My mother came from a Catholic family. I'm pretty sure her dad was Catholic only because of my grandmother. His family was supposedly somehow scandalized in the old country (Bohemia) and left the church. My grandmother was devoutly Catholic and outwardly spiritual. Masses were constantly being said for us as well as novenas.
My father came from a staunchly German Lutheran family. I always had the feeling that Catholics were looked down upon although no one ever said anything about it. On that side, no one said much of anything anyway ;) My grandmother was a truly Christian woman. She knew about suffering, self sacrifice and bore it well.
When it came time for my parents to marry, they married in the Catholic Church and my father promised to raise any children in the Catholic faith. So, for years, we went to Mass with my mom while my dad attended the Lutheran service. Once in a while, we went to church together.
When I was in 5th grade, my parents decided to enroll us in the local Catholic school. They thought our local public school was too unconventional with its open classrooms and team teaching. As an aside, I LOVED that school and learned an enormous amount there. Unfortunately, the Catholic school was mind numbingly boring. Really. Recently, I came across the St. Francis prayer. I remember we said it everyday at the Catholic school. I look back now and realize that the prayer was what helped me through those long years without running screaming from the building. The thing that was great about the school were the kids. I had a really nice class and most of the kids were kind and loving. Sadly, my poor sister had a much different group.
When I was a sophomore in high school, my mom's best friend from high school decided to leave the Catholic Church and become Assembly of God. This decision spurred my mom to start shopping for a new church. For a variety of reasons, she wasn't happy with the church anymore. My sister and I went with her to different churches in the area. I tried some of the youth groups but, never felt comfortable. I never felt comfortable in the churches either. The music and enthusiasm were great. But, they wanted to you come down to the front and declare Jesus as your Lord and Savior. I could never do that and somehow because I couldn't do that, I felt less of a Christian.
One day, my mom announced that she wanted to become Lutheran. Lutheran!!! I couln't believe it. It was such a departure from the churches we were visiting and there was really no discussion about it. So, my mom, sister and I started classes to become Lutheran. By now, I was a senior in high school so I was older and had just about had it. I came home from the first class and told my parents that I didn't want to become Lutheran. Then, the night before the confirmation, my father literally, got on his knees and begged me to become Lutheran. He wanted me to have a place to come if I needed a church. I couldn't say no to him. So, I was confirmed Lutheran. I have to say it was one of the most suffocating moments of my life.
After that, I did not set foot in a church for ten years. I literally could not stomach anything religious. I still believed in God and Jesus but, I was so lost. Even now, writing about it, I'm having the same physical reaction I used to have when I thought about church- pit in my stomach, racing heart, anger welling up. I absolutely loved being Catholic and it was ripped away from me.
Looking back, I realize that I could have driven myself to Mass. I could have talked to a priest. But, that's not what I did. Unfortunately, I believed the lies I was told about the church. Although I don't agree with what my parents did, I completely understand and forgive them. They were doing what they thought was best. They never, never would have done anything other than give us their best. I also believe poor catechesis and a lukewarm parish were responsible. My family, cooperating with the Holy Spirit, gave me the greatest gift they could- they gave me faith. And that faith kept me close to Jesus who turned this big mess into something beautiful.
God is a seeker and he is the God of Surprises. He found me, brought me home and gave me the surprise of my life......