If 6 years ago you told me what my life would be like I wouldn't have believed you unless it took place in an alternative universe of some sort. I wouldn't have imagined a life of freedom from the chains I was once bound. I wouldn't have imagined a life of boldness and uncomfortably from the lack of confidence and uncertainty I was consumed by.
6 years ago I didn’t even know the responses of the Catholic Mass or had any idea of what the Catechism was. I didn't even know how to pray a Rosary (if you know me now you would think this is unheard of.)
Like many Catholics, I was “born” into the faith and received Baptism as a child. After that, Jesus to me was only found in the religious art that hid in my mothers closet or the occasional prayer when I needed something. My brothers and I receive the Sacrament of Communion in late elementary school, and once again Jesus was just someone I picked up from the shelf when I needed it. But, my desire to know Him and the Catholic faith was alive more than ever after I received bits of knowledge on the Catholic faith through religious education classes.
I started to see the Catholic faith influence my best friend’s family when were rekindled our friendship in the 5th grade. Observing her family pray the ‘Our Father’ before meals and noticing their commitment to attend Mass on Sundays inspired me to make the faith something more than a nice thought I could pick up when necessary. I wanted it to be something real and living in my life. So, by the grace of God,n the 7th grade I asked my mom if we could go to Mass for Thanksgiving.
I still recall the exact outfit I wore that day. Skinny jeans, a gray Aeropostale T-shirt, black converse, and hot pink suspenders that hung down from my waist (because it wasn’t cool to wear them for their purpose at the time.) We attended Thanksgiving Mass at our local parish, St.Edwards. St.Edwards ’s had awesome music and an uplifting atmosphere, filled with the Spirit. Because I grew up convinced I was gonna be a pop star of some sort to be seen on the Disney Channel, I inevitably wanted to join the Church choir. I talked to the choir director and was the first “young person” to join the choir. Surrounded by spirit-filled and service oriented middle agers, I started to use my gifts for the Lord and he moved my heart through the thing that was for me the center of my life: music.
Choir practices were followed by Benediction. I didn't know what it was. I didn't know what it meant. I didn't know the joy, the healing or the peace it could bring. All I knew was that I felt something change in my soul through what appeared to be a piece of bread- and in my heart I believed "that truly is Jesus." Slowly, my faith started to grow and I established a relationship with Christ in the Eucharist before knowing what the Eucharist really was- who Christ really was. A few months after attending Sunday Mass and singing in the Choir regularly, the youth group took off at St. Edwards and it become one of the biggest gifts I could ever receive.
The youth group at St. Eds started with a large, dedicated group of people, and it continued to be grow. I made friends in the faith and was introduced to the world of youth conferences. I had no idea my life was never going to be the same after that. Through the talks, the youth conferences, the enriching conversations, and the many graces God put in my life I started to realize the dignity God placed into my being from conception- knitting me in my mother’s womb and destining me for greatness. My views on dating and boys evolved. My perspective on dating changed- going from the boy crazy girl who craved attention to the reserved girl you needed to work for. It was a gradual growth that was necessary. God rushed into my life before I could’ve made any big mistakes in my coming-of-age. He saved me at the perfect time, and showed me the love my heart ached for.
In the end of middle school and beginning of high school I became the lead singer in a praise and worship band that played at the youth nights and Christ entered more deeply into my life. I started to love using my gift of singing and music for Him. I started to just love the faith, but I still didn’t quite understand it. I didn’t know the true meaning of the faith, living in obedience and sacrifice, until my mother decided to switch Parishes.
We moved Parishes and didn’t understand why. I just started to get established. I just started to get lead parts for songs. I was upset I had to leave my friends, the youth group that I loved, and the choir that started it all for me. But, God taught me many things at this new Church. He put important people, connections, and opportunities in my life. He knew what He was doing.
I joined the youth group at this new Parish which, at the time, was strong and thriving. I met my current best friend. I decided not to join the choir, but only helped when needed. Stepping back from singing during the Mass, I started to develop a strong reverence and understanding for the Mass. As I became more involved in the band program at my school, Mass became the only hour of peace for me during the week. Church was my safe haven. The Mass became the center of my life.
