

Crucifix? Check. Scapular? Check. Earphones plugged into Christian music? Check. Pretending to be tired and sick so as to avoid unnecessary conversation at my internship? Check.

My cleansing week was an attempt to bombard myself with Christian media and reconnect with the prayer I had begun to doubt. Push, push, push, I was going to give it a full week if it killed me. Something told me not to surrender.

On Thursday night of that week, I was watching Fireproof as part of my Christian-stuffing.

All of a sudden, at a mundane part of the movie, the Holy Spirit moved something in me.
“Jesus is waiting for me,” I thought.

(I don’t own the rights)

All He needed was for me to make the decision to let Him bear me. I needed to give up my path and give myself to Him.

Before the third millisecond of this thought process, I was clinging to my scapular, laying in the fetal position, and heaving through wet sobs.

Relinquish control. Give of myself to the One who was patient and excitedly waiting for me.

I reduced/advanced myself to the state of a child once more. I was a helpless rag-doll in Jesus’ arms, giving up my controlling greed and letting Him take my weight while I sobbed in gratitude.

This quenched my thirst and lit me on fire to learn more about my relationship with the Holy Trinity.

Inter-faith relationship

The Holy Trinity continued to teach me about myself and about our relationship. I began to feel more fulfilled than ever and I could finally consider myself “on fire.” Within a year, I recognized this passion for Christ in a man and it attracted me.

My ex is a Baptist, though I didn’t realize this until we were already dating. His devotion to Jesus moved me to spend more time reading the Bible. He was committed to abstinence before marriage, as well, so I felt lucky to know him.

We got in more than one “discussion,” at high volumes about the differences between our faiths. We challenged each other and our relationship required me to research and learn about Catholicism thoroughly.

Introducing the major issues: His mother and his father were not pleased with their son dating a Catholic and they let me know (deja vu, verbatim from the mouths of the Younglife kids). We began to recognize the irrevocable issues, so we started allowing chastity to fly out the window, with the subconscious hopes that a physical relationship would help hold us together.

We maintained our major boundary, but we definitely allowed our physical relationship to dominate. God made it very clear to me that this was no longer a relationship that served Him or His mission. It was my longest serious relationship and the decision to break up was the easiest I’ve ever made.

I began to heal again, stronger than ever, and surrounded myself with the newly researched Catholic teachings and strong Catholic friends.

The passion I discovered as a result of that relationship is for studying the Theology of the Body because it weaves itself so tightly into the understanding of Jesus’ example of true Love and Christian teaching. Theology of the Body is the perfect scope into the beauty and completeness of the Church and it was the sealing agent on my journey back Home to Rome.

Every moment of this journey cast me as the woman turning the pump, or hoisting the rope attached to the container of water from the well. Though I didn’t always do His will and I tread very close to where the devil wanted me, God still guided me to the side of that well.

God guided me to Him through the mediums of mistakes, doubts, and obedience.

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