Today is my fifth anniversary of becoming Catholic!
Half of a decade. Seems like a special milestone of sorts.
I remember when I was at a point when most of my Christian life had been spent as an Evangelical. The point where my Catholic life surpassed that was a long time ago. Most of my Christian life has now been spent as a Catholic.
Most of the time I feel like I haven’t grown much since that fateful day when I was washed in the waters of Baptism, appealing to God for a clean conscience, when I was anointed with oil and Confirmed in the Holy Spirit, and when I received for the first time in my life, Holy Communion with my Lord and Savior. But the reality is that I’m NOT the same person and my understanding of Catholicism is so much deeper! All the revelations that brought me to the Church of Jesus Christ seem miniscule and insignificant. My understanding of the Sacraments, of the continuity of Scripture and Tradition, the mystical union of seemingly unimportant events in the Old and New Covenants, all of them just blow…my…mind…..
In my reflection of these five years, though, I can’t help but to look at how much fear was present in my heart and how much courage others have brought out of my heart. Awhile ago I would have said that April 11, 2009 was the defining moment of my life. But now I would say that the last half of 2013 is the defining mega-moment of my life. The courage to slowly reveal my cross to friends, family, and the world, allowing my person to crumble into vulnerability, wrestling with fear and internal conflict has strengthened me in ways I’ve only become aware of in the last week or so.
More importantly, the morning of December 22 has shaped me more than probably any other event in my life. Realizing that love is more than an emotion and that it is more than an abstract concept. Love is something that transcends life and death and time. That even though my mother is gone, I still receive her past love. That in reflecting on my relationship with her, especially my last conversation with her, that there was more motherly love for me than I could have ever known or realized. And that love continues to shape my understanding of who she was as a person and who I am capable of being. And although she was not Catholic and that that causes deep questions for me that I may never be able to answer, I have great hope for her, first of all because she was baptized, claimed by Christ, unified to his life, death, and resurrection. Second of all because her journey was definitely leading her to become Catholic. Over the years after I became Catholic she warmed up to the Catholic faith and to the Catholic gifts that I would give her. She became my most ardent defender against attacks from my German Baptist relatives and for the last month of her life, she saw the strength that I draw from being Catholic. Third, her faith in Jesus Christ was augmented over the years since I became a Christian. When I came back from San Diego, I had a frank conversation with her about having Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior. I did not come away from that conversation with much hope. I understood, though, all of the things she held onto. I understood why she felt resentful at times towards God. But as time wore on and her health often brought new and painful struggles, she maintained an attitude of hope, and I daresay that seeing my outward signs of acceptance of my own cross may have inspired a peace in her heart with her own crosses, at least that’s what I hope. Anyway, each day I learn to appreciate her as more than someone who made rules for me to follow and more than simply a mother, but a woman who live a full and sometimes difficult life, but still chose to live it in joy and inspires me more and more every day to make the most of what I’ve got and to overcome hardships with joy.
And so over the last five years, I’ve become a person who is ready to cast off sorrow and shame and fear and embrace a life of joy and humility and virtue, to become vulnerable and open myself up to the love and transformation of Jesus Christ. And I pray that over the next five years, the rest of my family will join my sister and I on this side of the Catholic Church, and that each day until then I become a little bit more like Christ.