When did you make your faith your “own”? For many people who are raised Catholic, they only participate in the faith growing up because their parents tell them to. It takes a personal encounter with Christ to bring people who are just going through the motions to actively seek out a deep and meaningful faith life. Unfortunately, for a lot of Catholics who were raised in the faith, this encounter comes after falling away from the faith or going through many years of lukewarmness. Why does it take someone until they are in high school, or college, or adulthood until they truly encounter Christ for the first time and desire to live their lives for Him?
When groups serve on a mission trip with Catholic Mission Trips, Inc., young people encounter Christ in a profound way. Christ is present in the distressing guise of the poor. He comes to them in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. He brings them back into grace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He speaks to them through their peers, adult leaders, and mission leaders. He challenges them and calls them deeper into relationship with Him. When we sacrifice and serve, as these young people do when they come on mission, God pours His graces into them, blessing them, providing healing, and teaching them lessons.
Here is what I remember about my faith life and “owning” my faith.
- We had Children’s Liturgy, where the children were invited to leave the Mass during the readings through the Consecration and come back during the Sign of Peace. The children’s liturgist would tell the stories of the Sunday Mass Readings, often using felt characters on a board. We would sit on little carpet squares. It was fun and probably more engaging as a young child. At a certain age though, I wanted to know when I could stay for Mass. I wanted to be present and listen to the homily and be there during the Consecration. Even though the priest geared his homily to the adults, I always felt that I could understand the message of the Gospel. Once I was allowed to stay, I remember telling my priest that he should change up his prayers sometimes because I had them memorized.
- As a kid, I could have been more reverent during Mass. My parents never sat with me and my brothers because they were involved in the choir and ushering. Instead, we sat behind the choir with the other kids who also had moms in the choir. Whenever any of us made noise, we would get the silencing glances from all the moms! In my upper elementary grades, I remember distracting myself with friends by spelling out words using the letters on the hymnals. A very patient method of communication, and a practice that really removed us from participating in the Mass.
- When I received my First Communion, my grandparents gave me Every Day with God. What a blessing! This children’s Bible had a reading, short reflection, and prayer. It probably took me a little more than a year to finish it, but how empowering that was! As I recall, I read it in private. It was my own daily time with God.
- I was blessed to have parents who were active at the church. For me, this meant that I got to help vacuum the altar, serve soup during Lent, prepare house blessing kits, decorate for Christmas, etc.
- I remember being discouraged about going to Confession because I would always have to confess the same sins. I thought the priest would remember and felt that I should be doing better.
- I went on my first retreat. During small groups, we were asked to share our thoughts about the parable of the sower and I thought it was cool that people actually wanted to hear what I had to say. We stayed on the beach, so it was easy to be in awe of God’s creation and to feel the immensity of God.
- There were several things that gave me pause – seeing my brothers’ friends stop coming to church after receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, sticking up for a friend when people were calling her a lesbian and then her asking me if it would be a problem if she was, peer pressure and who I should surround myself with, several Christian friends asked me if I was “saved”.
- To grow in my faith life, I started praying in the morning, offering my day to God with the St. Francis peace prayer. I read the entire Bible, an adult version this time. I’m not sure at what point in my life I learned to pray the Rosary, maybe elementary school. I know that I would sometimes go with my dad to the Knights of Columbus meetings and pray with them. I remember this because I would complain about how they prayed too quickly.
- It was important to me to live my faith at school. With St. Francis of Assisi and St. Therese of Lisieux as my models, I tried to preach by example and love everyone, especially when people were mean.
- My best friend was Baptist and I would go with her to her youth nights on Wednesday nights. These nights were fun and helped confirm that I believed what the Catholic church teaches. Between middle school and high school, we went on a Baptist retreat together. I remember one of the youth pastors asking me if I died if I would go to heaven. In my middle school understanding, I think I told him that I was baptized, I try to live a good life, I go to confession, and it’s in God’s hands.
- We had a boy in our youth ministry who went to Catholic school and he knew WAY more about the faith than anyone else did! I was put in my place, as I thought I was pretty smart, having been raised in the faith.
- During preparation for receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, we had to do a certain amount of service within the church community. I was an aide in a Kindergarten CCD classroom and I volunteered in the nursery. The latter took me away from Mass, so that probably wasn’t the best choice there.
