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Over the course of this blog’s life, I have shared everything from my adoption story to how to organize your closets. I’ve even gone verse by verse through Proverbs 31 and addressed our biblical duty for intimacy with our husbands. What I haven’t done, though, is share my own faith story with you. My testimony. I have dozens, maybe hundreds of stories which point to answers to prayer and even miracles, and maybe, at some point, I’ll share some of those, but for today, I am going to share with you how I came to Christ.
(Please note that this is my testimony which included my experience with Catholicism and may be very different from yours, if you were raised in a Catholic home. I am not bashing Catholics or the Catholic faith. I am simply sharing my own experiences with the particular church that I was raised in and experienced later as an adult. The problem, from what I have heard/seen is more about the teachings at those churches than the Catholic religion).
A Precocious Child
I was raised in a Catholic home; in fact, I was born at a Catholic home for unwed mothers, fostered by a couple from Catholic Family Charities and baptized, while there, as an infant then adopted by Catholic parents.
As a child, I went to church on and off, with my mother only. My father did not attend. I went to catechism (Sunday School, but on another day of the week) and made the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation. I went to pre-Cana (marriage preparation course) with my first husband (now passed) and we were married in a Catholic church. I even went to confession fairly regularly.
We had a Bible in the house, but it was kept in a box in a cabinet as it was a “family heirloom”. Although I was allowed to look at it, it wasn’t read in the home.
I was one of those kids that questioned everything about God and religion. I remember my seventh grade science teacher exasperated with my barrage of questions on how the earth began and if God created the earth, how did He get there first.
In catechism, I dutifully memorized the required prayers but questioned the teacher as to why I had to confess my sins to a priest and not God, Himself. Why couldn’t we eat meat on Fridays during Lent? Why did we have to have ashes on our forehead on Ash Wednesday? Why couldn’t priests marry? How could they give marriage advice if they’d never been married? Yep, I was one of those kids.
Still, I attended church, had my sons baptized and even became a catechism teacher when my oldest was preparing for his first Holy Communion. All the while, I struggled with the questions that had plagued me since childhood.
When my mother was terminally ill, she moved in with me. As a lifelong Catholic, she longed for a priest to visit her and pray for her and, at the appropriate time, give her last rites. The church that my mother had attended since birth was quite the distance away and the priest was unable to travel that far. So, we called the church that I attended, at the time. They said, “No.” We called the church I had previously attended. They said “No.” We asked a neighbor that was heavily involved in our previous church to intervene and ask on our behalf. They said “No”, again. Why? My mother was not a member of that parish.
As a woman who had been a lifelong skeptic of the Catholic church, I was hopping mad. How could the church teach love and compassion and the importance of the sacraments, including last rites, but deny a lifelong Catholic that privilege simply because she was terminally ill and didn’t have the ability to become a parishioner at a new church?
My mother had a long-time friend, Barbara, who was a “born again” Christian, you know, one of those “Jesus freaks” 🙂 She would visit my mother about once a week and share the gospel with her. She even arranged for a pastor to visit with my mother and pray with her. It was during one of these visits that my mother was saved. When I heard, I rolled my eyes. On one hand, I was glad that she finally got her wish, a member of the clergy to pray with her. And, I was glad that she had peace, finally. On the other hand, “saved”? I mean, really. (Bear with me here, readers!)
When my mother went home to the Lord, my questions increased. I was mad at the Catholic church and, honestly, at God and began to question everything all over again.
I thought, perhaps, maybe it is the Catholic church that I had an issue with, so I began to research other denominations. I even met with a Jewish friend to learn more about Judaism – all the while, teaching my son’s class to prepare for his first Holy Communion!
After my son’s sacrament of communion, I stopped going to church. I continued to “seek” and learn more about different denominations.
