As a child, I loved reading about saints’ lives. I’d plop on the floor, grab a book, and flip through it skipping past the nuns and priests because they were “boring” and going straight to the really exciting stories about virgin martyrs. Some mornings, my mom would find me sleeping on the floor because “that’s what St. Catherine of Siena did, duh!”
I wanted to be a saint. I didn’t understand quite what that meant, of course. I still mouthed off to my parents with the sass of a teenager and I disobeyed my parents’ orders with the orneriness of an old donkey. Nevertheless, I knew within my heart that I wanted to be with Jesus.
As I got older, I forgot about the saints’ lives. They became just names of dead people.
Throughout middle school and high school, my faith was still important to me, but I still didn’t understand the breadth and beauty of the Church.
When I came to Baylor, I was excited to make friends and grow in my faith. Most of my freshman year, my interaction with St. Peter’s was not much more than Mass on Sundays. I had many friends of other denominations and spent a lot of time with them. This time included a lot of truth-seeking. At one point, I was ready to leave the Catholic Church. Yet, God in His mercy, held fast to my heart. As I contemplated leaving the Church, it struck me that I wouldn’t be able to receive the Eucharist. My heart broke at the thought. I think that was the turning point for me. I realized the truth of the Church’s claim that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. From that point on, I strove to better understand other aspects of our faith. God gave me a deeper understanding of many of the things that I had been questioning: the authority of the Pope, the role of Mary, etc. For the first time, I could say that my membership in the Roman Catholic Church was not only what I had been raised in but also what I had chosen because it held the truth I had been seeking.
Sophomore year, I began attending daily Mass a bit more, joined a Bible study, began leading a Bible study, and joined Pastoral Council. As a result I got to know people better at St. Peter’s and it was great.
Yet, for much of that year, I felt like I had to check things off of a list in order to be a ‘good’ Catholic. I had to go to daily Mass, I had to lead a Bible study, etc. By the end of spring semester, I had pretty much forgotten why receiving Christ in the Eucharist as often as possible was so beautiful. I had begun to see Bible study as something I had to do. Everything I was doing through St. Peter’s felt forced.
I was preparing to study abroad in the fall semester and a part of me could not wait to escape all of these expectations that I imagined everyone had for me. In a strange way that I wouldn’t even admit to myself, I was excited to leave St. Peter’s behind. I was about to go to a foreign country where no one I knew would know if I was going to daily Mass or not. I wouldn’t have to lead a Bible study and I could basically do whatever I wanted, right?
Italy. I could probably write a whole book about my experience there. And many of you have already heard a lot about it. At the beginning, in Italy, I had no faith community whatsoever. It was not glorious like I had expected. It was really tough and lonely. I missed the community of faith at St. Peter’s. I found myself seeking the very things I had wanted to escape from at St. Peter’s. I began going to daily Mass, not because I felt obligated, but because I sought solace in receiving Christ. One of my roommates and I even did a mini FOCUS Bible study together and we loved it! No obligatory feelings whatsoever! God had stripped away community just as I had wanted, and through that, I finally saw how beautiful community truly is. And, more importantly, I realized that I am called to be a part of a faith community, not so I can be a “good” Catholic, but so that I can grow in virtue and in love for God and others.
In Italy, I made a promise to myself that when I returned to Baylor, I would embrace—with all of the love God had poured into my heart while in Italy—the community God has given me. So here we are now, I came back, and I didn’t have to do anything. God poured out so many blessings on me through each person I encountered at St. Peter’s (and elsewhere). Friendships have blossomed. We have had rockin’ girls’ nights that all the guys are jealous of. I have seen Christ in others so vividly. I cannot thank God enough for the community here at St. Peter’s. Even in Italy, God had given me community in unique ways. And now I have not only the community at St. Peter’s, which I finally fully appreciate, but I also have a deeper understanding of the community of saints and believers all around the world. SAINTHOOD OR BUST Y’ALL! Let’s do this together!
P.S. Just in case you’re wondering, I no longer believe that the saints who were nuns and priests are boring! I know that they are incredibly special because they devoted their whole selves to loving Christ! That’s about as exciting as it gets!)