Thursday, June 26, 2014

In the Beginning...

I've put off writing my first blog entry for long enough. I simply could not think of something specific to focus on, although I had an overall idea what I wanted my blog to be about.

Before I get into the real meat of what I would like to say to the world, first – unfortunately – it’s necessary for me to give you some back history about myself. Context is always important! Please bear with me, because each piece of the puzzle is important for a full picture.

I’m not going to tell you all about my childhood. All you need to know is that I had a pretty humble upbringing. My parents struggled at times, but my sister and I were always happy enough. My family is not Catholic, but my parents decided to send my sister and I to a Catholic school from Kindergarten until 7th and 8th grade. They wanted to make our education a priority, and they recognized the quality of private schools.

As I grew up, I found it very difficult to fit in and make friends.  I was not Catholic, and I remember one particularly poignant moment in second grade, when I was excluded from practice and preparation for First Communion. It really hurt me, and left a bitter taste in my mouth for years. Not only was I set apart from my peers on a faith basis, but I also lived 30 minutes away from all of my schoolmates. I believe that all of these factors, along with some growing pains with my sister and sickness in the family, led to the major depression I fell into around the age of 13.

At 13, I started to relate to the gothic and “metalhead” scene, and spent as much time as possible online exploring these subcultures. I felt like my feelings were understood! As I got older, I completely bought into the rebellious worldview and abandoned all of the morality I had been taught all those years at the Catholic school. I felt liberated and free! Finally, I could ignore the guilt and live carelessly!

Yeah yeah, all teenagers go through a rebellious stage. That’s normal! Well, I wouldn’t say I was the worst teenager ever… I’ll let you judge for yourself. I’m only able to reveal all of these secrets publicly because I have since been redeemed.

·         I delved into pretty much any of the major religions you can think of. Eventually I was drawn to Wicca, and was very well versed in it. I was actively seeking covens to join. After awhile, I seriously considered joining the Church of Satan (LaVey Satanism). In the end, I became an atheist, refined my views and finally rested as an agnostic.
·         I read and wrote extremely graphic “romance” novels, and considered myself bisexual for about 3 years. It was more than just an empty claim, at the time.
·         I pierced my eyebrow with a safety pin once. Ooo rebellion.

As you can see, most of my issues were intellectual turmoil and self-destruction. I drew inverted pentagrams and upside down crosses and I wore Cradle of Filth t-shirts. I did everything I could to set myself apart from the “non-thinkers”. To me, all of the “normal” people were the same, and they all believed whatever they were told by their parents. As for myself, my faith was an amalgamation of whatever sounded good to me. I blew around with the wind; I was carried like a feather from one view to the other and I had no consistency in my thinking…

…Until I met a mysterious man on the Internet. He asked me probing questions, and he seemed interested and concerned about my worldviews. He poked holes in all of my “arguments” (which were really just opinions masquerading as clever ideas), and tossed all of my beliefs on their heads. I didn’t know what to do!

To make a long story short, this man instructed me - first in philosophy. I became obsessed with it, particularly the workings of Logic, and was insufferable to be around for probably a good 6 or 7 months. “You must prove that each and every premise of your argument is true before I will ever consider what you’re saying,” – yeah, I was that girl. God bless my parents for not kicking me out of the house.

Over time, my heart was softened. I met this mysterious Internet guy in person, who was from London of all places, and here we are – 4 years later – married and beyond blessed! But this is not our story. This is a blog about my relationship with Christ, first and foremost. My marriage plays into God’s grand scheme to have me with Him for eternity.

My future husband made me take him to Mass. “I have only missed one Mass in my entire life,” he told me, when we first met. Well okay then. Hopefully I won’t be struck down the moment my foot passes the threshold…

To my surprise, despite the discomfort of feeling completely out of place in a Catholic Church, I found the return experience extremely peaceful and comforting. I continued to go to Church with my boyfriend for the duration of his 3 week visit to the USA. And then I kept going back on Sundays…

One day, after Mass, the priest approached me and said that he knew my boyfriend and I were considering marriage, so I should come to the “Theology of the Body” classes he was guiding. I have no idea why I decided to go. It must have been the Holy Spirit, because I was generally quite shy back then and tended to avoid any potential social interactions. Nevertheless, I attended. And it changed my life FOREVER.

Theology of the Body, presented by Christopher West in some DVDs and guided by my parish priest was the driving force that inspired me to learn more about Catholicism. The more I learned, the more I loved. I was over the moon to find a religion with so much intellectual history, so many answers, and no apparent contradictions in the most important aspect: the philosophy. When I read part of the Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas, I was pretty much in heaven. I signed up for RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) as soon as I possibly could.

I could stop here, and say “I got through RCIA and the rest is history!”. But first I have to say a few words about my RCIA experience. I get the impression that most people decide to become Catholic and RCIA is just a stepping stone to get there. That was not the case with me. I threw myself into RCIA with everything I had. I read all of the notes given by the instructor, I took as many notes myself as I could, and I read a lot of the supplemental material that was thrown at us. I asked questions. I dug deep. On the spiritual side of things, I saw and attempted to root out as many bad habits as possible – no matter how small – from myself before Baptism. I wanted to be holy, and I was on fire with the faith. RCIA was the only thing I looked forward to in the week, and I attended come hell or high water. 

My instructor’s teaching methods really clicked with me as well. He was very logical, straightforward, and incessantly precise with his wording. I loved it, and for that reason I think my fellow Catechumens thought I was insane. I will be eternally thankful for his catechesis (and for his service at my wedding. Please pray for him, he was ordained as a deacon about a week after I got married!).

Earlier I mentioned that I am able to air my history without feelings of shame or remorse, because I have been redeemed. Being Catholic, I know that at Baptism all of my sins were forgotten by God, because of Jesus’s sacrifice. I have been made new! And although I still have the memories of my past, they are no longer a part of my life. It’s like remembering an old nightmare – it has no power over who I am today.

So that’s my story! 2 decades wrapped up into about 1,400 words. Next up… I’ll be writing about my actual conversion experience, and how I revoked the lies of the devil.