March 15, 2013

Readers open their hearts to share what they love about the faith

By John Shaughnessy

Year of Faith logo(One in a continuing series.)

Jessica Eastridge chose one of the darkest times of her life to explain what she loves about being Catholic.

“At the time of my baby girl’s birth, I was devastated to realize that there was something wrong, and joy quickly turned to concern,” recalls Eastridge, a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis.

“She didn’t cry or react to any stimuli. While she was perfectly formed, there was no expression on her little face. The doctor said I should prepare myself to accept my child had special needs.”

Yet Eastridge wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

“I cried all night,” she says. “Then my faith strengthened me. In the morning, the priest came to give me holy Communion. A nun assisted him, carrying a candle. The candlelight reflected on the chalice, engulfing me in a brilliant light, resulting in giving me a peaceful serenity. I then realized that my baby was not a burden but a blessing. I was privileged to be her mother. She never made a sound, yet her silence spoke louder than any life event.

“She was lent to me for just five months. I was desolate when she left me, but my Catholic faith assured me that we would meet again. Through her life, I learned patience—to be still and listen. Our loss was heaven’s gain.”

Eastridge shared her touching story in response to The Criterion’s invitation to Catholics across the archdiocese to answer the question, “What do you love about being Catholic?” The question stems from then-Pope Benedict XVI’s launching of a special Year of Faith that began on Oct. 11, 2012.

Deborah Roberts also responded to the question by referencing a time in her life when she experienced doubt and disillusionment in her faith.

“I am a cradle Catholic who went to Catholic grade school and high school, but really did not learn my faith,” notes Roberts, a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. “I therefore got disillusioned with the Church, got involved in a non-denominational Bible study and was well on my way to becoming a ‘fallen away Catholic.’

“As Providence would have it, my husband did get his Catholic faith and, though tolerant of my struggles, he stood firm in his commitment to the Church and to raise our children in the Catholic faith.

“Our family got involved in Presentation Ministries, and I remember asking Father Al Lauer, ‘What do I have to believe to be Catholic?’—thinking I could just pick and choose. He told me, ‘You have to believe all of it.’ So I went on a quest, delving into the Catechism [of the Catholic Church], the Church fathers, the saints, encyclicals and apostolic letters of the popes with much prayer and asking the Holy Spirit to guide me.”

That approach made her realize “this was the one true Church that Jesus had established.” Just as crucial to her, Roberts realized something else.

“I fell in love with my Church,” she says.

That love has changed her.

“My husband and I are daily Mass attendees, and this very Mass which I used to find so boring has become the focal point of my day,” she notes. “As I see the Eucharist lifted up right there in front of the Crucifix where Jesus is hanging, I am reminded of Calvary.

“My non-Catholic friends say that to keep him on the cross is to make him die again and again. But it is a daily reminder to me of his great love for me. He did not want us to forget what he did for us, and the Catholic Church gives us so many reminders—the Crucifix, the Eucharist, the pope and our priests, the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary, the Stations of the Cross. It is truly amazing.”

She draws strength from the saints, viewing most of them as “just ordinary people like me who allowed God to work through their lives.”

She finds peace and clarity from her relationship with the Blessed Mother.

She prays the rosary, “especially when I just don’t know how to pray and know that it is a powerful weapon that storms the gates of heaven.

“I have an adoration chapel [at my parish] that I can come to any time of the day or night, and talk to Jesus about my troubles or just sit with him and soak in his love,” she says. “It has changed my life.”

Her faith journey has led her to view the Church as her home—even with the faults and imperfections of its members.

“I love the depth, the history, the richness, the oneness of my Church,” she notes. “I know it is not perfect, but I am so glad that my Church stands up for the sanctity and preciousness of every life, and doesn’t change its doctrines and ideals just because someone thinks they are outdated or old-fashioned.

“Jesus said, ‘Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ [Mt 16:18]. I believe that is the Catholic Church, and I am very proud to be a Catholic.”
 

(If you would like to share your thoughts and stories concerning “what you love about being Catholic,” submit them to assistant editor John Shaughnessy by e-mail at jshaughnessy@archindy.org or by mail in care of The Criterion, 1400 N. Meridian St. Indianapolis, IN 46202. Please include your parish and a daytime phone number where you can be reached.)

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