Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Blinded by Ignorance

Several years ago, after living most of our lives not going to any church, my husband and I decided that maybe we were missing something. So we embarked on the journey of picking a church to join. One of my children had been asking about going to church and I figured it would be good for all of them to learn about God since I hadn't been teaching them anything myself. Besides it would be good for us to start going to church as a family. I really didn't think it mattered which church I picked. I wanted to make an informed, educated search and naturally Google was the best place to start. Right? I don't remember exactly what I typed in the search box but it was something like “how to decide which church to attend” or “compare church denominations”...something like that.

After wading through websites with comparison charts, I finally stumbled onto an online quiz that was supposed to determine what denomination would best fit me based upon my beliefs and values. It never occurred to me to question who wrote the quiz or how they determined the results. I was simply impressed that someone went to the trouble to write it and I figured it couldn't hurt. I didn't understand many of the questions, so sometimes I just picked an answer that sounded right. Many of them involved values that I hadn't even thought about before, so I picked what I thought I should believe. The one thing I never thought about when I was answering those questions was what God expected of me. Nor did I think about the impact my beliefs had on others. I knew I was a good person and I knew I believed in God, but when I was taking that quiz I was only looking at how my beliefs and values effected me and my family.

I was living in a secular world and made decisions with a secular mind. I knew right from wrong and didn't break any laws. I was always willing to help others and never judged anyone for how they lived their life. I honestly thought my value system was good enough. In fact I was probably just a bit proud that even though I had quit attending Mass regularly as a teenager, I still turned out OK. I didn't need to go to church to be a good person. Or so I thought. The truth was, I wasn't being completely honest with myself. I knew what I was supposed to strive for when it came to morals, but I didn't think it was possible to achieve it. Nobody could be perfect. And besides, I wasn't hurting anyone. That counted for something right? Did anyone really wait to have sex until marriage any more? When was the last time anyone was actually shocked when two people moved in together? It's almost expected. And although I would never even consider abortion for myself who was I to judge someone else for making that choice? After all, it's legal. I thought I was a "good person" when in fact I was living a life that was anything but good.

The results of the quiz I took varied depending on the way I answered the questions. I would go back and select different answers to the questions that I didn't really understand anyway and different denominations would come up. Sometimes it would say Methodist, sometimes Lutheran and sometimes Baptist. But I don't remember it ever telling me that I should be (or continue to be) Catholic. I thought this was pretty compelling evidence that I had been born and raised into the wrong religion. This online quiz, with no basis of authority, was telling me I needed to be anything but Catholic. Looking back at it now, how could I have been so blind to believe an online quiz?

The truth is I was blinded by years of sin. I had turned my back on God and thought I didn't need him. I was influenced by society and held captive by Satan. I based my value system on my love for others, not God. I remember many times I would hear someone rattle off their list of who and what was most important in their lives; 1. God 2. Family 3. Career. And I really didn't understand how they could say that. Most of the time I figured they were either just saying it to make themselves look good or else they were just misguided. How could they put anyone or anything above their family? Aren't my children supposed to come before everyone? Shouldn't I love them above even my husband? I truly thought that was what God would want. It was beyond my comprehension that He would ask me to put Himself before my family. I know now that my confusion and mistaken priorities were due to a lack of being educated on Faith. I couldn't live what I didn't know. I didn't know the Bible. I didn't know the Catholic Faith. I didn't know how my decisions effected others. I didn't know God.

Sometimes it makes me sad to look back at how I lived my life for over 30 years and that I couldn't see what was right in front of me the entire time. God was right there waiting for me. He missed me, he loved me and he wanted me to come home. But I was too proud, too stubborn to admit that I needed him as much as he needed me. At the Easter Vigil Mass in 2007, my husband was received into the Catholic Church, my 3 youngest children were baptised and our secular marriage was blessed by the Church. There is much more to the story of my faith journey beginning with why I started searching to begin with and ending with my complete and loving surrender to the Catholic Church and all her teachings on faith and morals that I live by today. I will tell that story another day.

Prayer for today's Saint of the Day: Saint Polycarp, sometimes Christ seems so far away from us. Centuries have passed since he and the apostles walked the earth. Help us to see that he is close to us always and that we can keep him near by imitating his life as you did. Amen


Anonymous said...

Saw your new post this morning, Julie. Alas, what you mention is much of what Pope Benedict has been preaching since the start of his pontificate - we are (in first-world countries, anyway) awash in unrelenting relativism (which feeds off of seculaerism) - and it is affecting Catholics (those who pick and choose what teachings of the Church they are going to follow).

It (relativism) recognizes no absolutes (i.e. in faith and morals) - much less absolute Truth (Jesus) - and it is the "mentality of the day" - if-you-will.

However, like the theme of Donna Steichen's new book "Chosen" - God is raising up souls who have not been especially awed by Catholic worship or evangelization efforts. No, He is calling them to Himself to rebuild His Church (learned or un-learned - Protestant or fallen away Catholics).

It is a joy to see the Holy Spirit at work - even in folks like you, Julie.


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