One More Thing….A Story of Discipleship
I was sitting in the computer lab at WVU when it happened. It was the fall of 2001, in the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas break. I was a junior in college and I probably looked like a model Catholic. I taught Sunday school, sang in the choir, and even went to daily Mass. But I had a secret that only a few friends knew: I didn’t really believe. Don’t get me wrong: I wanted to believe. But I just couldn’t. I was intrigued by the ideas of Buddhism and other Eastern religions, like meditation and reincarnation. Those ideas seemed more plausible to me than angels flying around and the bodies of Jesus and Mary floating around Heaven, wherever that was. It all sounded pretty fairlytale-ish to an educated woman like myself. I even stopped saying the Creed at Mass for a time because I felt like a phony, saying words I didn’t really believe. The only part I felt that I could honestly say was “I believe in God.”
So why did I keep going to church? Basically, it was for two reasons. 1. I was taught by nuns, and they drilled into me the fear of Hell. Literally. I was afraid that if the Church was right, and I was wrong, I would be spending an eternity there. 2. I was fascinated with Jesus. Eastern religions seemed to believe that Jesus was a very enlightened teacher, similar to Buddha. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that Buddha and Jesus had very different lives–after all, Buddha didn’t die on a cross and claim to have resurrected. Jesus seemed to be very unique, and I wanted to know who He really was. I already decided that if I ever actually committed to following Jesus, I would follow Him through the Catholic Church. I was convinced that of all Christian churches, the Catholic Church was the most historic. I also thought that so many of its moral laws were so ingenious on a natural level that even if I ceased to be Catholic, I would still live by them. So here I was, a confused college student, seemingly living a model Christian life yet feeling like a fraud.
In fall of 2001, a new priest was transferred to the university parish in Morgantown, and I asked him if we could talk. We took a long walk around Morgantown while I spilled my guts about my doubts. I can’t actually recall what he said to me, or even if he said much of anything. But he listened to me, and he didn’t try to convince me or shame me for my doubts. He just listened. And the impact of that long walk echoed in my head for weeks. And then I found myself in the computer lab, a few weeks before Christmas, looking at a website that I often looked at, called Beliefnet. It was a site dedicated to all different religions, with tabs to click on each religion to read articles pertinent to that religion. I always looked at two sites–Buddhism and Catholicism. The Buddhist site only had a few articles, almost always the same ones that had been there for weeks. The Catholic site was packed with articles, always changing, always new things to read and look at. That fateful day I kept flipping back and forth between the Buddhist and Catholic sites. While looking at the Buddhist site, I thought to myself, “There’s nothing there.” And then it clicked, and I slowly repeated, “THERE’S NOTHING THERE.” In a moment of grace, I realized that following Buddha would lead nowhere. I suddenly decided that it was time for me to follow Jesus, to make a commitment, for better or worse, that He would be the One who I would follow. Because if I tried to follow anyone else, there would be NOTHING THERE. That was the day I committed to being a disciple of Jesus through His Church.
Why am I telling you this story? As Catholics, we’re not real big on talking about our personal experiences with Jesus. But I know I’m not the only one who has had a powerful spiritual experience. Last year I started an Intentional Disciples group at St. Joseph. Our group is going to start a regular column in the bulletin talking about discipleship, and I wanted to start the column by sharing my own story first, so you could know where we are coming from. Keep reading in the following weeks as we unfold some ideas about the path of discipleship, how you can commit to becoming a disciple of Jesus if you aren’t already, and how you can grow in your discipleship if you are already one.
One More Thing….If you want to join our group, we meet every other Wednesday at 7 in the hospitality room. Our next meeting is Sept 19th.