When I returned to the Catholic Church, I was surprised to find that not much had changed. What a good thing. All the familiar signs of my childhood faith were present and the lights were still on. By the tabernacle, the candles were lit and the real presence of Jesus Christ awaited my return. I had been away from the Church since college. I rediscovered the beauty of the Catholic faith in a small treatise on prayer, finding it late one night in a box of books. Although I’m not sure what inspired to me to sort through stored items at 11:30 at night, I knew God had remembered me. The book returned me to prayer and to the Creator, who truly works in mysterious ways.
I was ready to hear the truth. I missed home. I treasured my faith as a child and I knew that God had not let me go—I let him go. One afternoon, just before Pope John Paul II visited Denver in 1993, I had walked past the Church of the Good Shepard and recalled my Catholic youth. It would be a few more years before I found the courage to act on that inspiration to return. If we are willing to look and listen, we can behold the treasure of the love God and its fullness in the Catholic faith. It is a “child-like” wonder which leads us to both mystery and beauty.
Children are naturals at recognizing mystery and beauty. One time in 2nd grade, I recall saying to God, as I walked home from school, I think tulips are your best creation. I loved them. I loved them so much that I plucked a few from someone’s front yard and ran away with them clutched in my little hand. Bargaining with God must begin early, because I reminded God that he had created tulips so I justified my picking them—but they wilted on the way home. Tulips are not very hardy. I wished that I had not torn them from that which gave them their life. Similarly, we have the promise of abundant life in relationship with God, if we remain with Him.
Hearing the truth can sometimes be difficult. Acknowledging our sins before the Lord is a journey in truth and humility. A good parent will secretly rejoice when a child is honestly contrite for behavior that offended obedience or acted against charity. When we return to the Church, God rejoices with the angels and saints. Contrition strengthens the heart and reconciliation makes it joyful; but the promise of salvation helps it to stand firm in hope. New choices and a new perspective may be found in the sacrament of confession. Catholics believe that to acknowledge sin in the sacramental grace of confession is to open wide the door to God’s grace and mercy–and a new beginning, each day.
Be bold. Hope in the Lord.