Catholicism. Christianity. Basically the same thing right? After all, Catholicism is a branch of Christianity. Upon my first days at college, I realized that in some ways this was not the case. Growing up attending Catholic school from preschool to twelfth grade I became very comfortable wearing a uniform everyday and having a religion class. Prior to starting college, I had only ever gone to a Catholic mass and was a little unsure of what to expect. When I went to my first chapel service at my Christian college during welcome week, I thought I knew what I was walking into. Boy was I wrong. When we all started to pray, I blessed myself like I had always done. But as I looked around, I realized that I was the only one doing it. The service was also incredibly different from what I was used to. A Catholic mass is very structured and follows the same format each week while the songs, readings, and homilies are different. This service was incredibly different from what I was used to. To me it felt like a Christian rock concert and then a sermon and that was it. Although it was different, I was glad that I went and got to experience something outside of my comfort zone.
Growing up, I hardly knew anyone that wasn't Catholic so attending a Christian school where the majority of people I met shared different religious views from my own was a little confusing at first. In recent years with scandals and abuse in the Church, Catholicism hasn't been viewed in the best light lately and some people I came across interpreted my faith with a negative connotation. I'll be the first to admit that there is a long list of problems that need to be corrected in the Church but my first few months of college were some of the first times in my life that I had ever felt self-conscious about my faith.
Looking back on those first few months of college now that I'm home for the summer, I now realize that I'm happy that I decided to reach outside of my comfort zone. Throughout the course of my freshman year, I went to a nondenominational church with my friends and really enjoyed the service. We also started going to an event at the church that is geared towards college students and young adults continue to find God in their lives in this period of transition. And, a month ago I attended a Christian music concert that I never in a million years could have pictured myself going to.
Catholicism still is and always has been a defining characteristic of who I am as a person. But now, after attending my fair share of nondenominational services, I've realized that it doesn't matter what denomination of Christianity you practice, God is still the same God. He loves us no matter what.