The early Fathers of ‘the Church’ used the word “Catholic” to describe the church, because ‘Catholic’ means universal. This, in short, means that ‘Catholic religion’ and ‘Christian religion’ mean the same thing. Later, when folks began to break away from the Catholic religion to form other religions the Catholic religion still remained what it has always been. The Catholic Religion is the religion which I’ve been a part of since I received the Sacrament of Baptism as an infant. Moving right along to where I am today in my faith and the Catholic faith/religion.
I’ve not always been as steady on my feet in my faith or my walk as a Catholic as I am NOW. And while I think it is the NOW that matters the most, I also can greatly appreciate the laborious journey it took to get HERE. Scraped knees from praying and scraped knees from falling, from one extreme to the other I’ve lived it. And I’m very pleased to be able to say, with utmost sincerity, not only am I still standing, but I’m standing taller than I’ve ever stood, all 5’4 inches…well, without heels.
I’ve gone through periods of life when I wasn’t attending Mass on a regular basis. I’ve gone through periods of life when I sent my sons to Mass, yet I didn’t attend. I’ve gone through periods of life that I questioned the existence of a true higher being. To say I’ve struggled with being a full Believer is an understatement. Always wanted to be one, yet I was what I can best describe as a wanna-B-believer. I prayed to a GOD that I wasn’t quite sure truly was listening at times. There were times I felt that if he did exist how in the heck could he allow some of the things I lived through to have happened in the first place?!? My questions had questions and yet I never totally didn’t believe. But I had serious doubts…and I for sure had doubts in a religion I felt (and experienced) as NOT being totally inclusive of folks of color. Folks that looked like ‘me’. I just wasn’t feeling comfy, and I hadn’t found a church home, though not for lack of trying and holding an elected seat on a predominantly ‘Conservative’ Catholic school board. And then my 1st spiritual awakening happened in the most unlikely of places and at the most unlikely of times in my life. Unexpected, unprovoked and with no warning…just happened. Bam! What came over me was a feeling of such utter and complete immediate total JOY that it scared me. I didn’t see any bright light at the end of a tunnel. Very much awake and I was sitting reading a Bible…something, at the time, I wasn’t accustomed to doing. Very early one morning in total quietness.. suddenly.. I could feel GOD’s presence. Warmth like a comforting liquid flowed down over my entire being – I can’t express it any other way. Just felt good all over, quite suddenly, long enough for me to be aware of it and then it was gone. But from that point on I could no longer be totally in doubt of his existence. For once in my life I didn’t have to see something to believe in it. Didn’t have to touch or feel it or taste it. Suddenly I was no longer a believer that “seeing was believing”.
It was at that time in my life I began to feel a need for re-newness. An inner need to start brand new. A re-start towards a re-birth. I don’t recall sitting and figuring out a plan of how I was going to get that accomplished… and I’m a planner. No longer did I feel in control of my own destiny. It was at this time of my life I felt the most lost. Wasn’t sure which direction I should head at all. Yet I was driven. That might not make any sense to anyone else, but it makes perfect sense to me. In essence I was no longer holding the reins to my life, no longer leading my own footsteps. Yet, I was on a mission that led me over 3,500 miles home to my parents. A place with two people who loved me more than any other people on this planet. Yet, it was a place I said I’d never live again, only visit. But I was on my way to becoming complete, finally. I’d come completely full circle.
