Where did you get your faith from?

Last week my staff and I spent a wonderful two days out at the Tyburn Monastery on retreat. What a fantastic way to start the year. One of the highlights for me was sitting in Mass and hearing the nuns pray for our school and our students. Forget about all of the paperwork, planning and other prep that foreshadows a school year – this was probably the most effective prep we could get!

While out there I met a visiting priest from Sydney – he is the rector of the seminary there and was staying at Tyburn for a couple of weeks, ministering to the nuns and preparing his new paper on moral theology. As you can imagine, we had some great chats.

When he first met me he asked me a question, "Where did you get your faith?". I answered that I was a "cradle Catholic", but he said that there are many cradle Catholics that have lost their faith and he asked me again, "Where did you get your faith?" We were interupted at that point so I never got to answer him, but it's something I've thought a lot about over the past week. 

I guess my faith came from many places. I had a very strong Catholic upbringing, but then so did my brother and he is no longer Catholic. I got a great Catholic education and was taught by nuns, but then so was everyone else in my class and I believe there are only two of us still attending Mass. 

I think my faith came from an uncanny combination of things…

  • my Catholic upbringing and education
  • the fact that all of the rituals, symbols and stories really appealed to me as a little girl – much more so than others in my class – I would spend hours pouring over our family bible or reading the lives of the Saints
  • I spent most of my 20s away from the faith and only came back to it when I was living in England. It was like coming "home" and gave me stability and a link to my family who were so far away
  • I was lucky enough to have some amazing Catholic experiences at around this same time while I was travelling – mass with Pope John Paul II, a visit to Walsingham, a Good Friday pilgrimage through the streets of Florence, a week in Rome – all of these made me aware that I was part of something much bigger than just my little parish in NZ
  • My brother became a Pentecostal Christian and began constantly questioning what Catholics believe – which meant that I had to upskill and really think about what we believe and why we believe it
  • My job as a DRS where I lived and breathed Catholicism for 4 years – both at home and at work
  • Getting sick and having to depend on God big-time certainly made my faith stronger
  • Through my work, getting to know some pretty amazing Catholics – the people who run Hearts Aflame, numerous priests, the nuns at Tyburn, elderly parishioners etc.

And, that's why my faith is so strong. Of course, the seed came from God, but all of these experiences and many others watered it and grew it. 

I'd love to hear from some of you… where did you get your faith?

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    Comments: 14

    1. Teresina February 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      M&M, maybe he was waiting for you to say, "It was a gift from God that not all are given"?

    2. bamac February 5, 2014 at 12:39 pm

      I very much agree Teresina …. a gift from God that not everyone is given ,a gift that our efforts could not have earned and for which we should be ever thanking Him  and for which we should offer many prayers for the grace of final perseverance .

       M&M .. what a wonderful way to prepare for your year at teaching …. what a great gift from God for all of you ,

      Shalom ,
      Mrs Mac

    3. Teresina February 5, 2014 at 1:04 pm

      I agree with you, Mrs Mac, that is a wonderful way to prepare for M&M to prepare her year of teaching and how lucky those children are to have her as their teacher – I bet there will be a few in future years who will thank her for their perserverence in the faith!

    4. Rubyshine February 5, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      A retreat would be an amazing way to start the working year.

      As to your question I was raised in a catholic family, but Mum behaved as though it was an obligation, Dad is aggressively hostile towards religion, and none of my siblings are part of any church.

      When I first started attending church I thought it was a nice quiet time to reflect, and to listen to some wise words. When it occurred to me that I actually believed in God I was really fought the idea at first, before slowly coming to terms with it. Chatting to my parish priest one day, he suggested that I must have been really open to the holy spirit. Which I think must be true of everyone who develops faith.

      What has helped me with my faith:

      - adoration has been invaluable. I prepare for it quite thoughtfully, and everytime I go I end up with extraordinary clarification.

      - Mixing with other Christians (I work with a number of openly faithful people), has helped me to feel more comfortable developing my own faith.

      - Having to tell key people in my life about my faith where the conversation basically started off with me saying, "so it turns out I believe in God…" and having a huge range of reactions has helped my confidence in my faith, and been the basis for some fascinating conversations.

