Have you ever longed for a deeper faith life, but you knew you didn’t want anything too uncomfortable. You know, just something that offers a little bit more variety, but nothing TOO crazy. Praise and worship? Weird. Put your hands down, this is not a concert. Morning prayer? Hello, do you have coffee for that early morning wake up call? Dating fasts? Hahaha, okay this is 2016. Swipe left.
Turns out, sometimes, the uncomfortable is exactly what we need to spark a fire in our soul, fan a flame and make it grow… But seriously. It’s true.
St. Paul’s Outreach (SPO) created the spark and gave me the tools to understand that my Catholic faith is supposed to be uncomfortable, it’s supposed to be challenging and there’s a lot of beauty in suffering with and for the Lord. This is on top of all the joy & awesomeness. (Just so we’re clear.) I wanted comfortability. I wanted safety. I wanted, you know, “normal”. But, as I entered into community with other Catholics, I realized that, in order to grow, in order to be transformed and in order to find true happiness, I had to be willing to let go of what I thought would be embarrassing (*cue putting your hands up to worship the Lord*) or uncomfortable (*cue conversation about your faith with a friend over coffee*). It turns out, I actually experienced greater freedom in my search for Truth and a greater sense of longing for the Lord when I put aside my desire for comforts and the elusive “normal” I thought existed.
Everyone has a story. Everyone. There is no person who lives perfectly and has a perfect life and a perfect faith. In those moments when I think that I’m not holy enough or good enough or faithful enough, I turn to the saints and my brothers & sisters in Christ. There isn’t one saint who didn’t suffer or struggle. It’s not that he or she is better than the rest of us. They chose to live their life for the Lord and exemplify the freedom and love that exists in living in unity with Christ. My brothers & sisters in the Lord support me in my faith life and encourage me when I let the lies seep in that I am not good enough or worthy of Christ’s love & mercy. Christ died for us and freely offers His love & mercy to us. There are no exceptions. We are all invited to experience relationship with Him.
I joined a small group through SPO my sophomore year of college and I experienced a lot of (good!) growing pains with other awesome Catholic women. I learned about intentionality in relationships, the importance of vulnerability and the power of sisterhood.
Last year, I had the beautiful opportunity to live with other Catholic women in SPO. We ate weekly meals together and prayed together. We laughed, cried, got mad, forgave, loved and carried each other through difficult points in our personal lives. These women challenged me in my faith life and in my roles as a daughter, sister, friend, student, worker, believer. I participated in Formation on Thursday nights with other Catholic men and women, attended retreats and yes, I would get into praise & worship. Why? Because, it wasn’t so crazy and it wasn’t so ridiculous. I gave myself as a gift to the Father and that is something that I have to choose to do every day. It’s not always easy, but it is so beautiful.
Sometimes, my bed seems a lot nicer than getting up on a cold winter morning to do Morning Prayer. I could complain about cold floors or the lack of coffee or the frog in my throat while the sun is rising. But, if I did that, it would take away from the awesomeness that is sacrifice and the beauty in offering up our human struggles to the One who loves us, offered His life for us and extends His mercy & grace to us every day. No matter my struggles and my sins, the Lord asks me to give my brokenness to Him and offer up all I have, uniting it to the Cross.
I have SPO to thank for helping me to discover and realize the beauty in my faith and the beauty in Catholic community. I have witnessed so many incredible, faith-filled men and women and I have the joy to call some of these individuals my dearest friends!
Happy 30th, SPO. Killin’ it. Thank you, Jesus, for this ministry!