I am neither a cradle Catholic or a convert. In fact, it’s kind of a mystery (the divine kind 😉 ) that I should be religious at all. My mum’s not Catholic, and my dad isn’t a practicing Catholic. My parents had my brother and I baptised as babies and we went to Catholic schools, but we’ve never been a religious family. When I was a kid my dad was in the Army, and the only time my brother and I ever went to Mass was when we were visiting our paternal grandparents. Then, when I was 8 and we started going to a Catholic school, we started going to Mass as a family most weekends. This lasted for a few years as my brother and I went through the sacramental programs for Reconciliation, First Holy Communion and Confirmation, as well as altar serving in our parish. When I was in about 8th grade some issues arose and my parents stopped attending Church. In the last 8 years or so the only times they have stepped foot inside a Church have been for weddings, funerals, and the few school events they couldn’t get out of attending.
Through what can only be attributed to the Grace of God, I somehow managed to not only retain but also grow in my faith and my love for the Church, despite growing up in something of a spiritual desert, an environment that was far from conducive to spiritual development. It truly is a miracle that I am where I am in my faith today, even though I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go towards being the woman God made me to be.
Unfortunately as my spiritual journey has progressed, the issue of attendance at Church has become something of a contentious issue in my family. It wasn’t until I was living in Colorado that I was brought to realise the seriousness of missing Mass on the weekend without good reason. With this realisation I came to be greatly grieved by my family’s situation on that front and determined to do something about it. I resolved to ask my family to do me a favour and attend Sunday Mass just ONCE as a family. That was it. No pushing or demanding an instant conversion; no condemnation or self-righteousness. Just a simple request. What could be so bad about that?… Uh, let’s just say that that was a skype conversation that didn’t go down too well. I at once became the victim of my family’s anger and ridicule. My family reacted with disbelief and accusations of me being in a cult because of my personal commitment to attending Mass, and many a joke has been made at my expense. Apparently they have a problem with me being “too Catholic” despite the fact that it was their choice to have me baptised one…
Things have settled down over time, but it is still a cause of distress for me to think of friends and family that I care about who are not in communion with the Church, or who fail to follow her teachings. I think a lot of people, especially people my own age, fall into the trap of thinking that they have plenty of time to start doing all that “boring Church stuff” later. It’s like that infamous prayer of St. Augustine: “Lord, make me chaste… but not yet.” People know deep down that something’s not right with how they’re choosing to live, but they want to have all their fun now and deal with responsibility later. What they don’t realise though is that it takes time and practice to grow in virtue, and Church teachings are there not to ruin our fun but to help us find true fulfilment and meaning in life. It’s a much better alternative to the fading joys of materialism and instant gratification offered to us by secular society, many of which only leave us feeling emptier in the long run.
Basically what I’m getting at is that if you struggle with religious commitments now, what makes you think you’ll suddenly start being the model church-going Christian when you turn 50 or 60? I can guarantee you that if you are able to come up with excuses for not attending Mass now you will be able to come up with even more as you get older and before you know it, it will be too late to have a deep and personal relationship with God.
A dear friend of mine recently lost his father to cancer. He was a very humble man who had great faith in the Lord and served the parish for years as an Acolyte. As tragic as his passing was, it brought everyone great comfort to know how devoutly and faithfully he had served God in his life. It brought a tear to my eye as his coffin was being carried out of the church to think that it was the last time he would leave the church that had been such a huge part of his life. It brought another tear to my eye to think that if it had been one of my own parents they would have seemed so out of place there. Or to think that if I ever get married, my own parents will be among those guests who don’t know the responses, or when to stand, sit or kneel. Please pray for their conversion/re-commitment to the Catholic faith.