My 2nd spiritual awakening came in the midst of many who looked just like me, at the National Black Catholic Conference. Over those several days I knew I was right where I was supposed to be. A week earlier I hadn’t even planned on being there. It was there I realized there wasn’t just a place for me in the Catholic religion, but there was NO other place I belonged to get closer to GOD. I was home and had always been a part of it. Finally I was filled with a passion to learn more about my faith, the Faith that had been chosen for me since Birth. It was then that my re-Birth unofficially officially began. I began to fall IN love with being Catholic. I wanted to learn more and more about it. From that conference I took with me, within my spirit, the same feeling shared there amongst hundreds of others like me. I began to make a place for me in what quickly became my church HOME in the new city I now resided in. Same city my parents had lived for over 30 years. Their church home became mine, totally effortlessly. I don’t know if it is because my frame of mind changed and was open to it, or a combination of that and the feeling of warmth and welcome in which I was received into the church. All I know is that all of a sudden I felt like I was HOME. My new church, almost overnight, became my church HOME. I’d never felt that way about a church before. Everything was simply falling into place. I joined the choir alongside my parents the week after my arrival. Slowly but surely after that I began to get more and more involved in my new church home. I’m amazed myself at how involved I’m feeling driven to be. It wasn’t planned that way. Just keep holding my hand UP to serve more & more! And with each day I can feel a warmth from within, like my inner GLOW, pouring out of me. There is no other way I can express it. The feeling of contentment I feel the majority of the time is something I wish I could bottle up and share with the WORLD, which is what I am attempting to do, right here and now; with my words. Painting a picture, as only I can do, with my finger strokes. This is where I’ve come from 2 Where I am right now. And it just feels GOOD all the time!
For the past 5 months I’ve been involved in the RCIA process. After a lifetime of being part of the Catholic Church I’ve chosen to take the Sacrament of Confirmation. As an adult this is a conscious effort and desire. It has consisted of attending 90 minute sessions every Monday. The sessions cover basic information about the Catholic Faith and fundamentally communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults will climax with receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation in front of my church congregation on Easter eve at the Easter Vigil Mass. With the exception of childbirth and marriage ceremony, there is NOTHING I’ve been more in anticipation of in my life. It isn’t simply a step for me. It is part of my re-Birth which couldn’t be more symbolic than for it to take place on the eve of Easter. This past 5 months has been a period of deep reflection, prayer, instruction, discernment and formation. One of my spiritual advisors leads the sessions and is also someone I call friend. There was the perfect time, a pre-selected time, for me to be confirmed into Catholicism. Everything is falling into place all by itself. When things are right, they just feel right, and they just happen. And, it just feels GOOD all the time.
Because I will always keep it real, when I first learned I was expected to attend Mass four times during this Holy Week it blew my hair back. WOW that’s a lot of church for ME in one week. That isn’t including attending my regular session at church one night, a council meeting another night. Basically that means I’ll be at the church every evening except for one. WOW again. Having said that and all of what I’ve shared here, that was only my first response and thoughts. After it sunk in, my thoughts now – What BETTER place for me to be during the Holy Week preceding my receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation? It is where I am supposed to be in preparation. Quite honestly I’ve got butterflies in anticipation and excitement. I thought as the time neared I’d be nervous. I am not. I am just eager and ready. I probably won’t share with ya’ll the events of this week’s church activities. Even having shared this is extremely personal for me. But I wanted to share with every one of you something that I feel is very beautiful, my testimony. If you read between the lines, that is what I’ve just shared, my life journey to here. My walk now as I try, with all my might, to walk the walk that I feel most close to Jesus’ walk. It isn’t nor hasn’t been a straight road. It hasn’t been without bumps along the way, and even now. But when I look back, briefly every single thing I’ve experienced was leading me to HERE. And knowing that/feeling that/realizing that all my life there has been a Master Plan, finally becoming aware that I’ve never, ever walked alone. Reflecting back on ALL of the people who entered into my life, that were unannounced Angels leading me, guiding me, counseling me, and accompanying me on my journey… WOW, just WOW. It feels so GOOD all of the time.
I hope something I’ve shared here with ya’ll has possibly made you reflect on your own spiritual lives. We all have one. It just takes some of us longer to tap into it. We are all loved children of GOD created by a mighty Father who is so patient, merciful and loving that he waits for us to discover that he simply IS. Until I write/read ya’ll again stay uplifted, Blessed, and have a beautiful Easter experience.
4ever sincere, Berna (the 1 & only)