      - Having a parish priest who on numerous occasions, whether in his sermons or in conversation, has said just what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it.

      I'm still working through a range of issues in terms of the catholic teachings. I know some people here feel that if you don't believe it all then why call yourself a catholic? Which is a fair question and I suppose I am just taking my time addressing one thing at a time, learning the catechism, getting to understand the scripture and the thinking, and how that ties in with my previously held beliefs. 

      It's important to me that I develop a well-rounded faith. That is, not just what is my own interpretation of things, shaped to suit my own thinking. But equally not just one that blindly believes because I am told to, with no depth of understanding.

    5. Benedicta February 5, 2014 at 9:40 pm

      Its always interesting learning how faith happens!

      There are probably similarities.

      I grew up in a non practising non-conformist home. The street where we lived had all sorts of interesting families including at least three Catholic families. My mother got on well with all the neighbours and we often visited down the street when I was a preschooler. So I can say that I was quite smitten, like Mary and Martha, with the Catholic symbols. Mesmerised by a painting of the Last Supper and I remember asking who that Lady was….The Immaculate Heart of Mary.

      Apart from that early introduction my belief in Jesus as God was given to me by two sources…my non-conformist grandmother and my Baptist Sunday School classes. In the classes we often drew pictures of the Bible stories. I remember carefully choosing my house which I would draw on a Rock! (I think God was winking at me then!). Not bad for a six year old to get that right.

      But from there on out it was extraordinary experiences. Even as a child one in particular of the Presence of God. I also had a fight with my best friend over the importance of believing in Jesus. Then I was struck later by a headline in the paper as a 14 year old. It said 'God is Dead'. I was horrified and forthrightly struck up a magnificent speech for the school speech competitions to put things right on that score.

      At 15 I went to the Catholic girls high school. I went to my first Mass; I was a bit nervous! I had never been to something like that…only a service with preaching and hymns. When the priest elevated Our Lord I saw a great golden light flash from it in a great orb which filled the sanctuary. I jumped up with shock but no one else seemed to notice. I thought it fairly profound and that Catholic's had something important. I asked the new friend I had made what it was…what the priest raised up…and she said it was the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and wine. I was smitten and knew it was absolutely true that it was really Jesus.

      So I believed in Jesus and then I was given the gift of faith in the Real Presence.

      That's it really for a long time. At the time I asked lots of questions and had sessions of instruction with a chaplain but it was very low key on content and requirements. I was Confirmed in the Church two years or so after that experience. The priest who instructed me was on the wrong side of most things and parted ways with his priestly ministry.

      Go ahead a number of years after lapsing from the Church. The death of an aunt saw us spend time in the Anglican Church where my husband found his faith feet. Then through anti-catholicism I found myself defending the Church once again and so at the same time talked myself into returning. It was sudden and dramatic (I'll spare you the details). That brought more extraordinary experiences of an equally profound nature which can be summarised as 'welcome home I'm Jesus'. I'm not being flippant it was the epochal moment of my life.

      That was followed by suitable and wholly and holy Catholic friends to help us (my husband had become Catholic too). Followed by even more extraordinary experiences (upwards and downwards) and even more and even more. This fed even more  the desire for learning…why wouldn't I want to know more and even more about this kind and beautiful God who satisfies every human longing. So I study to stay close in a way alongside prayer. Study and prayer…so here we are.

      I love the Church but I find as many people moan about it on the inside as they do on the outside…but God has it all sorted. I think just keep turning up and keep looking for him. I never want to offend God again. I agree with Teresina that it is a simple faith.

      We have also had the privilege of experiencing the Church in other countries…including Rome, Prague, Berlin, Jerusalem, and some of Eastern Europe. It truly opens your eyes to the magnificence of its forms.

      I don't know what I want from life beyond the ordinary things…but I do know that when I die I want nothing whatsoever between myself and the love of Christ. Nothing here is worth compromising that final end.

