9 Things I Wish I Could Go Back in Time to Tell My Young Self About the Faith

elena-koycheva-776273-unsplash

“Pssst… Hey kid, c’ mere. Wanna hear a secret?”

This greeting should send chills down the spine of any parent, right? Under normal circumstances I’d agree, but what if it involved… say, a little time travel? And instead of a complete stranger, it was middle-aged me approaching a gawky, 12-year-old, pimply-faced version of myself?

You’re thinking I’ve been sampling the legalized weed that is regrettably ubiquitous in my home state of Colorado.

In truth, I occasionally like to reimagine what my life might look like if I could have a heart-to-heart with that 12-year-old kid I used to be. What if I could share with her all that I’ve learned about the beauty and genius of the Catholic Church? What if I could shake her and tell her to take a plunge into the depth of her faith?

I consider myself blessed to be finally gaining some fluency, but growing up in a time of great confusion in the Church (post-Vatican II, 1970’s and 80’s) I often think, “Why didn’t I ever learn this when I was a kid?!” I suspect many of us cradle Catholics have wondered this. It’s like we got the most watered-down, milquetoast version of the faith possible. Want to know about Christ’s glorious resurrection? Meditate on this butterfly while listening to some classic Cat Stevens.

What would my spiritual trajectory look like had I been properly catechized during my countless years of Catholic schooling? Would it have helped me to avoid some of the pain or hardship along the way? I know it’s not healthy or even possible to sanitize anyone’s life from suffering, but I do sometimes wish I could enlighten that uninformed, somewhat lost girl I used to be. What if I could pass on to her all that I know now?

Since time travel is not a possibility yet, I’ll settle for working out my angst in this essay. Maybe your inner little Johnny or Janie would appreciate a refresher course too. Well, lean in, kid. Pssst! You wanna hear a secret?

LESSONS I WISH I COULD GO BACK IN TIME TO TELL MY YOUNG SELF ABOUT THE FAITH

1. MEET THE CHURCH FATHERS!

If only I had been introduced to these amazing martyrs and saints years ago. Patristics is the study of the early Christian leaders who were willing to die for the truths and traditions they had been given. We have actual letters written by the Apostolic Fathers who were taught by the Apostles. And guess what? They sound awfully Catholic. These guys are talking about the Eucharist and the hierarchy of the church, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass! And it all begins within decades after Christ’s death. If you haven’t met these guys, get to know them now. You can start by reading St. Ignatius of Antioch’s epistles. I also recommend the book, “The Four Witnesses” which covers Ignatius, Clement, Justin Martyr, and Iraneous. But there are a whole lot more names that somehow were left out of my whole religious education. Reading about their lives and hearing their actual words strengthens our unbreakable link back to Jesus and His teachings. Blessed John Henry Newman famously said, “to be deep in history is to cease being Protestant.” I had never even heard of “Patristics” until I had a good number of gray hairs. My loss is your gain, kid.

2. READ THE BALTIMORE CATECHISM

How tragic that this teaching was seen as outdated during my formative years. Lucky for you, it’s back. Loaded with helpful information on the very basics of Christianity, it answers questions like, “Who is God? Why did He make us? And what must we do to gain happiness with Him in Heaven?” I remember coming across this in my late 30’s. It blew my mind. Existential thoughts which I had grappled with for decades were addressed in straightforward black and white, with illustrations and scriptural references and it’s written for kids! Some things should never go out of style.

3. THERE’S A WHOLE LOT MORE GOING ON IN THE MASS THAN YOU THINK

As a kid like you, I went to Mass every Sunday and Holy day. Snooze-ville! My parents, both faithful Catholics, impressed upon me that we HAD to go. For that, I am eternally grateful. But it might not have been such a fight had I known a bit more about the amazing things that are taking place. I’m still no theologian, but learning the following was a game-changer. Listen up, young’ uns! At Mass, we are standing at the foot of the Cross. We are mystically there with Mary and His beloved, John. Through God, Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross is made present to us at that moment. We become active participants in the Last Supper and the One True Sacrifice in the Eucharist. We are NOT RE-sacrificing Christ as some Protestants mistakenly believe. God exists out of the constraints of chronological time and we get to take part in that one perfect sacrifice to the Father. Read up on this more and always be ready to share it with others.

