It is a journey that we are on.
I was raised Catholic in an average Catholic household in the 70's. We went to Catholic schools, where the extent of religion class was "Smile! God loves you!". Our family went to Mass on Sundays, confession once or twice a year, and that was about that. I continued on with that through college and into my 20's. Then the 30's came. I was pregnant, tired, and didn't like the new priest we had gotten. It was easy to skip Mass, and it got even easier when I had a new baby and then, two. Attending Mass didn't really get any easier with 2 toddlers.
Then 9/11 happened. I was far away from Ground Zero, but the sense of vulnerability that day caused me to take a good look at where I was, and it wasn't really where I wanted to be. We went to Mass that Sunday, and we've been going ever since - at least the kids and I, have. A few months later, after finding no loophole, I went to confession. I have blogged about that before, and that was really the beginning of an incredible journey for me.
We joined a church not too far from our house. One Lent 6 or 7 years ago, I thought that I might try to attend daily Mass 3x a week. Lent had already started when I made that commitment, so I figured 4 or 5 weeks left x 3 was something I could manage. I did, and it didn't take long before I was hooked! I felt for so long that it was a well-kept treasure. It made a difference in my days that I noticed. There was no Mass on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and it seemed like Thursday would never get here. When Lent was over, I knew this was a keeper! This was the map and the Food for my journey.
My boys became altar servers, and a year or so in, I offered to do the monthly schedule for the servers. It gave me a connection to the parish. It is a job that I continue to enjoy today - a side trip on the journey.
One winter evening, as my boys and I walked to our car after our annual Advent Penance Service, my then-11 year old asked why we only went to confession once a year. I had no answer for him, but we did start going more often. Every three months, and then I started looking for opportunities to ask for directions on my journey more often. (I am female, so I don't mind too much stopping to ask!)
When our present pastor arrived in our parish five or so years ago, one of the things that he said was a passion of his was Adult Education. After a decade or more of "Smile! God loves you!" I jumped at the chance for this. When he announced it in church, there was *something* that told me that it was for me. His adult ed takes the form of the Great Adventure Bible Studies. We have studied Revelations, the Bible Timeline (the 14 Narrative books of the Bible), Matthew, James, and Acts. Each of these has been wonderful. I have taken so much away from these studies. GPS for the journey!
One thing that was a frequent struggle for me was finding time and space for personal prayer. About a year ago, the Lord showed me that I could find about 20 minutes of time for that in the church near my work before school. I'm sure some people would think I'm a little crazy going to Mass at one church and then later stopping at another church just to sit with no one there. But it's a place to gather strength or to rest when I am weary from the journey. I have also found Adoration chapels, and while I don't have a regular hour, it is a treat when I can sit in the Presence and stay for as long as I need.
I have met fellow travelers, and we have provided each other with mutual conversation and support on the journey. People at daily Mass, Immaculee, others in our Seven Sorrows Rosary group, co-workers, other moms.
Missing in all of this, is my dearly beloved. He has chosen not to travel with me on this, for reasons that only he truly knows. Yes, some of it conflicted with his job, but the job is also an excuse - a way to avoid what just doesn't appeal to him. And now...we find ourselves in different spots. Me, very much enjoying the the trip, and him - angry that he has been left behind. Fearful?? His response now is to try to hold me back. I have done no more than to try to follow where Jesus has led. But I am labeled a fanatic - measured by what the rest of the world does or does not do.
I asked my good priest the other night if he offers marriage counseling, and he told me who I could call. We talked briefly....he knows my situation. Our Bible study that night had coincidentally (?) mentioned something about Paul being a "fanatic". I told him I, too, was now a "fanatic". He looked at me and said, "Karen, I care about you enough that if I saw something that looked out of kilter, I would tell you. But I don't see anything." The next morning, we celebrated the Feast of Sts. Philip and James. His homily centered on the Apostles, how Jesus called them and how he calls each of us. We are all called to spread the Good News. But just as the first original Apostles were martyred, we don't have to look far beyond our immediate family....spouse, children.... to find those whom the Gospel makes uncomfortable. And we are called to respond with fidelity to His call. I knew that homily was meant for me. Encouragement and prayers for the journey.
More encouagement at Mass this weekend. ...and everyone that does [bear fruit] he prunes so that it will bear more fruit. Is God pruning?? Remain in me, as I remain in you. Exactly what I plan on doing!!