While my family and I now attend Mass each week, there was a period in my life where I did not go to church. As a “cradle Catholic”, I went to church each Sunday with my family up until high school. My grandmother’s health declined and it became difficult to attend Mass each week. While we attended Mass as much as we could, once I went to college, I had stopped going all together. My grandmother eventually had to live in a nursing home and my mother began going back to church each week. She told me recently that she had always prayed that I would come back to the faith.
Many reasons were involved with my not attending Mass regularly, mostly I just did not think of going and I did not see the great need for it. I figured that God would always be there and I did not need church to be close to Him. I still prayed on my own, especially before going to sleep and always had a Rosary in my car. I went to Mass on Christmas and Easter each year and went sporadically when I was home from college. I wish that I had attended Mass on campus, even daily Mass and wished that at the time, I had picked up the Rosary and prayed it instead of just having it close by.
After graduating college, I continued the streak of not going to church regularly. I still went on holidays when I could but I worked six days and five nights a week (Saturday and Sunday included.) It just didn’t occur to me to attend Mass more regularly.
If I had known then what I know now, I would have done whatever it took to make time to celebrate Mass. That period of my life was a challenging time for me. Perhaps if I had stayed closer to God, I would not have faced those personal challenges. But as Jesus said in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Several years ago, my mother invited me and my husband, who at that point was my boyfriend, to go with her to church. So we went. It was the church closest to her house—not the church that I had grown up in. I remember that going back to celebrate the Mass felt good, really good and my now husband shared the same feelings. So we decided to start going with my mother to church each week.
One time at Mass, as I was walking behind my mother towards the altar to receive the Eucharist, the sunlight shined in through the glass window above the altar and hit my face. It blinded me for a moment and I felt stunned and immediately wanted to cry. I’m not sure what happened at that moment, but I would like to think that it was the Holy Spirit welcoming me back home.
Shortly after we all decided to drive the extra twenty minutes to attend Mass at the church that I had grown up in. It was difficult for me to go back to this church since we had lost both my grandfather and grandmother at this point and they both suffered greatly before passing. The first time I went back to my “home church” was Easter. The pastor at the time delivered a beautiful homily and I remember that the second reading really spoke to me:
Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.
After the Mass, my mother, husband (then boyfriend) and I went to the exit to say hello/goodbye to the pastor, thank him for a wonderful Mass and wish him a blessed Easter. When we went to shake his hand, he said “Welcome to our church!” It surprised and slightly upset me, as this was my church that he was welcoming me to. But I quickly reminded myself that I had left this church and let my faith go for so long and that I needed to work on getting my soul right again so that I could be deserving of calling it my church again.
Years later, the same pastor who warmly welcomed me home would place his hands on my head to fully initiate me and my then fiancé into the Catholic faith at our confirmation at the Easter vigil in that same church. Months later, he would also place my hands in my husband’s hands at our marriage in that same Church and he was also the same pastor who placed his hands on my nine-month pregnant belly to bless the baby, whom we were told was facing some tough odds.
My story of coming back to church is like the parable of the prodigal son: “We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:32
For so long, I disregarded the importance of going to Mass regularly. My life was empty and all that I tried to do to fill the hollowness never worked. What my life and my soul needed was Jesus Christ. There is nothing on this earth that can or will ever compare to what is above.
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:4
If you were thinking about going back to church, please take my advice and go. I wish I had gone back so much sooner. Don’t worry about how long it has been since the last time you went to Mass or if you have no one to go with you. God is there, He loves you, He will be with you and all He wants is that you go back to Him.
“I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.” Jeremiah 24:7
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As always, thank you for reading. God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always!
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