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"A light on my darkest days" by Christina Pearson (CatholicMom.com) Via Pixabay (2012), CC0 Public Domain[/caption] The story of my Catholic background is pretty anticlimactic. I was baptized as a baby. That's it. I spent most of my life faithless. When people asked me what religion I was, I said I was Catholic, but it was no different than saying my shoes size is six. Both statements held the same amount of importance in my life. Because of that, I was lonely and lost, often seeking joy in places where there was none. Looking for happiness in people who couldn’t give it to me the way I needed it. Every day I would go through my time simply to get to the next day. I didn't live. I existed. At twenty-three, I went back to church on my own to see what it was all about. When I turned twenty-five, I was confirmed and considered myself an official Catholic. I thought that by going to Adoration, attending Mass, and reading up on teachings and traditions, I was living out my faith. I wasn't. My faith was put to the test with marriage and kids. Rather than hold onto it as a lifeline, I allowed myself to slide down the rope and into the waters below where I would frantically tread to keep afloat while the choppy waves all but swallowed me. I was exhausted for most of my life — half above water and half below it. My life was once again consumed with loneliness and despair. This went on for eight years and wouldn't stop until my grandma died. That's when I truly encountered my faith for the first time. At first, the thoughts floated in and out of my mind from time to time. Confession. Forgiveness. I had been to confession maybe three times in my life and I had no intention of going again. As for forgiving, after a seven-year feud with family, the embers within me still burned. Forgiveness wasn't going to happen either. I knew it was her. If I wasn’t going to listen to Grandma in this life, she would use her power of prayer in the next one, where she had some new influential friends. I dismissed the thoughts — shoved them out of my head. But they continued to come. Slowly and infrequently at first, then stronger. I continued to push them aside. When the first anniversary of her death rolled around, the thoughts were so constant I don’t think an hour went by where I didn’t think about her, confession, and forgiveness. I looked up. “I hear you, Grandma,” I would say, as the thoughts surfaced and I dismissed them. One evening I was reading. It was late. Everyone was asleep. I was alone. Confession. Forgiveness. I moved my eyes to the ceiling for a second and ignored the thoughts. Confession. Forgiveness. Confession. Forgiveness. I returned to my book. “I know what you’re doing, Grandma,” I said, shaking a finger at the air. Silence. I waited for the thoughts to surface again. When they did not, I continued reading. I couldn’t tell you what I was reading about when it happened. What I can tell you, is that a thought so strong and clear simply came into my mind. One that couldn’t have been formulated by me because I wanted nothing to do with confession or forgiveness. It said: “She wants you to do these things so she can be with you again." I remember feeling like someone slapped me with the book I was holding. I sat for what felt like a very long time. After the initial shock of the foreign thought wore off, there was this understanding of the actual statement: my grandma wants to be with me again so badly that she made it impossible for me to ignore the two things I needed to be doing with the moments — however many there are — that I have left in this life: confession and forgiveness. I cried for the loss of time I no longer had with her here. I cried for myself and for the pain and anguish that comes when you can't let go and forgive after being hurt in so many deep ways. With my book still open, I wept for the first time since her funeral about the loneliness my life was all these years without any weight of God to fill it in and hold it down. My life changed that night. I did go to confession and I continue to go regularly. As for forgiveness, that took longer. But it did happen. I learned that forgiving is like letting an unpaid debt go. A debt made by someone who can't or won't repay it. Forgiving was being able to tell myself, "They don't need to pay me back," and move along. It's a choice, not an emotion. Many choices don't come with feelings, forgiveness is sometimes one of those. These days I'm content for the first time, ever. Sure, I have bad days. I've always got something for the confessional — no shortage of material there. But, even my bad days are better with God in them because I know every moment is a chance to change. Every slip-up is a chance to say, "Okay, take a breath, let's try this again." As long as I'm alive, I have chances every second of every moment. "She wants you to do these things so she can be with you again." Those words will always be a light on my darkest days — knowing she's not here, but she's there. She's rooting for me. She's praying for me. She's guiding me. She's waiting for me. She's waiting to be with me again. The story of my Catholic background is pretty anticlimactic, but the story of encountering my Catholic faith, well, I think it's a pretty powerful one.
Copyright 2018 Christina Antus