Testimony:Cradle to Grave

Written by Anabelle, Age 37 in AL

From Cradle To Grave Catholic With Detours in Between

CradletoGrave

(That’s not me but my daughter. My photos are too orange to publish.)

I don’t have a memory of the most important day of my life.  But I know it happened because of acid-oranged photographs with my godparents, a Baptismal Certificate with my name on it, and no one tried to stop me when I received First Communion.  The seal of Catholicism was a cornerstone for my formative years, nurtured by a daily communicant mother who scuffed holes in her pants from kneeling pilgrimage-style across Church aisles; above-reproach principal who sang vibrating soprano-key for the daily 7:00 AM Mass; teachers who marched us to confession regularly; and a staunchly Catholic extended family with reunions that were marked by Baptisms, Church weddings, and funeral parties that always served garlic peanuts appetizers and roasted pig for the main course.  Being born into a predominantly Catholic country where public transportation was decked out with Jesus/Mary emblems and dangling rosaries on the rearview mirrors, was a support system that fostered my spiritual infancy and kept me on the straight and narrow.

Really I had all that I needed to grow in the fullness of my faith.  But my Catholic identity waned in a liberal Catholic law school when I reached the age of adulthood.  Oprah Winfrey’s ‘wisdom’, popular culture world views, new age novelty, immoral entertainment stole the truths that were deposited in my soul. I began to live in the prevalent narcissistic philosophy of ‘I/me/mine first” and accepted the whopping secular lie that in order to impress others, my spiritual life must be kept under the wraps of designer fashion and accessories.  I was the average dissenting/cafeteria/lukewarm Catholic.

On the brink of my graduation, the Year of the Holy Spirit, I unexpectedly pilgrimaged to Banneux, Belgium to an approved apparition site of Our Lady of the Poor.  There, I rambled on a litany of self-absorbed prayers:  help me pass the bar exam, marry a blue-eyed man, travel the world over, find the right shade of copper lipstick for my new dress etc…  But My Blessed Mother must have begged God for my conversion of heart because when the bar results were released, I was .02 % short of becoming a new lawyer.

There’s nothing like a dose of humility to make one see with clarity.  And the truth of what I saw was this:  I needed to ask God what He wanted from me instead of telling Him what I wanted Him to do for me.  The life that I’d built for me myself and I was shallow and unfulfilling.

With tail between my legs, I boxed up all of my leather purses and flirty perfumes and moved back home to recapture the peace of my childhood years.  I also kissed dating goodbye (thank you Joshua Harris!), joined a Charismatic prayer group that taught me about Jesus & the Bible, sought spiritual direction and re-discovered that a conscience living in a state of grace is where peace reigns.  This state of grace was the gift I received at Baptism, I could receive again at the Sacrament Confession. Being a cradle Catholic left it’s imprint in my soul that long before I was a student, lawyer, sister, friend, or any other label, I was a first and foremost a Catholic – a child of God and daughter of the Church.   That privilege was bestowed on me by faithful parents and the destiny to become a faithful Catholic woman was a path ingrained in me at Baptism.  I didn’t have to look to law school, to TV, to Oprah, new age or to the secular world, to find who I am and who I should be.   My identity was there in my faded photographs and Baptismal certificate.

The laws of Catholicism, the Sacraments, the devotions, and traditions drew me back into the Church started by Jesus Christ and this time, I was no longer a robot walking through rules and regulations.  I was in love with Jesus in the Eucharist, awed by a loving, forgiving God in the Confessional, captivated by the Blessed Mother and her rosary and longed to impress and become part of the communion of saints. Through the example of virtuous Catholics, I realized that being a lukewarm Catholic was worse than being a mediocre teacher/writer/lawyer/wife/mother/sister/friend and that in order to be the  best teacher/writer/lawyer/wife/mother/friend/sister, I had to become the best Catholic I could be.   I don’t mean a holier-than-thou-know-it-all but someone who stands firm in obedience to the Church Magisterium, who is willing to defend her from persecution, who prays for the conversion of my brothers and sisters, who strives for Mary’s sanctification and embraces Jesus’ Divine mercy when in sin.  A disciple of Christ who constantly studies the faith, repents, changes, inspires, corrects, evangelizes, and stays silent when necessary.

Hebrews 8:10 is the summary of my spiritual journey: “But this is the covenant I will establish with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord:  I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts.  I will be their God and they shall be my people.”

