Monday, June 17, 2013

My Journey Towards the Church: Grace and the Sacraments

This is the fourth post in a series about how I came to be Catholic. The first post can be read here. The second post is here. The third, here.  I'd also like to begin this post with a disclaimer: The following explanation is how I came to understand Catholic teaching. However, as you know if you've hung around here very much, I'm a mom and a wife, not a theologian. I've done my best to sum up what I've learned, but remember, this blog doesn't come with an imprimatur!

I was a kid who dragged my feet every single Sunday when it came to getting up, putting on a dress and making my way to church with my family.  Did I love God?  Yes.  But I just didn't quite get what exactly it was at church that I couldn't get by praying and reading the Bible on my own (oh the problems of an introvert!).  Our church was pretty, everyone was nice... but I just didn't see what was particularly special about going out to sing and pray, which were both things that I could do on my own.

Going to church was something that I was supposed to do... and while I went begrudgingly I somehow developed the sort of mentality where I thought that I deserved a gold medal for doing it, despite my unenthusiastic attitude.

When I began attending Mass with Paul, the dramatic changes between the services I'd been to in the past and the liturgy, with all the sitting and standing and kneeling and responses, kept me from getting bored, even before I believed in the Eucharist.  There was so much to look at.  I was used to simple white walls with a cross at the head of the room (the church I grew up in was a lovely old stone church made from river rocks from the river that cut through the town I grew up in and I still think it's one of the prettiest buildings I've ever seen)... and the Catholic church, with it's statues and tabernacle and Way of the Cross seemed so busy.  There was so much to look at.  What was that baby Jesus statue with the crown and the ball with the cross on top of it in his hand?  Who was depicted in the statue in the corner, which showed a woman in brown and white and off white and black, with her arms full of roses and a rosary in her hand?

But still... going to Church was a favor I did God, once or twice a week.

And then, quite suddenly, it wasn't.  Suddenly I realized that my life had been flooded with a grace far beyond anything I had reason to expect and everything was changing so fast that I wasn't quite sure how it was happening.  Old friends saw me and asked what was different.  Something dramatic had changed.  They imagined that it must have been finding the right person and getting married, but as Paul and I watched our lives change dramatically we knew that it had far more to do with the reception of the sacraments, than anything we could have come up with on our own.

I'm still stubborn and short tempered more often than I care to admit.  But the grace of the sacraments, going to Mass at least once a week, along with going to confession as often as I can get out the door on my own (which is to say, not as often as I'd like these days), temper that stubbornness and impatience.  I can tell you when it's been over four weeks since my last good confession, because I start to feel snappier.  Life is just harder.

The sacraments give me a fighting chance in this world where many things seem to conspire to weigh us down in the mire and mud of worldliness.  I still find myself falling flat on my face pretty frequently when I lose my temper and reject that grace...  but it's there.  And I can get back up, pray for forgiveness (and go to confession) and know that whatever trials come, God's grace is sufficient to overcome them.

In this world it's not uncommon to think of going to church as some gift that we give God.  We might feel as if we can pat ourselves on the back after making it on Sunday, because we've done what we're "supposed to" do.  I'm not immune to this, with my merry band of troublemakers... But the truth is, we've only done what we're supposed to do.  We've done the bare minimum of what's been asked for us that morning.  And what we've received in return, an influx of grace to overcome temptation and say "yes!" to God, is a gift we're receiving in return for our meager efforts and it's without measure.

Going to Mass isn't a gift we give God.  It's a treasure that he's given, waiting for us to show up and receive it.  It's the sacrifice that he's made, and in the fulfillment of the promise that if we eat this bread and drink this cup we shall have life.  And showing up?  It's the greatest favor we can do for ourselves.  Just being open to God's grace can go a long way in this crazy little world.


This series will be continued soon!  I'll add the link once it's up!


  1. I find your journey so compelling. We just joined the Church this last Easter. I love that you have gone through a very similar process in finding your Faith.

  2. Please check out this website sister!


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