       

    6. Rubyshine February 5, 2014 at 9:53 pm

      I also stumbled across this article http://www.nzcatholic.org.nz/2013/12/13/god-speaks-in-whispers-so-silence-needed-before-christmas-pope-says/ which, as someone who struggles with the idea of being loved by God, and who loves the stillness and silence that adoration brings into my life, really resonated with me.

    7. Teresina February 5, 2014 at 10:04 pm

      That is very interesting, Rubyshine.  Like you I am a cradle Catholic and I was born into a family who were very strong in the faith – an Irish background.  The earliest thing I can remember is my mother used to tuck me in at night and she used to say, "Roll over and make room for your Guardian Angel".  I imagined my Guardian Angel as an adult so I used to move over in the bed as far as I could to give my Guardian Angel enough room.  Years later I laughed about it and said to mum, "Didn't you wonder why I used to sleep right on the edge of the bed" but she hadn't noticed!  My earliest memories of Mass was seeing the priest – I used to watch his arms making movements like mum making dough – it was actually him making the sign of the cross over the bread and wine, as I know now.  Then after a while I would see him lean forward and open the door to what I thought was the oven (the tabernacle) and then he would raise the bread up in the air – I imagined that was showing us it was cooked!  Sometimes we would go to an evening Mass at St Mary of the Angels and it must have been getting on for winter because I would watch the stain glass crucifix slowly darken and I knew it would soon be time to go home!  Then it came time for school and it wasn't long before I was receiving preparation for my first confession and First Holy Communion.  I don't remember what happened with confession but I remember my First Communion Day as if it were yesterday.  I remember the priest taking us into the church and opening the tabernacle which was lined all in white satin.  That made a very strong impression on me and I realised it was something important in there and of course we received appropriate instructions.

      I remember leading up to that day practising fervently receiving odd fellows on the tongue from my cousin who was acting as priest.  She was a few years older than me and so made sure I did everything correctly.  My First Communion Day was sunny.  I remember a lot of the parishioners came.  We all had white dresses and mum made mine and a veil to match.  Sister picked me and another girl to be the leaders in and out of the church, and we each had a medal of the Blessed Sacrament which the nuns pinned on to our dresses with a white ribbon.  The boys had a medal and wore a white sash.  I remember the hymns (which Mrs Mac will probably remember); One was My First Communion Day, "Where Blessed Jesus may repose my first Communion day".  The other hymn I remember was Godhead here in Hiding Whom I do adore – that was my favourite and I love it still today because every time I hear it it takes me back to that day.  My mother gave me a little missal which I still have which she inscribed "with love from her mother on her First Communion".  I owe a lot to her and if I end up half like her some day I will be grateful.  I remember my aunt weeping as she apparently always did at First Communions;   From that day forward I never looked back.  I was lucky of course that we had a wonderful Croatian priest as our parish priest for over eight years – he used to give us catechism instructions and I remember candlemass which he used to have in the early hours of the morning, walking home after Mass with mum and my brother, the birds beginning to sing after all the candles was really beautiful and I remember it to this day.  I don't know why but I have never ever experienced any doubts about the Faith, I have never had any trouble accepting any of the teachings of the Church.  I have always loved being a Catholic.  I have always loved the Faith – every part of it and it is my greatest treasure.  I really owe it all to my mother, her family and their great Faith which was just a normal, natural every day part of life.  I developed a great love for the Blessed Sacrament through my aunt and the love she had which was so visible when she received communion.  My mother used to lauch and say about her sister, "She's nearly bent double when she comes back from Communion and because of that I stand straight up like a ramrod  behind her".  Mum felt a little embarrassed at her sister's fervour, but she said to me "There is nothing put on about it, it is just that when she receives communion she is totally wrapped up in Our Lord" and she was, too, until the day she died. With examples like that how could anyone not be influenced for the better, deo gratias.  

    8. Rubyshine February 5, 2014 at 10:31 pm

      Teresina – part of me is envious of a person who has never had cause to doubt, and who can speak with such confidence.

      However, the journey I find myself on is exciting and joyful. Even though, at times, it has been all kinds of, throw-my-hands-in-the-air,-walk-away-and-give-up-because-this-believiing-in God-business-is-too-hard-and-I-could-just weep-with-frustration, difficult, everday it seems to get a little easier and make a little more sense.