 Obviously, not me either.  It is sadly, my fifth baby.

Obviously, not me either. It is sadly, my fifth baby.

And wouldn’t you know it:  I DID eventually move across the world to sunny California, practiced immigration law with some travel perks, married the blue-eyed man of my prayers, and settled in a friendly Sothern state with peaceful cows and generous chickens as my neighbors.

Catechism and reading the saint’s writings have encouraged me to write novels, articles, and even blog about the Catholic faith I now hope to pass on to my children and take with me to the grave.

We cradle Catholics tend to take our faith for granted and look for answers elsewhere but in the Church, but if we really studied Holy Mother Church’s true teachings and seek God with a humble heart, we’ll find that everything we’ve searched for was right under our noses, poured over our foreheads, tucked under the Baptismal caps, and clothed on us in our Baptismal gowns.

Anabelle Hazard is a practicing Catholic, non-practicing lawyer, penniless novelist, happy homeschooler, and long-winded blogger at Written By the Finger of God

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Testimony: Steubenville

I am humbled by the following testimony, written by my niece and Godchild: Her words speak for themselves

Emily.  Age 15.  MA.

I wasn’t expecting much out of going to the Steubenville youth conference the first time I went, just a chance to get away over the summer. But what happened there completely changed my life and my faith. It was always a given that Jesus is real and He loves me, but this experience was the first time I think I ever truly felt and believed that, it really started my faith then in the summer before I started high school. 

The first couple days of the 4 day trip to Ohio really put me in a bad place; I had gone with my cousin’s church youth group and didn’t know anyone. The whole time I felt really awkward and couldn’t wait for the trip to be over. I was uncomfortable and ironically Jesus wasn’t what was on my mind. I was so completely  blocked off that I couldn’t  see what a blessing the trip was or what a great time I should have been having. Then came the main event of the trip: the 2 hour-long adoration that everyone there was participating in. I never really liked adoration that much or got anything out of it, so spending two hours in a room full of hundreds of people just sitting there wasn’t really appealing to  me. The night before, we had had a shorter adoration and maybe it was due to the many people all praying at once, but I actually felt the Holy Spirit communicating with me. The message was kind of humbling. I could feel God’s love for me, but I also felt that he was reprimanding me and telling that I should repent before the big adoration the next night. It was like “Emily, I love you a lot, but I want you to go to confession before seeing me tomorrow”. I made up my mind to go, but it didn’t work out that way. I had lots of time to go to confession; it was

Miracle photo. Jim Beckmann took this behind a translucent screen back stage. As you can see the screen shows a clear image of Fr. Stan on the other side! Photo credit: courtesy FUS

Miracle photo. Jim Beckmann took this behind a translucent screen back stage. As you can see the screen shows a clear image of Fr. Stan on the other side! Photo credit: FUS

open all day. I just wasnt willing to be proactive and actually go. As it got later and later, I got more worried that God was going to be disappointed in me for not obeying and wouldn’t let me hear His voice during adoration. By the time we were heading down to the conference hall, I was feeling sick with shame. We took our seats and one of the priests got on the stage and started to say an introductory prayer and talked while everyone was preparing themselves for adoration. At this time I had zoned him out and was focusing on my own thoughts. Going over all my sins and the things I could and should have done differently in life and the past few days were eating me up so badly I started crying, like, sobbing, as I apologized to God in my head and thought of how I didn’t deserve to have Jesus go through the pain of the Crucifixion for me. The mood of the room was so intense: a room big enough for a concert(which we had) full of teens all praying to God at the same time while the band (which did a fantastic job) started to play some of the most moving music as the body of Jesus Christ was brought into the room on the monstrance. It is just occurring to me now that my repenting prayers before the actual adoration may have been when Jesus was forgiving me, because what happened next completely relieved all of the stress I had about God’s disappointment in me. For the first time in my life, I felt the true presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit before me. The feelings are hard to describe in words, the best I can do is phrases and feelings. I felt an overwhelming sense of the love that Jesus has for me and everyone and when I realized this and how my worrying had been for nothing I got ecstatically happy and started laughing. I felt as if I could never be sad again; I knew that Jesus was there for me and always would be; I knew whatever happened in the future that God would take care of me; I saw beauty in all the people of the world because God created them; I felt the need to remind myself to always be happy and there is always a reason to rejoice.

