The day it all began:
February 28th, 2017.
All I can feel is anxiety. I feel it flooding my veins and spreading to every ounce of me; chattering teeth and shuddering muscles are taking control. Memories of when things went south sprint in front of my eyes like a broken projector. I'm searching and searching for what went wrong; what I did wrong. Why did I eat all of that food? Why didn't I talk to her when she needed somebody? Why did he lie to me? Why did I do any of this? Where was God, and why wasn't he helping me? Even now, why isn't he helping me? I stare up at my white ceiling, crying uncontrollably.
"I trusted you, God. I TRUSTED you to make my life better, and it's only getting worse! WHERE ARE YOU?!" I scream at my white ceiling. But the white ceiling never replies, just like God, I guess.
I cling to my pillow, holding on for dear life. Holding onto it like it's the only thing I have left. Anger and anxiety are slowly ceasing, but weirdly I wish they wouldn't. Because I know what follows it: numbness. Somehow, I know that numbness is worse than any other feeling possible.
I'm suddenly snapped back to reality. Slowly, I reach over to grab my phone. Looking at the lock screen, I see a text from one of my best friends, Anna.
Anna: Hey, I know you're going through a lot right now, so if you're not doing anything right now
I wanted to see if you wanted to come to adoration with me and Katie?
Me: But I'm not Catholic, and I don't know how it works.
Anna: It doesn't matter if you're Catholic or not! And it's really simple:
you sit and meditate in the presence of Jesus. I think this could help you,
but it's ultimately up to you.
Me: I'll go with you. It couldn't hurt to see what it's like.
Anna: Yay, I'm glad you're coming! I'll get you in 5!
Twenty minutes later, we arrive at the church. Anxiety and fright are rising up... this is probably worthless. I haven't been able to find God anywhere lately, what if he isn't here, either? I can hear a voice in me, telling me to turn around. It's screaming and shouting at me, but I feel something in me that is more subtle and soft, yet stronger than the shouting, moving my legs down the green aisle framed by the wooden pews. As I sit down and get comfortable, the singers begin to sing songs of worship and strum chords of peace on their guitars. Finally, my body is calming down, and I'm not shaking anymore. However, my mind is still whirling through thoughts recklessly as a tornado does to a town.
But then all at once, I feel the anxiousness being swept away.
It feels as though a hand is in my mind, wiping away each thought rooted in anxiety and evil. For the first time, I have experienced silence and peace. And now I know that the Catholic church is my home, my freedom, and love.
* * *
So I wanted to use that short narrative to paint the picture of the first time I knew I was meant to be Catholic. I also want to prerequisite the rest of this article by saying that I'm not here to say that other religions are wrong. Rather, I'm saying that Catholicism was (and forever will be) right for me, and maybe it could be right for you, too. I just want to share my experience of conversion with others, so hopefully, the Holy Spirit can speak to someone who needs to hear about this. And with that, I hope you enjoy hearing my story!
Since that day in February, I knew that I needed to convert. I have never connected with Jesus in such a way before then, and I knew that I couldn't live the rest of my life never feeling that again. So after that, I slowly started going to Catholic masses so I could compare them to the Lutheran church's mass. While I had no idea what I was doing during the Catholic mass, I knew that Jesus was standing with me and guiding me through it. I can't fully describe it, but I just connected with Him on a deeper level than I normally would during a Lutheran mass. This is nothing against the Lutheran church, especially the one I always went to. I love the youth group and everyone else there, and the pastor is absolutely amazing. In fact, the hardest part about converting was telling them about it because the last thing I wanted to do was hurt them in any way. However, I am blessed with an amazing pastor and friends, like I said before, and they all supported me and my decision.
The summer of 2017, I went to Lifeteen with Anna and Katie, which is their youth group. Here we were tasked with giving witnesses, or moments we experienced God in our lives. Going there fresh from Big Stuf Camps, the youth group camp my Lutheran church went to each year, I knew immediately what I wanted to talk about (click here to read my witness).
After two weeks of preparing it, it was time to go in front of everyone and give it. Before it was my turn, I could feel the nerves taking over my body, but I just prayed through it. I prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide me through this, give me the right words to say, and use my emotions and experience to impact someone else. Finally, it was my turn. I sat in front of everyone, and before I even started telling my story I started sobbing. Normally, I would feel ashamed of showing this to everyone, but I knew that the Holy Spirit had a plan for this witness to help me and others, so I accepted the humility and told my story.
Following my witness, I saw that I touched other people and impacted their lives. Honestly, that's all I could ever wish for. After Lifeteen was done, though, I talked with the youth minister leading it. He asked me if I ever thought about joining the Catholic Church, and I told him how that is exactly what I wanted to do, and I wanted to do it as soon as I could. And this is when I found out about RCIA*.
Fast forward a couple months, and it's September. I couldn't wait any longer for this month because September officially marked the beginning of RCIA, which goes on for 7 months. At my perish, St. Thomas More University Perish, I went to class from 7-9 every Wednesday (I still am, too! We finish in two weeks!) and learned about the Catholic faith (everything from the layout of mass to God's plan for love and sexuality).
Thankfully, I wasn't alone during this. I had my wonderful sponsor** Emily to help guide me along the path to God! I feel so blessed to have gone on this journey with her, and I definitely would not have made it without her by my side.
With each class, I felt myself grow even closer to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Even when there was something difficult for me to comprehend (The Eucharist is mystifying, people.), I knew that it was okay because I have my whole lifetime to learn more about it and grow closer to the Holy Trinity. Also, it's totally okay to ask questions as you're converting, and I definitely did. If you aren't questioning, then you aren't learning!
Now we're fast-forwarding once again, to March 17th, 2018, the day I experienced the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) for the first time.
Let me tell you, the moments leading up to reconciliation were TERRIFYING. I mean, how was I supposed to confess 19 years worth of sins? As I sat waiting for it to be my turn, I felt so unbelievably anxious. I was sitting near the confessional, praying "Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner" over and over again, looking at the Eucharist for comfort. This was during adoration, so there was also some instrumental music playing in the background.
And while I sat there praying this prayer over and over just feeling extremely anxious, I heard an instrumental version of 'Flicker' by Niall Horan come on. This may seem ridiculous to some people, but I knew that was God's way of comforting me (because Niall is my favorite singer) and calming me down as I was about to go in.
And guys, I walked out of that confessional a whole new person. I felt lighter and liberated from my sins; there was nothing tying me to the devil anymore! Ever since this day, I haven't had any extreme mental health issues, and I see God wherever I go.
Before I knew it, it was Easter Vigil (March 31st, 2018): the night Jesus rose, the night I joined the church, and the night I finally got to receive Jesus in the form of the Eucharist (first communion). I can't even begin to tell you how many times I cried that night.
I am so blessed to be Catholic, and I'm so blessed to now see the world in Living color, through God's eyes. He has filled me with love, and I plan to live in this and help others to live in this for all the days of my life. I can't wait to see what God has in store for me from here on out, because I know these 7 months are only the beginning.
"This love I speak of means that we must live in obedience to God's commands. The command, as you have all heard from the beginning, is that you must all live in love." -II John 1:6
*RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
**A sponsor is someone 18 or older who is catholic. They come to the classes with you, give you advice, and support you along your journey of initiation into the church.