I wasn’t quite sure what forum to put this in, so my apologies if this is in the wrong forum.
I’ve been considering going back to church for a while now, although it’s been so long, I’m somewhat apprehensive. Both of my parents divorced and stopped going to church in the 70s. I was baptized a Catholic and got my first communion in 1972, but we only attended church for a few years after that. My mother eventually became a Hindu, and my father started attending a Methodist church when he got remarried.
I went through various religious phases myself over the years. I never actually converted to any other religion, although I was curious about the religious texts of other religions. Without going into my whole life story, I began to doubt religion entirely, although I still think that deep down, I always believed in God.
I tend to look at things analytically, and over the years, I’ve become rather hardened and cynical about most things. I must confess that there have been times where I have become angry with God, and this is probably the greatest sin that eats away at me. I feel like I’m slipping down a path that I shouldn’t go. I’m not sure that I like what I’m becoming, and I need to come back.
But I’ve been away from the Church for so long. How would the Church view a guy like me? I feel like I have some kind of phobia about returning to Church, and I just can’t understand it. I know it may seem kind of silly, but it’s hard for me to ask for anything, especially something like this. I’ve thought about calling to see if I could make an appointment to see a priest, but I wanted to sound things out here in this forum first, if that’s okay.
I am trying to write something that will convey to you the joyfulness and feeling of finally being home that I’ve felt since returning to the church. It’s not easy asking for forgiveness when you’ve been a critic of the church, and maybe even of God Himself, but the peace that you will experience by unburdening yourself in confession is indescribable. And from there it only grows. Call the priest of your parish. There won’t be any anger or judgement, or pressure, just welcoming. Please take the first step.
God is pretty clever. He can use our faults and sins to draw us to Him. You’re sensing “slipping down a path.” God is working with you, He is preparing you for closer unity. He will help you sort out what’s keeping you away. Anger, Pride, Inertia, Laziness, Hard Feelings.
He can convert anything into something truly good. He can convert your past into a powerhouse of generous living for others. Believe it.
Find a priest, set up an appointment. Come with a few points to talk about. Ask for next steps. He may ask you to prepare for a Confession. Don’t worry…it may make you nervous…but it’s going to be one of the best days in your life.
God Bless. I will pray for you during Mass tomorrow.
Always remember that Jesus Himself was always waiting for you to return to Him and His Church. He welcomes you back with open arms and without judgement. He longed for this day for so many years. Now you just have to go to confession, and your relationship with our Lord will be better than it has ever been.
Here is a good website that should help you on your journey!
I can relate. After much aprehension I went to conession after a personal history somewhat similar to yours. I was actually afraid to talk with the priest, but in the confessional he was kind, gentle and supporting. I came out with the feeling of a great burden having been lifted from my shoulders. It was and is all good. Jesus wants us all to come home and he loves us.
First of all, thank you for the honesty in your post. It conveys the genuine soul searching you’re going through right now. As they say, this is how the healing begins.
I’m sort of a Catholic “revert” myself-- I wasn’t quite as cut off as you were, but I had been going through the motions for years. Then about two years ago the Holy Spirit finally brought my faith some traction, and has been nurturing me ever since-- not without regular stumbles mind you, but I’m a changing man. And I love it. For the first time in my adult life I feel as if I’m no longer squandering the gift of my life. It feels so… good. Life has possibility again, through Jesus Christ. I can feel my love for Him pulsate… some days it radiates, other days it lurks below the radar. But the trajectory is positive. He is absolutely changing my life. Praise be to God for never giving up on this sinner.
Speaking of sin, and I may be a tad presumptuous in saying this, but you seem to be carrying around a lot of weight brother. When we walk apart from God we can’t help but become conformed to the world and thus affected by it’s self-centered outlook. I’d guess you were mad at God because he failed to live up to your standards. He let you down. He seemed so invisible. Yet, it’s when we come back into relationship with him that we begin to learn that this worldly outlook is backwards and destructive. We were made to be conformed to God, and thus to live up to His standards. When you start to accept this shift in paradigm, submission of the self to your creator, life will start to make so much more sense. At least it did for me. Despair was replaced by hope. Human beings weren’t made to be the center of their own universe. This always leads to death. Christ as the center of our universe is the path to life and love and peace.
I do a Catholic bible study (The Great Adventure, Jeff Cavins) and read a great scripture passage from St. Paul last night.
[BIBLEDRB]1 Timothy 1: 12-16[/BIBLEDRB]
I reflected on this scripture last night. Here is the great St. Paul, a giant, acknowledging his former life where he was a leader in the persecution of Christ’s young church-- literally watched while they stoned St. Stephen to death. He called himself the worst of sinners, and I doubt he was being self-deprecating about that. Yet Christ showed him mercy, so that others (like you) might know that Jesus Christ has infinite patience and is ready to show ANYONE mercy.