The powerful experience of others helped make mine special too, around me I saw people getting slain in the Spirit and heard laughing and sobbing come from throughout the room and this showed how powerful Jesus’s presence was.

The monstrance was being walked around the room and as soon as it came close to our group I started to feel weak in my arms and legs and it occurred to me that this is my Savior and my King and I thought to myself “He’s really here in front of you; what are you going to do?” I felt the need to bow, like head down, on the ground bow. I know it might sound degrading, but if you were in my place you’d have been more than happy to do it. In fact I was thrilled. I was so happy about Jesus showing Himself to me through the Body and I thought about this and about how I must look so silly bowing on the floor with my head down while laughing, and this made me laugh harder. 
Usually I have trouble praying, like I don’t know what to say or how to make it come out like a real prayer, but I was able to open my mouth and words started flowing out and I know I meant every one of them. And when I’m told to “give glory to God” I just say it once and then think now what? But I could see that once wasn’t enough, I could tell how powerful God is and couldn’t stop repeating how glorious He is. 
 
Coming out of adoration, I had a huge smile on my face that lasted until the next morning, though I was expecting it to last longer. I didn’t think I would ever be able to stop thinking about how wonderful what happened to me was, but now, five months later, I go weeks without Steubenville crossing my mind. Another message Jesus gave to me during adoration was how sad He is when we stray and how He wants us to always return to Him. Once we come back to Jesus with open arms, He will receive us joyously and take care of us.
We seem to think, going through life, that things like lots of friends or good grades or being talented or pretty will make us happy. This is one of the many lies we tell ourselves because the only time we will ever truly be happy is when we have given up ourselves and are with God. Although it’s scary and we don’t want to think about it and we’re still insecure, this is the truth and the most important thing I learned while at Steubenville. 

Year of Faith

On October 11, 2012 our Holy Father, Benedict XVI opened the Year of Faith for the Church.  In his homily he addressed the growing void of God in our society and proposed a year to renew faith and evangelize in new ways.  Here is an excerpt of his wisdom:

Jesus is the centre of the Christian faith. The Christian believes in God whose face was revealed by Jesus Christ. He is the fulfilment of the Scriptures and their definitive interpreter. Jesus Christ is not only the object of the faith but, as it says in the Letter to the Hebrews, he is “the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith” (12:2). 
Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus Christ, consecrated by the Father in the Holy Spirit, is the true and perennial subject of evangelization. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18). This mission of Christ, this movement of his continues in space and time, over centuries and continents. It is a movement which starts with the Father and, in the power of the Spirit, goes forth to bring the good news to the poor, in both a material and a spiritual sense. The Church is the first and necessary instrument of this work of Christ because it is united to him as a body to its head. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20:21), says the Risen One to his disciples, and breathing upon them, adds, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (v.22). Through Christ, God is the principal subject of evangelization in the world; but Christ himself wished to pass on his own mission to the Church; he did so, and continues to do so, until the end of time pouring out his Spirit upon the disciples, the same Spirit who came upon him and remained in him during all his earthly life, giving him the strength “to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” and “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19).

He goes on to describe the ‘desertification’, that is, the void of God in all of society and how we are crying out to know Him in many ways.  “And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God, and thus showing the path.” (emphasis mine)

In a word, the faithful are being called to witness to Christ in our lives.  It is by this witness that we “preach the gospel to the poor”.  And each one of us as a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, makes up a critical part of the whole.  Our particular stories speak Christ in many diverse ways and your words may be the very ones that lead someone to the path of Christ!  We can never underestimate what God can do with even the tiniest ‘Yes’

I would like to use this blog and take the Holy Father’s call to action very literally.  I am always inspired by my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and would love to hear your stories and testimonies. Contact me HERE if you would like to share your witness of Christ in your life and have it published on this blog.  No matter where you are in your faith walk you have something valuable to offer.  By speaking up and speaking out, God can use you for the good of all His holy church.

It can be short, sweet, and to the point, detailing a single experience, or a more general faith testimony of your life (1500 words or less). If you aren’t sure how to do it ask the Holy Spirit to use you as His instrument and just speak from the heart.

I’ll publish testimonies as I get them for the entire year of faith so if you know someone with a faith story to tell send them here!

Can’t wait to hear from you and I’ll get working on mine too!