    9. Teresina February 5, 2014 at 10:57 pm

      Yes, I am just grateful because I understand how difficult it must be and I equally admire anyone who has overcome hardships, doubts and difficulties – look at Mother Teresa, who would have imagined that she would ever had had doubts.  

      At one stage in my twenties I used to help some of the nuns in Island Bay.  I loved helping them and they suggested that I might consider a vocation.  That threw me into a tizz because I loved helping them and I loved my job too.  I got to the stage where I was half way in and half way out.  I didn't know what to do.  So I decided that I would make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament every day after work and that if God wanted me to be a nun He would surely give me the indication.  So I went along to a local church after work.  Settled myself in and started to pray.  No sooner had I done that then there was all this banging and crashing.  An elderly man came in and was tidying round the sanctuary and doing all sorts of things, so I wasn't able to concentrate much.  I went back the next night and the same thing happened, and then the next night.  I decided that perhaps he was a bit lonely and so I went and spoke to him.   He ended up inviting me to his flat for a drink.  There he told me his life story which was amazing really.  He told me that as a young boy his mother gave him a crucifix not long before he died.  He said he had a very violent father and so at the age of seven he ran away to the circus.  The only thing he took with him was the crucifix his mother gave him.  He said that he had been taught leather work and showed me leather belts and things that he had made.  He said, "I lived a tough life.  There wasn't one thing I didn't do.  You name it, I did it".  This life went on for 40 years until one Sunday he woke up and got the overwhelming feeling that he should go to Mass.  He said, "I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep, but no matter how I tried, I couldn't".  He eventually got up and went to St Mary's to Mass.  He said the priest was giving a sermon on confession and he was pointing his finger, "That finger seemed to be pointing at me".  So he decided to go to confession.  In those days he said, the confession queues were long at St Mary's.  He said he would get to the head of the queue and lose courage and go back to the end again, until finally a woman poked him in the ribs and said, "I think we're in the same boat.  You go that side and I'll go this side", so he did and he said it was the easiest confession he had ever made.  He never missed Mass again.  He gave up the old life, got married to the love of his life who had died a few years before.  He showed me a book of names of all the parishioners and the date they had died.  He said, "I arrange a Mass on their anniversaries, but when I die there will be no one to remember me and my wife".  I said to him, "I'll remember you, Tom" and I always do.  Sometimes I have forgotten and then something prompts me and I so he never misses out as he feared.  It shows how God takes care of things.  Often he used to come and meet me sometimes at lunch time.  My one regret is that the last time I saw him on the seat waiting but because I had arranged to meet a boyfriend that I had just recently met at lunch time, I skipped off without seeing him and I never got the chance again because he died a day or so later … and so you see why I never became a nun – obviously God had other ideas for me …

    10. bamac February 6, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      Rubushine,

      Many of us suffer sometimes from the same sort of doubts that you mentioned in your last comment …. God in His love permits us to experience these dry and doubting times not so much as crosses but as gifts from Him,  for when we are in the midst of such times and we turn still to Him whom our feelings doubt and tell Him that despite our feelings,that we love Him and want to love Him more and more  and accept our dryness out of love for Him and for the saving of souls … how much He must love our prayer that comes from our will and not from what they call " warm Fuzzy feelings' when we FEEL close to Him ….. just think how many graces you might thus obtain for the souls of those young ones He has given you to help for Him.

        After the birth of our second son , David, life for me changed quite some for David was a Downs Syndrom baby  who was born with a remarkably strong heart but weak lungs which caused him to have many choking and breathless  fits on ever so many days  throughout the four and a bit short years of his life …. when these fits came upon him any time of day  I would have to put him over my knee with his head hanging down and fight like a Kilkenny cat pommeling his back until he was once more able to breathe .  Some days I felt that I had the horse of my life trying to push life's cart instead of pull it … my wonderful God provided parish priest made me promise to ring him when I felt this way … he used to be on my doorstep in quick time for I was homebound for most of the time .   Father assured me that he too had times of doubt … he told me , with a smile, that if , after he died , and found that the atheist friend of his was right and he was wrong and there was no Heaven , he was going to be more than a little mad!.

