I’m a cradle Catholic, so yes it is possible to claim that I have not had a “true” conversion to Catholic faith, but I would like that cradle Catholics have, at some point, chosen to remain Catholic. I’m going to dictate my experience here. Most of this post is me giving some background information on myself and why I’m qualified to give the advice I did at the bottom. If you’re just interested in the advice, just skip to the last few paragraphs.
I was baptized in March of 1999 by (now) Msg. Ingam (last I heard he is the current pastor at St. Joseph’s in Raleigh) at Our Lady of Lourdes in Raleigh. My parents then made the decision for me to attend Lourdes from Kindergarten up until partially through my 7th grade year. In 2012 my family moved to Botswana because my father took a position at the American embassy there.
During my time at Lourdes, I don’t remember thinking much about the Catholic faith or why I was Catholic. I was no St. Therese or St. Dominic Savio. I was mostly there because that was the school my parents had chosen for me and I never gave it much thought. I just went through the motions as a young Catholic kid.
When I moved to Botswana I attended a school called Westwood International School. This had been my first time I attended a different school, and it was a very difficult change for me to go from a decent Catholic grade school to something that was completely different. I want to be clear I’m not trashing public schools or non religious schools, but it was not a good fit for me. However, I would like to say that Westwood is not a very good school, it has gotten a lot worse, since I went there, and the American embassy no longer recommends it to its employees.
This was really the first time I had encountered anyone that really didn’t hold the same faith and beliefs I did. I remember Sam H. in my class vehemently denying the existence of God and bragging that his father would watch EWTN and other religious networks and make fun of their beliefs. I also remember Danyas F. saying he thought there was something, but he didn’t know if it was God or not (Danays, if you’re reading this, there is a god or there isn’t, no in between. I know that now, I’d be happy to argue it later.). And I remember Preetha J. who went to the Cathedral’s Sunday evening mass, but never received. I asked her why one time and she said that her family was Assyrian Orthodox, so they would go just to hear the Scriptures.
As I mentioned in a previous post, being a location where your beliefs and views are challenged can be very good because it will help you become more steadfast in them. Westwood did not do that for me. I remember quietly starting to ask myself what was real and what wasn’t I don’t think I ever decided that God didn’t exist, but I started to think that some of the things in Scripture couldn’t possibly have happened, because someone in my class had said something.
My parents enrolled me into a Sunday school like class at the Cathedral (it was on Saturdays though) and that was hard for me too. The teacher wouldn’t always show up, I never made any friends. It was hard to become familiar with some of these people. The official language of Botswana is English, but most of the locals spoke Setswana to each other in their day to day lives and the other kids would do that in the class when the teacher wasn’t there.
I have a feeling the teacher was trying really hard, but because I was in the class, she had to teach it in English as opposed to Setswana, which I couldn’t understand her translation. Granted, I was probably not trying very hard.
Its funny to look back on times like this realize how much plans change. At that time I was certain I was going to go to Millbrook High School and then go to NC State. I thank God every day that didn’t happen.
Our time in Botswana got extended six months, and after discussion with my parents, we determined that it would not be optimal for me to jump into a public school after going to less vigorous education that I received at Westwood. So the next choice was St. Thomas More Academy. I remember not caring that the Headmaster was doing a personal interview with me over Skype, not caring he was a Deacon, not caring the school was Catholic, and not caring the school had a mass every week. I was in pretty rotten shape for my faith.
I don’t blame anyone for that. I didn’t put effort into it, and to me, it was just another thing that people did. After being around Danyas, Preetha, and Sam, it was just “you have your faith, and I have mine.” There was no desire to evangelize in me, at all.
I’m just going to sum up my first two years at STMA. I was in the same rut that I was in when I was in Botswana. It wasn’t until my junior year that I realized how important my faith was, it was not the center of my life until then.
I can pinpoint a few spots where I had a conversion in my faith. I think one of them was getting to know my, now, good friend Gloria DeMoura. (You should listen to her Podcast Exclusive. It’s pretty good.) Gloria was the first person that I can remember, who was Catholic, that I had an open conversation about faith and what it means to be a Catholic.
Prayer at that time was something that I didn’t understand at all. I had no idea how to pray, how to tell if God was listening, or anything. She gave me some advice and slowly, I got the hang of it. Now, I have a daily routine (although some days are better than others) of prayer and I make sure I at least do some.
Later, Gloria asked me if I would be interested in helping create a Catholic podcast/radio show for Divine Mercy Radio. I said yes very quickly. And roughly a year later, EPIC Radio produced its first episode at the American Legion in Wake Forest.
For all of you who are struggling to figure out where you should be in your faith life or what any of this means, this next section is for you.
I think I’ve said this in all of my previous posts, but pray. Now, I understand, if you’re struggling to believe what your praying, praying can seem pointless. You don’t have to start with anything big or starting singing a Litany of Saints. Start by saying a Hail Mary everyday before you go to bed. I guarantee you that this will have an effect on you at some point. After a while, keep adding to it. Start praying to your patron saint, for your future spouse, or for politicians and leaders.
If you have questions that you’re having trouble answering through prayer, I would plan on talking to a priest at your parish. If its a situation where he won’t be able to speak to you until few weeks or something, I would also check out Catholic.com, the official website of Catholic Answers Live on EWTN. You can also send us questions and we’ll discuss them with Fr. Tighe on our program!
I would also find a place that does adoration and just spend some time there. You don’t have to pray, you don’t have to read. All you have to do is sit there and admire Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. If you’re in the Raleigh area, Our Lady of Lourdes has perpetual adoration in its chapel.
And while you’re doing this I would find a friend that is serious about their faith and someone that you can trust. I am extremely luck to have a friend like Gloria, and I’m certain you probably know someone like her that you can turn to when you need help.
And with that, I’ll pray for you too. All of you struggling in your faith and don’t know where to turn, you’re in my prayers and all of us here at EPIC Radio.
PS: I’m thinking about doing a post on Catholicism and Sustainability as well as one on the Mass. Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Matthew Handley is a student at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids Michigan. He is one of the original members of EPIC Radio and is a contributor to epicdmr.org. He invites you to email him, firstname.lastname@example.org and to comment on this post.