- I remember writing a journal entry at school about receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation. Although I was excited about it, I wrote about how the Sacrament was not some magic spell that would make me a superhero for the faith. That I would still be the same person, but with more graces.
- After Confirmation, I taught the same kids in CCD in their first grade year and had my own assistant who was in RCIA. I also got to assist with the Rite of Christian Initiation for Children. I remained vigilant in sharing God’s love by being joyful and smiling at people.
- Honestly, I don’t remember any big challenges to my faith during this time. I was too busy with school, work, dance, soccer, and color guard to really get wrapped up in bad relationships, drugs, and alcohol. Personal sins probably still dealt with the way I treated my family.
- My grandma came to live with us after my grandpa died and she got sick. I got to witness the humility of my grandma, the sacrifices made by my parents, God’s healing. I am so grateful for having those years of living with her and her example.
- When I went on a mission trip, I got to hear the witnesses of different missionaries. They shared about personal struggles and how the Lord worked in their lives. I felt like I really couldn’t connect because I felt like I had not really had to struggle. While I knew friends who had been abused, had their parents divorce, had a parent die, etc., these were things that had not happened to me. What I was concerned about was what would happen to my friends when they die who were denying their faith that we had both been raised in.
- At the Catholic Campus Ministry, I met holy people who were trying to live holy lives. I loved having community! I joined the choir, went to praise and worship, went to Bible studies, led a Bible study with a group of freshman girls, went to supper seminars, etc.
- I started going to daily Mass (partly because it gave me people to go eat lunch or dinner with) and create my class schedule so that I was able to go daily.
- Though my parents may have introduced me to adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, it was at college that I really discovered Adoration.
- Some things I had to wrestle with during college are what God asks of a pure relationship and if my future spouse needs to be Catholic.
- When I was at home on break during my sophomore year, I discovered Shorter Christian Prayer and began sneaking off into my room to pray morning, evening, and night prayer. When I returned from break, I asked my priest if it was okay if I prayed this, thinking I had found some sort of magic book! He taught me about Liturgy of the Hours, the second biggest prayer of the church. From then on, I tried to pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day.
- I dedicated myself to praying the Rosary every day. The Sorrowful Mysteries were the easiest for me to meditate on.
- My friends at college helped me see the beauty and importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- I was blessed to serve on the leadership team one year as the liturgy co-chair. In this position, I got to coordinate the schedules for lectors, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, altar servers and ushers for the daily and Sunday student Masses and help train new lectors and altar servers. Throughout my time at college, I served in all of these roles for a period of time. I loved serving at the altar, the delicate care of the linens and holy vessels, making the readings come alive as a lector, and the humbling experience of administering the precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord in Communion.
- We went on retreats and mission trips. I was asked to give a talk at one of our retreats and got to work with the team for several months.
- There was one married couple that was super active with our campus ministry and they made a huge impact on me. The husband is my husband’s Confirmation sponsor.
- I met my husband in college and I went to RCIA classes with him. As a result, I read the entire Catechism and really learned my faith anew. I was grateful that I was born into a Catholic family, because I didn’t know if I would have found the Church if I had been born into a different denomination or if I would have simply been content to be where I was raised.
- The phrase cradle-Catholic seemed to have a negative connotation, implying that if you were raised Catholic, you did not know the faith as well or live the faith as fervently as a convert to the faith. I remember being offended that this term had the negative connotation, though I knew plenty of people that would fit on both sides to give credence to this meaning. Really, I think it goes back to my original question of “owning” the faith. It seems to me to be imperative that young people “own” their faith. Yes, faith is a gift from God and all that we have is His. But, I believe that children, and certainly young people are capable of giving their fiat, their yes, to God.
That’s why serving on a mission trip with CMT is so valuable! Young people say YES to God when they come to serve, they say Yes to God throughout the week on the work sites, in small groups, in receiving the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation, and they are equipped to continue living as missionary disciples when they return home. A mission trip with Catholic Mission Trips, Inc. is Service Oriented, Formational, Sacramental, Relational, Christ-Centered, and Spirit-Led. Through daily Mass, hard work, and reflection, God pulls us out of ourselves and speaks to the depths of our hearts. Do you believe that young people can live a life of heroic virtue? We know that God has placed in all of us a desire to love, to live in relationship, and to serve. These callings don’t have a minimum age. Give young people the opportunity to live their faith in a deeper way, starting with a week-long mission trip. Register your group today!