I'll be honest, for the past three and a half years, I have only gone to church on Christmas Eve. At my church, as I recall, we used to jokingly call people that came to mass only on Christmas and Easter "Creasters." I'm not even that. It sounds pretty embarrassing, I know. How can I still call myself a Catholic? Shouldn't I be ashamed of myself?
Up until a little over two weeks ago, I didn't care. I didn't care that in middle and high school I was one of those kids who liked going to church events (I went at least two times a week) and now I cringe at my mom saying to me she thinks I should get involved again. I didn't care that I had such profound experiences and met amazing people through church and now those people are practically strangers to me.
I didn't care that I used to believe in anything and everything that the Catholics were "supposed to" and now I haven't even thought about God or prayer for years. Even as I sit here and write in a public place, I find myself looking over my shoulder to see if someone is judging me for writing about my faith when my younger self would proudly vocally state that I am a practicing Catholic.
It never phased me that I got made fun of in high school with kids saying "oh you're a Catholic school girl, you're probably a freak in bed." But now? I'd be incredibly embarrassed if someone walked up to me and said that. Today, you can ask any of my friends what religion I am, they'd likely say I don't have one. I never even cared to think what changed in my life that caused me to change my mind about my faith up until a little over two weeks ago.
What caused me to think about it two weeks ago? One of my friends, who didn't grow up with religion and never has been introduced to it at all, went to a church event at school. Someone who had never even known God was giving it a chance, and there I was, I knew God so well in my past and I basically had been giving him the middle finger for years.
I was ashamed and started to contemplate why I didn't go to church anymore, why I didn't believe what I used to, why I questioned things about Catholicism now when I never had a problem with it initially. It was on the forefront of my mind for days, I couldn't focus on anything else. I even went on a big rant explaining to one of my coworkers how the Harry Potter series had Christian references and could be debated that it is a Pro-Christian series. And then again with my one of my best friends.
I kept saying to myself that if I was thinking about it so much then why didn't I just get my butt up and go to church, but I haven't been able to bring myself to do it. I was too obsessed with how I could change my opinion on Catholicism in what seemed like really quick. Come to think of it, I can pinpoint the moment where I stopped going to mass, which in turn resulted in me questioning more and more of my religion and it was a downward spiral from there.
Towards the end of my senior year of high school, there was someone in my life who was really important to me. They didn't practice religion at all and I think I really began to question why I believed what I did because of them. They were all about proof and fact, and I started to question all of the profound experiences and started thinking weren't good enough for me to believe anymore.
As I got closer and closer to this person, a gradual fade happened with my faith. I first stopped going to mass, then I started to question beliefs, I stopped praying, and then I stopped believing in God himself. Through years of spending time with this person, I stopped even thinking about my religion. It stopped mattering to me and stopped being important in my life.
As college hit, I was living in a dorm on my own and it was more important to me to have a job and focus on school rather than find a church close to Eastern. I then surrounded myself with people that don't talk about religion, maybe on a rare occasion, but. It doesn't seem like a common conversation in college. I don't know if it is the embarrassment of talking about religion, but whatever it is the result made me think about my faith less and less.
These were, and still are, my friends, and as I started to spend more and more time with these people, my faith just got farther and farther away from me. I joined a sorority, and the meetings were on Sundays, which gave me just even more reason not to go.
This summer, specifically around two months ago, two pretty big things happened. First, I made the decision to drop out of my sorority. It was a big decision and I felt like the moment it happened, I would lose all of the friends I made in it (which hasn't been the case but that is a story for another day).
Second, the person from high school isn't exactly in my life anymore. For a little over a month, I put on a face to everyone to show them I was okay when I felt like I was dying on the inside. I felt so lonely even though I was surrounded by my family and best friend from high school. It has been the most depressed I've been in the longest time. I didn't know what to do with myself.
Then two weeks ago, that friend of time when to the church event at school. It was kind of like getting a new prescription for my glasses. I realized, that with these things that I've gone through in the past two months, I didn't have my faith to fall back on. Every struggle I had been through in high school, I always had my faith and prayer, and this time I didn't.
So now I come to the biggest question: now what? I feel like I have to start from scratch, I have to learn to love God as much as I used to. I've been away from the mass for so long, I don't even know if I remember the prayers that are said. Shoot, I need to learn to pray again. What if I go back and everything about the mass is different and I don't know what to do? What if I don't know anyone from the church anymore?
I didn't realize how much anxiety I have towards going back to church, but I know I want to. Even when I've told myself "I'll go on Sunday" I haven't been able to bring myself to go. So now what?
I know one thing for sure. I want to get back to my faith. I want to know and love God the way I used to. I want to get involved again.
I think that it will take me a while to get back to where I was, and I know that it will probably be baby steps given how much anxiety I have even just thought about it. I know that I have taken a small step already, even though it seems silly. I started to wear my grandmother's cross necklace. Just the comfort of knowing that I have something of hers helps me wear it a little more proudly.
I used to wear a cross necklace all the time in high school, and I think the symbolism of just putting it back on after so long is why it matters to me. Even so, having the cross around my neck has helped me start talking to God again. I know it's a small step, but this one step I know will lead to another on this road of finding my faith again.