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Now that I have shared all the reasons why no one should ever read my blog again (you are back – brave you), I thought it might be appropriate to share what it was that made me “revert” to the Catholic faith. After all, this is a Catholic blog so I suppose I should address the question of “why are you Catholic?”

So, here we go!

By the time I was in my early 20s, life had pretty much set me up to become a raving anti-Catholic. And I mean raving. Foaming liberals would have had nothing on me! I was livid come to life in a pair of jeans! (My poor Catholic grandma, God rest her soul. She would just stare at me with shock and then promptly head to battle – with her rosary. Thank heavens for my grandma!)

Yep, this was my definition for the Catholic Church in my early days.

My anti-Catholicism set-up was classic. Liberal Catholic school (do parents really expect their children to come out of that experience feeling good about the Catholic faith?), a “one hour Catholic family” (you know, Sunday Mass and then five minutes after leaving the church you are wondering if they heard a word the priest said), a nun who threw me into a wall…the list goes on and on.

Then there was the matter of books. In my late teens, I somehow managed to get my hands on a pile of information relating to the Catholic Church and it’s history. I devoured all that I could, and soon it was my passionate mission to educate everyone that the reason Catholicism was so lousy today was because of how lousy it was a hundred years ago, two hundred years ago, five hundred years ago…in short, it was just plain lousy in every century of history for the last two thousand years and what was wrong with everyone that they could not see this? Did I have to bang it into people’s heads that this was one messed up Church? Can head banging get you into trouble if it is not your head you are banging?

Well armed and loaded with ammunition, I was sure I could take out anyone who attempted to defend such a “rotten” organization.

All this was until the day I came across one little innocent Penguin Classics book neatly hidden away on the shelf of a Barnes & Noble bookstore.

I can still remember the day I found that book. I pulled it out from its  nestled perch, turned it over, read the back, and became almost instantly intrigued by it’s description. Something about an unbalanced woman who still managed to find God despite everything that was against her. Hmmm…that sounded a little close to home! Maybe I could relate to this. I turned it over in my hands and inspected the cover.

“The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself.”

An autobiography of a saint.

But what made me actually buy this book? I mean, Catholicism was not exactly high on my list of favorite topics, unless I could get all the juicy dirt to launch my next attack. I think I even put the book back once or twice but kept taking it back out. Something about that book called to me. Finally, I felt I had to read it.

The cover of the book that I dog-eared and smudged to no end as I toted it everywhere I went

For the next month or so, I carried that book with me everywhere. It went with me to the islands, where I snuck away from my friends and found a little hermits nest to freely live in my nerdy little world of Spanish nuns and reformation spirituality. It went with me on camping trips to the forest, where I would hide in the car, trying to get some good light rather than join everyone near the bonfire. I was addicted.

I had also met my match.

By the time I finished that book, all I could think was “wow.”

One big, gigantic, over-the-top, jaw-dropping, deer-in-the-headlights, “wow.”

Then, silence.

The next thought was a little more timid, but it went something like this; “is that really what the Catholic Church is supposed to be like?”

Hmmm…

The third thought was completely foreign, but bravely announced itself to my anti-Catholic self; “if that is what the Catholic Church is really supposed to be like, then that is the Church that I want to be apart of! Not the lousy, wishy-washy, hypocritical, spiritless Church I grew up with – but that church! Saint Teresa of Avila’s Church! The Catholic Church of the saints!

I think I heard squealing breaks and smelled burning rubber. I definitely felt some whiplash from an almost instantaneous 180 degree turn.

What just happened?

All of a sudden, I wanted to be Catholic. Again.

A split had suddenly occurred inside of me. Like an earthquake that shook the ground and then drove a massive divide into the foundation of a building, a gigantic rift had shot straight through me, changing everything.

On one side of this rift was the modern version of Catholicism that I knew, with the increasingly barren churches, the watered down faith, the endless lines of hypocrites going back through the centuries. You know, the Catholic Church that so many love to hate. I don’t think I have to elaborate too much on that.

Then there was this version of Catholicism. This passionately devoted, deeply spiritual, intensely loving, all-consuming, close relationship with God version that most “do you have a personal relationship with Christ?” Protestants would probably pass out from the extreme intimacy if they ever got near it.

I was simply taken by it. Caught up in the fire of the burning bush taken. I probably would have removed my shoes and approached in awe if I could have.

St. Teresa of Avila somehow managed to snatch up my little narrow brain that could only see the failures of others and the hollow externals, gave it a few good whacks to kick out the dust, and then liberally poured everything she had straight into it.

I still had a few rational “kinks” that needed ironed out before I could get over my “embarrassment” of heading back to Church and participating in the Catholic life (you know, sitting in the pews with all those hypocrites) but once I did there was nothing holding me back. I knew what I wanted.

I wanted the type of relationship with God that Saint Teresa had. I wanted to know such an all-consuming love first hand. I wanted to dwell in the heights that skeptics scoff at and angels guard. I wanted to know such joy, such bliss, such beauty. I wanted to become a saint.

I found my way home and I found it entirely through the example of one woman’s life.

My entire view of the Catholic faith up until that point had been skewed not because I somehow had opened the right window to the “rotten” soul of the faith, but because the examples of everyone around me that I was seeing or reading (in the case of history) were skewed.

I saw the people who failed. I saw what it looked like when they failed. I saw the hypocrisy, the ugliness, the sheer blackness of failure when someone preaches such a high creed in word but not in deed. I saw what the teachings of the Church looked like when humanity failed to live them. It was not pretty. When people fall from tall heights, you do not want to be there to pick up the remains.

Yet one good example, just one, of a woman who lived her faith in fulness, devotion, intensity, and rich closeness to God had the strength to turn all those years of bad examples completely around and open an entirely new window to the faith. The true window. One good example revealed the living heart of the Church as it could be lived, and it was alive with a love I had never dreamed of.

I reverted because of example, and because of that I know example is everything. We can preach and teach, write and write again, but in the end it is example that speaks the loudest. I think that is something that it is important to remember. Especially in this time when so many examples continue to set many afire with a vengeance against what they think is the Church. We know they are fighting those who failed the Church, but they think they are fighting the Church.

How can they ever know the Church except through example?

So I guess the question remains, what will our examples be?

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