Eventually, I grew as a leader and started to teach and speak in my youth group. I also joined a group of young leaders who served the Ave Maria Youth Conference every year. My future University was introduced to me in a mysterious way.
Every year I dedicated a week in the summer to learn about leading small groups, public speaking, and preparing for the retreats. I was able to meet the lead singer for the conferences and he spontaneously asked me to sing a few songs with him on stage in front of hundreds of youth. I continued to have a bigger presence in the music ministry for the conference year after year.
My 10th grade year my mom found out about the Morning Star Peer Ministry in Miami and signed me up for a week long retreat I DID NOT WANT TO GO ON. I loved Jesus. I loved retreats. I did not love the idea of awkwardly spending a week with a bunch of teens I didn’t know. God pulled me out of my comfort zone and provided me an outlet to grow in understanding and experience with youth ministry. I was able to serve at Confirmation retreats in the Diocese of Miami with an amazing group. I learned a lot about submission to God’s will being involved in this ministry. After going to my week long retreat, learning about how to lead efficient, seamless retreats and being a leader in ministry, I was selected to lead at the two following Week longs. These Week longs taught me all that goes into putting on a retreat and the importance of every individual in a ministry. I was introduced to the logistical aspect of retreats. I learned the time, work and lack of sleep it took to put on a retreat. Most of all, I was taught selflessness through the experiences in this ministry.
Throughout high school: music and the Catholic faith were my two biggest passions. My senior year was a huge internal battle for me on whether or not I should pursue music. I became a very high quality musician and singer. I had leadership skills, a lot of experience, and a passion that could drive me to be an amazing musician, but my ideal career was to be a band director. I thought that maybe I could be a band director at a Catholic high school. I thought of the way Christ changed my life, as well as, the impact band and my band director had in my life so I thought there was a way I could help bring both these things into student's lives. I ardently searched for a top notch Catholic College with a good music program. My intentions were to be a Music Ed major, with a Theology minor, but God had so much more in store for me than I could imagine for myself.
My last 2 years of high school I started to grow in strong relationship with the Blessed Mother. I started to pray the Rosary more often (yes I finally learned!) and grew closer to Christ with her help. I saw Mary’s example of faith and obedience of Christ. I wanted to be like her. I wanted to love Christ with my whole being, to know Him and to wholeheartedly follow His will.
He wanted me all in on this Jesus thing, on this Catholic Church thing. He wanted me to use my gifts for connecting and loving people to bring people back to the Catholic Faith. Eventually I just knew without a doubt I needed to get my degree in Theology. Because of my love for people, I added on the Psychology minor as well. Another great influence was the Theology of the Body. I knew I wanted to center my faith on this message the world desperately needed.
There are so many other little things I could tell you about how God has shown me His glory. My conversion was not one sudden moment that changed everything, but a gradual process that Christ instructed.
Looking back, I see God’s reasoning for every little thing. Christ was always with me. The more I gave to Him, the more He would demand of me. I’m not sure exactly what God has in store for me, but I know I am in safe hands. The saints serve as examples that little people with great love can change the world, and I hope to do in the unique way that God calls me.
I go to Ave Maria University. I have the blessing to see Christ in Mass everyday. I get to meet Christ through His mother in the Hail Mary's that have become the soundtrack of my life. I see Christ in His sons and daughters everyday. I am just so blessed to be here.
I know God is forming me here. My biggest prayer is for fallen away Catholics and the conversion of sinners. I hope God can use my blogs as a tool to help people grow in faith and come back to the Catholic Church, because it is true and beautiful.
If there is anything I could say has brought me closest to Christ it would be Him in the Eucharist, as well as, His Mother's prayers for me. None of us are worthy of Christ and knowing Him such an intimate way as through the Eucharist. None of us are worthy to serve Him in the many beautiful ways we are called to.
Lastly, if there is anything I have learned in my 7 years in this faith it’s that God doesn’t call the equip, He equips the called. Empty yourself so you can be filled by Him.
May the Lord continue to be with us, grow in us and bring us out of darkness into His eternal light.