4. THE ROSARY IS MORE THAN A REARVIEW MIRROR  DECORATION.

Start praying the rosary—yesterday! In my day, it was only for grannies. A real shame because it has turned out to be the most powerful spiritual tools in my arsenal. It’s a great way to meditate on scripture and to enter into a prayerful mindset. Our Blessed Mother reminds us to slow down and she gently, lovingly points us to Christ. I credit the rosary and Our Lady for my reversion. She gently led me to her Son by a string of “decorative” beads. Find the one you got for your 1st communion and start using it. Some of the greatest saints were enriched with graces through praying the rosary. Over the years, you’ll accumulate all sorts of rosaries. Strategically place them in all your coat pockets and purses, so every time you go out you have one with you. Just holding one tightly can help fight evil.

5. CONFIRMATION ISN’T YOUR CATHOLIC GRADUATION

This is big, kiddo. Being formed in the faith never stops. We must continue to grow in our Christianity. The notion that once you are confirmed, you’ve earned your Catholic diploma is wrong. The fire of the holy spirit within you since baptism gets a little gasoline thrown on it, but it does not mean finit & sayanora. That thinking will turn you into spiritual toast. I understood my Confirmation to be a rite of passage into adulthood. NOPE! Confirmation is like a personal Pentecost that gives you the power to go out and proclaim the Gospel. It’s not an end, but a PIVOTAL beginning in your Christian life. You’re going to need those graces for the rest of your mission on Earth.

6. FAITH & REASON GO TOGETHER LIKE PB & J

Be prepared. When you get to college, people will start mocking your lame-O Christianity. Don’t fall for it! Catholicism is not blind faith. The Church recognizes that God gave us an incredible brain for a purpose, so we must use it. Science is not at odds with faith. In fact, some of the greatest scientific minds were Catholic priests. The more we learn about the inner workings of our world, the closer we become to our Creator. Science informs us of the material, natural world, but faith opens our minds to the supernatural. Living in the truth means asking lots of questions. Through faith, we come to better understand our deepest longings and the inner workings of our soul. Get to know St. Thomas Aquinas. He will be your ally through your university years.

7. RESPECTFULLY STAND UP FOR YOUR FAITH

This is called apologetics. Don’t mistake this for saying sorry. You’ll probably have to do that too since the Church is a Divine institution comprised of fallen humans. If we are to engage with the world as the Gospel tells us, we must be able to discuss and defend what we believe. Venerable Fulton Sheen wisely stated, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” Find out more about Fulton Sheen! His videos and talks are no-nonsense, spiritual guidance. Don’t allow yourself to be painted as an atheist’s or Protestant’s caricature of a Catholic. Know what the Church teaching is. Find out what other religions say about us. I love watching EWTN’s “The Journey Home.” Want to know more about what Jehovah Witnesses think of Catholics. Google The Journey Home Jehovah Witness. Watch the youtube video and gain some useful insight. Praying for courage helps too.

8. STUDY BIBLICAL TYPOLOGY

Once you learn about typology, the Bible suddenly isn’t so boring! I never understood much of the Old Testament. It seemed to have very little bearing on my life. But when I began to see everything pointing to Christ, I felt like a holy archaeologist on a mission. I began to search for deeper meaning in my life in light of Christ’s death and resurrection. I feel pretty cheated that I got none of this growing up. The whole Bible can be read as a comprehensive story of salvation history. According to the Catholic Catechism:

Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen.  Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself.  Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old.  Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament.  As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New (CCC 129)

Jeff Cavins is a master at making the Bible come to life in light of typology. I’ve heard great things about “The Great Adventure Bible,” in which he helps guide the reader through the whole biblical narrative. (If my husband is reading this. It would make a great gift!) Now there are no excuses for stashing your bible on a shelf and forgetting about it. Open it. Read it. OFTEN.

9. BARE YOUR SOUL IN CONFESSION REGULARLY

I must have been absent the day they taught about encountering God’s limitless mercy in confession. Interfacing with his love and forgiveness is literally life-altering. Unfortunately, I discovered this after a lot of missteps. I had mistakenly thought it was a nice thing to do, but not really necessary. A real shame! The sacrament of confession could have helped me course correct numerous times throughout my life. To my memory, not a single teacher or priest from my youth ever suggested frequent confession, which may explain some of the spiritual sickness that resulted. Hello, church scandals! I still don’t love confession, but I love how I feel when I’m done. It’s a lot like exercise. Speaking of exercise, here’s a great examination of conscience that will help. Find a good parish or priest that is faithful to the magisterium and GO.

These are reminders meant to help you engage in your faith, you lil’ theological whippersnapper. Now put down the Atari joystick and do something productive. By the way, when the trend for perming your hair comes along, resist. Or at least wait until after your braces are off. You’re welcome!

*Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash

8 thoughts on “9 Things I Wish I Could Go Back in Time to Tell My Young Self About the Faith”

  1. Very interesting post. I predate you a bit. I grew up on the Baltimore Catechism. As I approach my mid-seventies I often find myself asking, “What if…” When the Church I’d known from infancy disappeared, I began shopping for an alternative. It took me many decades to realize it, but there is no alternative. I came back about 10 years ago and my wife who’d been raised as a Protestant converted. Still, when I look around it pains me to see how much has been lost. It can now only be found in one of the strong Latin Mass parishes, which are few and far between.
    As an author I’ve done extensive research and reading on the Early Church period. I’ve been able to produce three nonfiction books on the History and Traditions of the Church. I’m working on the sixth book in my story of Christianity. I’ve taken my cast of characters from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, Antioch and finally to Rome where they encounter the Fire of Rome and Nero’s persecution. In the final book, they’ll be returning to Antioch just as the Great Jewish Revolt breaks out.
    Peace and Blessings.

    Like

    1. These sound like great books! Please respond with the titles so I can check them out. I also appreciate your comment about searching for an alternative to the Church to eventually realize there is no alternative. So true. Thanks!

      Like

      1. Sorry to be slow getting back. The Seeds of Christianity Series has four books: Witness, Disciple, Apostle, & Martyr. The Series revolves around the life of two Jewish shepherd children, Shemu’el and Rivkah. Rivkah is in the fields with her father when the angels appear and announce the birth of the Messiah. They go to Bethlehem as instructed where they find Yosef guarding the stable door. When the men begin talking among themselves, Rivkah decides to slip in and see the new baby. She of course asks if she can hold him. Miryam agrees, but wants her to sit in front of her so she can slip her hands under Rivkah’s arms and ‘help”. Rivkah realizes she’s afraid she’ll drop the baby. Though feeling insulted, she agrees. Rivkah eventually participates in all the early events and happens to run into them again when Yeshua is 12.
        Fast forward 20+ years when an adult Rivkah is in Jerusalem for the Passover. She wants to go to the spice vendors, but finds the streets blocked by a crowd watching three men being led to their execution. She doesn’t recognize Yeshua, but knows Miryam the instant she comes around the corner trailing her son as he is led to his death. Answering an inner voice, she follows Miryam to Golgotha. Hours later they remove Yeshua’s body from the cross and begin to place him in his mother’s arms. Given all that has happened, she trembles under the weight of her son’s body. Rivkah, who has positioned herself behind Miryam, quickly grips her arms whispering, “Here, let me help.”
        My goal was to tell the story through the lives of the common folk who eventually formed the nucleus of the Early Church. The Big Players – Peter, Paul, John, etc. are all there, but they don’t dominate the narrative. I felt that the last thing people needed from me was a rewrite of the New Testament. That said, the Series is Biblically and Historically accurate. I tried to operate in between the stated facts and imagine how this, that or the other could have played out. Witness has been a #1 Kindle book in nearly every country where Amazon has a presence. Even Japan…believe it or not!
        More recently I added a Prelude (hate the term (“prequel”) titled Road to Bethlehem. Road is the story of Miryam and Yosef…their meeting, falling in love and pledging themselves in marriage. It follows Mirtam when she visits Elizabeth. On the way home, Miryam has a stop at Herod’s palace where she meets the King and his son, Antipas, who is about her age. Things get a bit crazy when an obviously pregnant Miryam returns to Nazerth and an angel appears to explain Yosef’s part in this drama. It leaves the Reader at the stable in Bethlehem. Yeshua, as I said, is born very early in the next book, Witness.
        Any of them can be found at Amazon and all other booksellers. They’re available in Print, Electronic, or Audio versions. A search of the title + my name [Witness E.G.Lewis] will easily get you there.
        I know I’ve run on and on, but when I start talking about my characters and stories it’s hard to stop, Peace & Blessings

        Like

  2. Just a greeting from Dublin Ireland to say I enjoyed that post Mary Jo. I have always studied the Fathers inspired by St. Josemaría Escriva. They open up the Gospel. Lots of love and prayers to you and yours! Fr. Walter Macken.

    Like

    1. Hi, Father! Thank you for nice comment. We so appreciate your love and prayers! My husband and I have a fondness for Dublin. It’s where we had our first real argument as a married couple. All the guidebooks cautioned not to drive. We did not heed the warning. We went around in circles searching for our hotel for hours. Happy to report though, 15 years later we are still going strong, praise be to God!

      Like

  3. After 50 years as a charasmetic catholic. I found Dave Roberson book on walking in the spirit and the benefit of praying in tongues. Yes the hidden belief that Catholics are dumbed down. Is true. .9 reasons you listed do described this

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s