Growing pains faith wise
mysterium15 asked this question on 6/27/2000:
I grew up Catholic, baptized as an infant, first Confession and Communion at age 7, etc, and was actually very devout, for a child at any rate. But for reasons I'll not get into, I became an atheist at age 14, a couple years before I would have been confirmed.
Anyway, I'm now 17 and am a Christian again, and I go to a nondenominational protestant church with my friends. I don't think I'm ready to really decide about Catholicism yet--I was hurt by the Church, and am not quite ready to be objective about it, and I have a lot of research to do once I can be. But I love God and believe He'll grant me the discernment to decide, in time at least.
Anyway, my grandmother says "Once a Catholic, always a Catholic" which is supposed to mean that since I was baptized Catholic the sacraments all apply to me, and so unless I go to Confession God won't forgive my sins. But I'm not a Catholic, in belief at any rate, so I can't go to Confession.
I don't know what to believe. Do I have to be a Catholic to have a real relationship with God?
Thanks of asking. I am ever amazed about people asking me. There are so many and better informed experts.
With the help of God I may give an answer that helps you to find your answer.
I am sorry for what you have gone through. At fourteen you are very vulnerable. The young person enters in conflict with the authority of the parents and with all the tenets so shielding up to now. At the same time there is a deep religious upheaval going on. Our father image molds some way the image of God that has to be corrected. You can imagine the turmoil.
The young person has to solve two problems profound problems at the same time.
Letting behind childhood you have to acquire a mature relationship with your parents. In fact the rebellion against your parents is really rebellion against the fact that they took almost all decisions. Now you want to take them yourself. On their side the parents have difficulty to accept that you have grown up and they want to continue to follow the same pattern they comfortably have lived on for years. It’s not so easy for them either. This adjustment is aggravated by the profound desire to find a perfect world with perfect persons who don’t blunder and disappoint. You don’t be the person you are. You want to be better. So you look around and see the same mistakes in the adult who are supposed to be an example. These mistakes make you wonder if you can get out of you own error. "The black and white" world of youth.
Painfully you have to learn that there are no such perfect persons, supposing you have not met a real saint. (If you found one this saint pushes you back to your family because it is there that you grow and learn to love in a grownup scale. And I assure you it is very hard to live with saints! Gurus absorb you as followers). This process hurts and intimidates. You let behind security. You are entering an unknown world. This is an extreme susceptible process. Everything seems to threaten. The defense consists in rebellion, desire to change things. If you can’t change things or yourself you retreat to a refuge of age group (they feel the same) and isolation or you go "underground".
At the same time there takes place a Copernican change in faith. You have to abandon the sure ground of childhood faith based on the security that surrounds you. You have to come to the decision to believe on your own. Many times the rebellion against God is directed against the image of God. And that is very good. You are shedding the image of your parents that has been your comfortable mirror for God. But now you have to live the experience that you cannot fathom Him. This is wounding too. You have to let go safety and are at risk to not come across God again. Everything seems so dark and insecure.
Those two problems cause suffering but provide the nurturing process to become friends with your parents. You mature and learn to love them as they are and not as you want them to be, a wonderful thing. The change in faith leads you to find that God loves much more than you ever imagined because He loves as you are.
Al this is enough to absorb all the strength and the emotions of a person at this transitional stage. If in addition you are hurt directly by parents o relatives or persons that represent the Church there is a terrible damage done.
I want to say two things about that. First I want to ask your forgiveness for what the Church has done to you. I am responsible too. I panic at the thought that Catholics have left the Church because I treated them harshly. I pray frequently for those I scandalized. I ask you to forgive all adults too because we don’t pass on a world you deserve.
Secondly I have experienced that God is love and He has permitted the suffering you are talking about He did it for your best. He could have avoided it, couldn’t He? Why didn’t He? That is for you to discover. But I am sure it is because it was better that way. Unbelievable? You have two alternatives, only two: or God loves you or all that exists is a terrible mistake and it’s you alone against the world. So you chose.
I am happy for you that you have found Christ again. You are a free person. If in your conscience you repent God forgives you. You are in a state of grace. The Holy Ghost resides in you.
The normal reconciliation with God is sought through the Church because the risen Lord gave this mission: "Whom you forgive…" But that is not your concern now. Some other moment I can explain that to you.
You wanted to know if God loves you in your situation. He does. You follow your conscience. God is there. To make you understand it let me exaggerate somewhat. Let us say a Catholic after having used all means at hand, counseling, praying, investigating has come to the conviction in conscience that God calls him to convert to let’s say to Buddhism and asks me to decide for him I have to tell him: "If you want to be saved you have to follow you conscience". If this person is in doubt as you are I tell him-her: "Pray, investigate and fight it out with your conscience". In the meantime God looks at you with incredible tenderness and blesses you.
The sentence of your grandmother means that you have a family. The family has hurt you. You decided to leave that family. That was your decision. You may even have changed your family name. Now the family has never cut you off. It is like talking from the Church’s side. And once you see clearly and decide to come back it will be incredibly easy. The door is open, nobody has shut it. You need only to enter. The family is there waiting and asking you to forgive. Well in this moment the family is asking you to absolve. "I confess … to you that I have sinned…"
God bless you
In Corde Jesu