Back Where I Belong... Never Felt So Strong

Sunday, March 20, 2011

St. Benedict's Chapel - Mckenzie Bridge, OR
 (April 2008)

Are you there God? It's me, Amanda. 
Yes, today's lack of creativity resulted in starting this entry like a Judy Blume book. Apologies if you're a bit disappointed. Hopefully, that won't deter you from reading the rest of it because today's entry is unlike my other ones. Instead of writing a simple chick-flick inside scoop to my sorority life or ramblin' on how much I love my Alpha Dees, etc., I'm baring my soul for you (for the first time, maybe not the last too) and documenting my "wake up" moment -- a coming-back to my true self, the old me whom I've lost when I first came to Seattle. 

Okay... so, here it goes. 
"Beloved: bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God." 2 Tm 1:8b
That's taken straight from today's 2nd Reading (for those of you church-goers, 5 gold stars to the next person who can summarize the main message of the Gospel reading; *hint: Transfiguration). 

Well, this morning was both joyous and disheartening for many reasons. First, the realization that I was stuck in a whirlwind of confusion and disappointment became quite apparent over my conversation with a dear old friend of mine, Fr. Pat. How did I come to this? Imma set the context for ya.

Since pre-school, I had attended a private, Catholic school: Holy Trinity (Beaverton, OR) for K-3rd, Pope John XXIII (Scottsdale, AZ) during 4th grade, St. Joseph (Vancouver, WA) in 5th-8th grade and finally, Jesuit (Portland, OR) for high school. I went to Mass twice a week, prayed the rosary at least three times a month and participated in confession twice a year. I, being my mother's child, was close (very close) to God. Celebrated all of the sacraments, altar served, and enjoyed every minute of it. Being Catholic was very important in my life - it was my strength and source of hope. When I graduated from Jesuit, it was my wish to continue my devotion and spiritual life. However, to my dismay, college became a distraction, and I strayed away from my faith. 

This mental block/ "absence of God" phase was not ideal, obviously. Shameful to admit, this lack of spiritual fulfillment persisted for the past three years, and it wasn't until a couple days ago, that I realized what it was doing to my life - physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

Strength (fast-forwarding to now)
It has been a little over three years now (1,095 days to be exact) since I last visited Jesuit High School, and this past Friday (March 18th, 2011) marked my first return since graduation. 

For me, it was the moment I stepped foot into the hallways, ventured through the chapel and celebrated mass with old faculty members and the students that I reached my "wake up" moment. 
That was it - this was what I needed.
My soul had thirst for it -- At that moment, time stood still, and nothing seemed to have changed. Just the people growing older, but that strong sense of community, it endured after all these years. For months, I had yearned for that feeling -agape - love and security - and that's what I felt at Jesuit, especially when I spoke those sacred words during Mass. I wasn't "going through the motions" like any other Mass service ( specifically the ones up in Seattle at the Newman Center - no offense, I just haven't found that feeling there).. The words I spoke - psalms, refrains, creed - it all meant something to me. I felt an overwhelming sense of joy, pure bliss and peace fall over my soul. 
I wanted it to last forever.
there is a light that will overcome the darkness...
 ACE '08 Encounter Love
"Wake Up" Moment:
This morning, I met with Fr. Pat Conroy, a Jesuit priest whom I deeply admire and had the privilege of being his student during my freshman year at Jesuit, for coffee at the Starbucks right next door to my high school. 

Laughing and crying, we chit-chatted about life after Jesuit - college, career paths, relationships and friends. Then, we got to some serious stuff; I discussed my faith journey with him, describing how I truly felt about God and what I was struggling with in my life. I felt like one of the lost sheep that I had read about over and over in Mark's gospels. 

With tears brimming my eyes, I asked him "Am I a bad Catholic?" I half-expected him to reply "Yes," and explain to me the many ways I could repay God for my lack of piety and devotion these past three years. 

Instead, he looked at me, crossed his arms, half-smiled and said "No." "You are not a bad Catholic, Amanda. You're normal and just going through that part in your faith journey where everyone struggles with God." 

The next hour and half, we discussed how much I missed God, the role He played in my life and how to come back home.

In those 90 minutes, I had never felt so uplifted. Just 90 minutes with Fr. Pat,  having an open discussion about God and working through my troubles... that was what I truly needed. Not one homily or service that I had attended since graduation could measure up to this morning's conversation. Because of this morning, I finally feel reconnected again.

More than happy to say, I strongly think believe that I have rediscovered Him in my life. 
It's nice to be back -- it's a good feeling - it's like I'm taking a bit of Jesuit 
and locking it up in my heart forever. 

The title of this entry comes from "Coming Home" by Diddy feat. Skylar Grey
And yes... my soul has finally come home.

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