My Catholic past is rather checkered. I was baptized Catholic as a baby in the church where my parents were married. My dad’s family is not Christian; my mom’s has been Catholic for generations. I went to a (non-Catholic) Bible preschool, then on to public elementary school. I attended Sunday School until my mom got tired of dragging me out of bed to catch the bus every week. I went to all the CCD classes I needed before my First Communion without ever setting foot in the church until First Penance and the rehearsal.
When we moved to Germany and it was time for my sister’s First Communion, my mom discovered that I had to attend 7th grade CCD before I could join the 8th grade Confirmation class. Luckily, I was in the 7th grade at the time. We started to attend Mass again (always the Saturday Vigil, because we’ve never been morning people). On my Confirmation retreat, I went to confession for the second time–ever–and fell in love with God again.
When we moved back to the U.S., we stopped attending Mass. I missed going to church, but not enough to do much about it. In the year before Ryan’s First Communion, I started college. I did a lot of stupid things during that time, including wholly unworthily receiving the Eucharist at the Mass where Ryan (whose name means “little king”) played a king during the Gospel pageant. That same year, my dad joined RCIA.
Being in church again reminded me of the peace I’d felt there before. Jesus started calling me out of my relationship with my boyfriend and back to him. It took months, but on Ash Wednesday during my freshman year of college, I recommitted myself to chastity, received an absolution that was four years overdue, and returned to Holy Mother Church.
When I hear about people who’ve been to Mass every Sunday of their lives except the one where they had chicken pox, dads who left seminary to marry moms, and families who celebrate name days with special dinners, my heart aches. I wish so much that I could have had that kind of spiritual upbringing. I don’t blame my parents, per se. It really was an ordeal to wake me up on Sunday mornings before I started sacrificing that for the Lord. So now, I have to make up for lost time. I have to learn prayers for the first time that my peers have known since grade school. I have to wonder whether my family even bothers going to church when I’m not home to make them feel obligated (which, of course, they are).
There are signs, though, that my catch-up efforts aren’t in vain. I don’t know much about the saints at all, for example. I love St. Cecilia, my Confirmation saint and the first whose story I really got to know. St. Frances of Rome, my first annual patron saint, is buried in the Church of St. Cecilia in Rome. My middle name is Nicole; I used to live in Germany, where St. Nicholas is widely venerated. My birthday is August 30, the old-calendar feast day of St. Rose of Lima, my second annual patron saint. And finally, next year’s annual patron, St. Wolfgang, is another beloved German saint who was a noted teacher. Even after all this time, God’s sense of humor still amazes me.