      Since then I have met good holy nuns who have shared with me about their times when God has gifted them with times of doubt and dryness  …. when we read the lives of some saints we see how they too have had such periods in their lives ….. how many graces they must have received from God because of ther constancy throughout such experiences.My prayer that God might let my sharing be of the same help to you Rubyshine as that given to me was to me on my life journey  ( and still is .bless God)

      Shalom ,

      Mrs Mac

    11. withhope February 6, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      From Good Faithful Priests who love saving souls:

       

      http://marymagdalen.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/pray-for-paul-now-and-at-hour-of-his.html

       'Tonight Paul, who looks a little like St Paul, came to the door asking for absolution, Normally he comes asking for a few pounds or sees me in town and asks for my blessing, something few of my parishioners ask for. Now, he has lost control of both his bladder and bowels, he is convinced he is dying, he is an alcoholic, he tells me he has sclerosis of the liver. He wanted me to pray he would go to heaven and go soon. He asked me to say that prayer which he couldn't remember but it had, 'pray for me now and the hour of my death'. I told him all that was necessary that he should say the words he remembered, with as much faith as he had.

      I went into church for Exposition, he was kneeling there in the pew alongside Ann one of our parishioners. Even on the sanctuary, even with the incense, it was possible to smell his breath, he stayed there kneeling for about half an hour, got up and went to kneel on the sanctuary steps before the Blessed Sacrament where I had knelt, he got up and helped by Ann left as silently as he had prayed, going back to a shop doorway where he normally spends the night.

      Pray for him that his prayer might be answered soon and that those words, "pray for me now and at the hour of my death", may indeed gain him heaven.

      And give thanks that this priest was able to glimpse the great beauty of the faith of this poor man.'

       

       

    12. Rubyshine February 6, 2014 at 9:42 pm

      Teresina, Bamac and Withhope, thank you for sharing those stories of your own and others. They are all uplifting and humbling in their own way.

    13. MaryandMartha February 6, 2014 at 10:29 pm

      I agree Rubyshine. I love these stories. Thank you all for sharing. What a wonderful gift our faith is!

    14. Boanerges February 7, 2014 at 5:00 am

      For me my faith was initially formed in growing up in a strong Catholic family. We grew up very aware of our Irish and Italian ancestry which was centred around mass practices, reverence for the Faith and on the importance of family first. 

      As I grew up it was the influence of being in a Catholic school which really shaped my beliefs and love of Church community life. Then through my teen years, being part of an active parish youth group with passionate inspiring leaders gave me guidance through some difficult years. As well as the typical teen angst issues I had a number of people around me die through my 16-18 years, some in very tragic and unfathomable ways. This led to questioning, disillusionment and to time away from my faith practices.

      My reengagement came through involvement in a charismatic non-denominational  group which was really a place in which I was able to make sense of, and peace with, these deaths. I stayed involved with that group for a long period of my life and still look back on it as the time of my life where I really grew up from a boy to a man. It was in those years that I married, had children, consolidated my career pathway, and formed adult opinions and beliefs of my faith outside the family nucleus I grew up with. I regularly fellowshipped with a wide cross section of people – successful businesspeople, "strugglers", those with various ailments and others with exceptional giftings…my eyes were really opened to a wide cross section of society beyond la familia that I had grown up with. It was not perfect, and there were reasons why I eventually left it, but it did have a profound impact in shaping me as a person. 

      During that long period my mass practices and church involvement were irregular and I knew deep within, as my faith took a greater importance in my life, that I needed to change my priorities. Since making that decision, and through shifting to another centre for work purposes, I have reengaged with church life and it has now been that way for many years. I still have the same struggles and doubts that many have but for better or worse I am committed to the Catholic life! 

      So in a nutshell, where did I get my faith from? 

      clannad

      catholic schooling

      life experiences

      involvement in charismatic renewal

      commitment to parish life

      Great topic choice! Really interesting to hear something of other people's stories.