About that time, through a direct sales company, I met Elaine. Elaine was also one of those “Jesus freaks”. She had more than her fair share of trials and tribulations in life, but she never wavered in her faith. She was continually joyful. That was the only word to describe her. Elaine suggested that my kids might enjoy the Vacation Bible School at her church and that I should sign them up. VBS sounded great, but I wasn’t so sure about sending them to learn about God at a non-denominational church. I had been taught that “those” type of churches were cults. Elaine assured me that not only were they not cults, but that they lived and taught the Bible, not “religion”.
VBS sounded fun and I was intrigued, but decided that before I would consider allowing my kids to attend this VBS, I needed to check out this church, just to be sure. That Sunday, I took my boys to church at Princeton Alliance in Plainsboro, NJ. For the first time in their lives, neither of my boys complained about church. In fact, they asked if we could go back. Wait. What?
We started to attend the church and learn more about God and the Bible. The first time we attended and they asked us to open our Bibles to a certain chapter, I was lost. They might as well have been talking Mandarin to me. I had never been taught how to read from the Bible, much less know where to find a chapter or verse. Growing up in a Catholic church, we had missalettes. You simply opened up to the date and the passages and prayers and songs were laid out for you.
That next week, I purchased my own Bible and began to drink in His Word. All of the questions that had bothered me for years were bubbling back to the surface. I wanted to know where, in the Bible, it said that we have to confess our sins to a priest. Where did it say that we couldn’t eat meat on Friday in Lent, etc.
Relationship not Religion
During this new, exciting season of my life, I was watching television in bed and saw a commercial, I can’t even remember who sponsored the commercial, but about having a relationship with God. A relationship? How is that possible? I jotted down the phone number, called for the free brochure and went to bed. The next day, I called Elaine and asked her about it. She eloquently shared the gospel with me. She explained that God doesn’t want religion, he wants a relationship with us. This was a new concept to me, but I was spending daily time reading His Word and over the next few weeks, things started to make sense to me.
One night, as I was talking to God while trying to fall asleep. I felt a presence in my room. I felt Jesus sitting in the rocking chair near my bed and him laying His hands on me. He was telling me that He was there for me and not to be afraid. If I give my life to Him and believed in Him, He would never leave my side and that I would be with Him in heaven. I wasn’t afraid at all. In fact, I felt incredible peace.
At that moment, I kneeled next to my bed and prayed for Jesus to come into my heart. I asked for forgiveness of all of my sins and acknowledged that I needed Him. I felt the Holy Spirit envelope and enter me. I was changed forever.
My children were raised as Christians and I worked hard to be the wife and mother that God created me to be. My husband, also raised Catholic, thought I was crazy and my passion for Christ became an issue of contention in our marriage. (You can read more about that in this post about being unequally yoked). A few years later, my husband left the boys and I for another woman and a few years later, before our divorce was final, passed away, but that is a story for a different day.
Reflections on My Journey
When I look back at my journey to Christ, I know that my story unfolded exactly as God intended. I’m still a questioner, but now, I have the Bible to find the answers and God to ask.
I feel that the Catholic church failed me. It failed my mother and it is failing countless others if they are not teaching about living by the Bible and how to have a relationship with Christ. If you are in a Catholic church, I pray that your experience is different from mine. (Remember this is MY journey and experience. Hopefully, yours is very different from mine).
I’m so thankful that I was raised the way I was and that God designed me to question what didn’t seem right to me. I’m thankful for friends like Barbara and Elaine who love to share the good news with others. When I was baptized as an adult, Elaine stood on my behalf. I’m so thankful to God for His steadfast love and for forgiving me over and over again. I am so thankful that I have a relationship not religion.
Don’t be afraid to question things. If you are Catholic, and don’t understand why you perform a certain practice – ask. (I later learned that most of the Catholic practices that I questioned WERE in the Bible, but I had never been taught to read it and they were never explained to me).
If you made it this far, thank you for sticking with me. If you have not given your life to Christ and have questions, I encourage you to seek out pastoral counseling or email me and I’m happy to chat with you. My story is winding but my destination is heaven!
If you are seeking answers, I recommend the following books to help you in your journey:
Because of Him,