This guest post was written by Rebecca Siemens, a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
When we hear the term “cradle Catholic” many of us have a stereotypical image of that term in our brains. It brings to mind those people who have been around the faith their whole life, who have been to church every Sunday for as long they can remember, and who don’t have those striking conversion stories that the majority of the rest of the Catholic population has. But is this true? Do those of us who are cradle Catholic simply have no story to tell? Do we stereotype ourselves with this term and, even worse, do we put ourselves in a box, disallowing ourselves to grow in our faith?
I have to say the answer is probably yes, for the majority of cradle Catholics. And it is understandable to see why this is so. We were most likely taught about the faith before we learned the alphabet thus making it seem that we know everything there is to know about the Catholic faith by the time we reach high school or college. And even though we think we are professionals on the topic of Catholicism doesn’t mean we are professionals on the topic of God. For it is when He steps in that we question if we ever did live out our “cradle faith” to the fullest.
And that is exactly what happened to me.
People would always tell me that I needed to have a personal relationship with the Lord. I desperately wanted this, even though I didn’t really know what it would look like. As I started to pursue this relationship I would take the suggestions of others and try to carry them out in my own life. Praying the rosary, doing the liturgy of the hours, starting and closing the day with a prayer, reading the lives of the saints, offering sufferings up to the Lord, I tried it all. I wore the medals, owned the holy cards, highlighted the Bible. But it didn’t work. I felt no closer to the Lord after doing all that than I had before starting. I was confused. I gave up.
Does this sound familiar? Maybe you yourself have been struggling with this sort of “wanna-be” relationship. And maybe you are just as sick of it as I was. I want to take this chance to share my story with you. I’m not going to tell you how to acquire a relationship, I’m going to tell you my experience so that maybe it might grant hope where it is needed, for the Lord works in mysterious ways.
Let’s move to the summer after my senior year of high school. I was still your typical Catholic kid, still waiting to really have a relationship with the Lord, wondering if He would ever tell me what I was supposed to do with my life. I was struggling with life decisions, specifically where I was supposed to go to college. On top of that, my family was in the process of moving. Our house was on the market, my dad was out of permanent work, and we didn’t know where we were moving. The Lord was opening and closing doors quickly, and yet not very quickly at all. It became obvious where we were not supposed to be. We were still waiting for it to be made obvious where we were supposed to be. It was literally limbo.
And I was struggling so badly. Being the oldest of five children, there was a certain responsibility I felt towards them. I wanted to make sure my family would be okay, that they would be safe without me. At that time, there was no sense of that safety. I was helpless to help them, and so I began to think of ways to help. Skipping the first year of college was a very appealing option. I couldn’t bear to move to a new college and have them move to a new state at the same time. So, I began to pray, no, I began to beg the Lord. I needed Him to tell me what His plan was for me and my family.
A man once asked Mother Teresa if she would pray that he would have clarity in what the Lord was asking Him to do. She replied, no, she wouldn’t pray for that. She proceeded to tell him that clarity was the last thing he was clinging to and that she would pray that he would learn to trust instead.
When someone told me that story, it was as if the Holy Spirit came rushing into my heart and filled it. Overflowed it. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t realize I had never trusted Him fully with everything that was taking place in my life. But when I understood that that was what I had to do, I gave it all to Him fully. And it was as if He smiled at me and said, “Thank you. Let me take it from here, my daughter.” And He did. As soon as I handed it to Him, my family announced they were moving to the state where I wanted to go to school. I didn’t have to worry about leaving them halfway across the country. It became so clear that I was supposed to go to Franciscan University; He removed all my doubts. And He took care of me every step of the way.
I know that each of us have something different that we need to work on when it comes to the Lord, and my relationship with Him still is not perfect. I know my problem was trusting, and still remains a challenge at times. Nevertheless, looking back on all those years of my “wanna-be” relationship, I see now that I didn’t trust that I could really have my own relationship with Him. I didn’t believe that He could be my best friend and that I could talk to Him as such. I cannot tell you how to have a relationship with Him, I cannot give you that relationship. But I can say this–if you trust that you can be that close of a friend with Him, if you allow Him to be such, He will become your best friend. Know that He wants to be so close to you, and trust that He will come if you let Him because He thirsts for you.
I welcome anyone who wants to post a comment. Whether it be to comment on my experience, ask questions, or just in need of a word of encouragement or a prayer, please feel free to post a Comment. May the Lord bless you always.