July 12, 2019

Serra Club Vocations Essay

Prayer, example of Pope Francis helps teen overcome challenges to faith

By Angelina Letcher (Special to The Criterion)

Angelina LetcherMy favorite quote spoken by the beloved Pope Francis is, “Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good can grow. You have to trust in God.”

This statement is so important to our world and to myself because it applies to each person individually by giving people purpose to believe in something greater than all of us.

Pope Francis acknowledges that God gives his toughest battles to his strongest warriors, and, because of this, we are able to learn from it and grow into an even stronger follower of Jesus Christ. This is no surprise to me as I quickly learned this lesson in my faith journey.

Pope Francis is, by far, the most inspirational person I have ever had the opportunity to see, and I will never forget the experience as I briefly held his hand at a papal hall in Vatican City this January. As I experienced the holiest moment of my life, I wondered what I would tell Pope Francis about my faith journey and how he would advise me to continue to grow in my faith.

I would tell him that growing up I was accustomed to the Roman Catholic religion and grew up surrounded by faith. I attended a private Catholic middle school and high school, received many sacraments and went to Mass with my family every Sunday.

My life seemed to be going as perfectly as possible. I never had a reason to question my faith until last November when I was abruptly diagnosed with a lifelong disease, Type 1 diabetes.

I was suddenly forced to grow up as soon as possible in order to live on a daily basis. I was given too many trials and obstacles to count: friendships, education and self-doubt. I quickly learned that I had no one to rely on, and I needed something or someone to be there for me when I had times like these.

I always believed in a supreme being, but never connected with him until this diagnosis, the ultimate low point of my life. I escaped to music to calm me down, and soon enough I was addicted to Gospel and Christian music.

Praying calmed me down from the bad days. And Mass brought happiness to my heart. The Church and God became my shoulder to cry on, my best friend and my home. After all the tragedy, I felt as though I had been totally and unapologetically accepted and free.

I would confide in Pope Francis to not only make him aware of who I am, but to reassure him that his message and work being done truly help people. Pope Francis shows Vatican City and the world that they can grow past the weeds and thorns throughout life. I would not only thank him for guiding me through my faith journey, but ask him how someone so close to God walked through his faith journey.

(Angelina and her parents, Bryan and Darla Letcher, are members of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She recently graduated from Cathedral High School in Indianapolis and is the 12th-grade division winner in the Indianapolis Serra Club’s 2019 John D. Kelley Vocations Essay Contest.)

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