Born to Catholic parents of both Irish and Lebanese descent, I am ninth of eleven children. During my childhood, we never missed Mass, even if it meant sheepishly walking in late and taking the front row (which was always empty) to accommodate all 13 of us. As young adults, many of us questioned our faith and learned about other religions, but all of us today are practicing Catholics, and several of us pray a daily Rosary. Why? I think my sister-in-law answered it best. When I asked her why she became a Catholic after many years of marriage, she said, “Whatever the occasion — trial or joy, crises (no matter how devastating) or peace, the first thing this family does is turn to God — to give thanks, to celebrate, even to grieve. I realized that I wanted that kind of depth in my faith. It’s what I’ve been looking for, and I found it in the Catholic Church.”
Only three of my siblings married Catholics, but six in-laws have converted to Catholicism over the years, including my own husband, Joel, sixteen years ago. My husband jokes that in his Lutheran youth he always thought of Catholics as climbing a long, steep ladder to heaven, stepping up rung by rung with good deeds. I still smile with the truth in that imagery. Being a member of a large and loving family perhaps makes it easier for me to see life and work in terms of teamwork and cooperation; that by ourselves we can do little, but together we can “live large” to answer God’s call to build His Kingdom here on earth. Most often, my striving to live out a Catholic life is achieved through meaningful, small ways — frequently even prayer by prayer.
Years ago, long before I realized it, a friend who often discussed religious issues with me, noted, “You are steeped in Catholicism.” During a family conflict, a cousin said to me, “You look at life through Catholic lenses.” While these things are true, for me the deeper my prayer life, the more Catholic I become. Being Catholic is not separate from living my life. I’m not brave enough yet to respond as St. Anthony of Padua recommended: “Give all of yourself, and God will give all of Himself,” but that’s my goal.
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