For the first couple of years of high school, I was basically friendless. I don’t know what the reason was, but there was NOBODY my age who seemed to take any significant interest in being friends with me. So I was lonely and shy. But it’s not like I wasn’t likable, I was one of those nice kids who wouldn’t say a single mean thing to anyone, and I did very well in school and played a couple of sports. But I felt like I didn’t “fit in,” I felt like there was nobody like me. I don’t want this to sound like I’m judging people or anything, but at least the impression that I got was that most kids would do anything to fit in, even if that meant compromising their morals. And so naturally I was turned off when many kids would make fun of others or swear and be crude, sometimes just so that they would be like their friends. I desired friends that would stick up for me even when it wasn’t cool, I desired friends who wanted to help others instead of hurt them. The more that I think about it, I was looking for a role model, a hero to believe in who believed that I was worth something and loved me. With all of my free time, a lot of my attention was turned to books: I loved to read stories about heroes, so books like King Arthur, Harry Potter, and Redwall inspired me because of the heroes’ determination to do the right thing, even when it was hard to do.
I’m a cradle Catholic, and I got confirmed at the end of my sophomore year in high school. I was hoping that I might feel different or something at my confirmation, but to my disappointment, I didn’t feel any different. Whether or not I felt an instantaneous change, in hindsight, confirmation was clearly the first domino to fall in the process of my conversion. I began to gain more confidence in myself and became drastically more outgoing- I was on prom court senior year! I had kept up a habit of praying every night since I was around 12 or so, which I hid from my parents because I was afraid that they might find out, but now I began to have more fruitful prayers, real prayers where I would share with God what was really on my heart. I asked God to bring me closer to Him. He answered that prayer over and above, leading me to develop some great friendships with kids who did care about others and sought to encourage everyone that they were around. I am very thankful for them all. Most of these friends were devout Protestants. They founded a Christian group at our public high school, and it was mind-blowing for me to be around such a genuinely friendly and welcoming group of people who truly cared about each other and were not ashamed of their faith in God. Over the course of the year, they encouraged me to read the bible. Being me, I read the whole thing :). In the process, I encountered the most amazing man that I have ever heard of. He was a loner. He stood up for what was right, even when everyone else was against Him. He looked out for the poor and sick. He cares about and loves everyone, including me, loving us with all that He is. This man is Jesus. He is God, and He died for my sins so that I might be saved. I resonated more with Him than with anyone else that I have ever met in my life, He is the perfect hero whose story is actually real- it’s not just fiction! He invites us all to come and follow Him, so I began to live my life for Him.
I finally had the Jesus/Christian thing taken care of by the end of high school, but in college I still hadn’t quite figured out the Catholic thing. Honestly, I was becoming a little conflicted: I first saw a vibrant Christian faith outside of the Catholic Church. But at the University of Illinois, especially at their Newman Center, I saw a faith perhaps even more vibrant! I had the opportunity to join a Catholic bible study. I was blessed with more wonderful friendships with friends who invited me to come to daily mass, adoration, and pray the rosary with them. There were catechetical classes every week where I could learn more and have my questions answered. I found Christians who were absolutely in love with Jesus to the point of giving it all up and becoming priests and nuns, who had both an active faith and prayer life and were able to receive the sacraments that Jesus Himself instituted as well! At FOCUS Conference my freshman year it all finally clicked. If Jesus really sent down the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to lead and guide the Church and protect her from the gates of hell, then of course we have to look for the Church that Jesus actually founded, because there is no reason for there to be a new one. I realized that Jesus founded the Catholic Church, instead of a hodgepodge of Christian churches. And on top of that all, the evidence added up: I had read the entire bible and the only church that still practiced everything found in scripture is the Catholic Church.
I am a Christian. I am a Catholic. I am thankful. If I could give you any advice in the world, I would ask you to learn more about this Jesus guy 🙂