Stevicus, there is nothing in your past that is an obstacle for you to come back to Jesus. The only obstacle is you. So my 2 cents here, I would do exactly what you suggested-- make an appointment with a priest for some spiritual counseling, who will show you the way home (most priests will be overjoyed to be chosen as an instrument of the Lord in helping one of his lost sheep find its way back to the Good Shepherd!).
Why worry about what the church will think of a guy like you when Jesus says the angels will literally sing in heaven over your act of repentance? Pretty awesome to think that you matter that much to the creator of the universe, who has ever hair on your head inventoried. As you begin your walk back to Christ, your spiritual coma will start to thaw, and you will realize He was there all along, loving you-- only you couldn’t perceive His presence because you had cut yourself off.
Thanks, Booter, but I’m a bit confused by the usage of the term “Orthodox” in this context. I had always believed that it referred to Eastern Orthodox (or perhaps Greek or Russian Orthodox). Is that correct, or is there some other meaning in this context?
Thanks, PattiDay. I will be contacting my local parish this morning.
Thanks, Brendan. I can definitely feel God’s call. I definitely feel the need to make some sort of confession, as it’s been over 35 years since my last confession.
Thanks, Edward. I think what got me to this point was the culmination of decades of hatred, bitterness, anger, pride, laziness. It’s gotten especially worse in the past couple of years. I lost both of my parents in 2009. In the years leading up to my mother’s death, I had refused to contact her because I was so angry and resentful. In the weeks before she died, I wrote an angry diatribe against God; very nasty stuff that I’m ashamed to have written. Even other people in my life told me that, if I don’t see her and make peace before she dies, I’ll regret it. It’s only now, two years after her death, that I’m beginning to feel a sense of regret.
When my father died later that same year, it got even worse. My relationship with my father was the complete opposite from the relationship with my mother. I was close to my father and had a very loving relationship. Ever since he died, it’s gotten even worse. My isolation and contempt grew even larger.
I’ve discovered that hatred can be so powerful and seductive. In the past several months, I started writing up “enemies lists” and going over my life’s history. It’s me thinking, “These are the people who have screwed up my life.” Most of it was purely out of bitterness, but I intellectually justified it by saying to God, “If I sin in this life, it’s not my fault. All these other people drove me to it.” Even though I knew deep down that it was a twisted and wrong way of thinking, I just kept doing it anyway.
But as it turned out, my “enemies list” started turning into an inventory of my own sins. Instead of focusing on all the sins committed against me, it started turning into sins I’ve committed against others. I began to feel guilty about my life. Even despite whatever raging turmoil I felt inside, I felt that if just isolate myself and do next to nothing, having minimal contact with the outside world, that my temptation to sin would be reduced. But I’m realizing that it doesn’t really work that way.
I figured that someone wants me to sin and go completely down the drain, and I’ve been fighting that temptation. For the longest time, I thought that it was God doing that to me, as if He wanted me to sin. I felt as if something was pulling me down that path and that there was some spiritual presence in my life which has been playing some kind of sadistic game with me. For the longest time, I thought it was God, just so He could say “Ha ha, I knew you’d fail!”
But there’s something not quite right with that. It doesn’t seem logical or spiritually congruous that God would actually want people to sin. As I analyzed the situation more deeply, I began to sense that there has been some other presence in my life that I’ve been confusing and thinking that it’s God. It’s not God. I’m now convinced that God doesn’t want me to sin, so who else would want me to sin? I used to believe that Satan never existed, but now I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve been living with Satan in my life all these decades. I actually believed that there were some evil spirits just messing with me at every opportunity. My twisted “prayers” to God over the past years have turned into acts of defiance and lists of demands and ultimatums. But that hasn’t done me any good either.
In the past few days, though, I’ve just been asking for help and forgiveness, without any demands, conditions, requests. I guess the emptiness and despair have gotten so strong within that all I can say is “Please, God, help me.” That’s the only prayer that I can muster up these past days.
Thanks again to all who have posted. The Parish office opens in about an hour from now, so I’ll be heading over there shortly.
You’re doing what I did…making much ado about something that will seem very easy once you’ve done it…afterwards you’ll probably notice that you already spent more time fussing and worrying about it than it will take to get back into the Church. Just do it, it’s easy!
They will definitely want you to go to confession which was another big hissy fit for me, but it’s easy once you get in there, the priest helps. Don’t be uptight if you can’t remember thirty years of sin and don’t think you’re going to get thirty years of penance. All he told me to do was read Luke 15; the prodigal son.
I spent way too much time frettin’ and fussin’…sounds like you might be doing the same.
I just took a short ride over to the Parish office, and the priest was able to see me right away. He was very nice and friendly. I gave him my confession as well. He was very understanding. I feel much better that I’ve done this.
Thank you all for your support and encouragement, and I thank those who have made this forum.