Living religious lives.

Author:Hawran, Mili
Position:Correspondence - Letter to the editor

Permit me to add my own experience in support of "The Life and Death of Religious Life" by Fr. Benedict Groeschel (June/July). In the early 1970s, at age twenty-one, I found the courage to take the leap from Conservative Judaism into the Catholic Church. As one can imagine, it was the culmination of a long spiritual journey begun in early childhood. What a surprise to find that the Church that the Lord called me into seemed to resemble a subway during rush hour, with most of the passengers wishing to exit and myself attempting to squish my way through the surging crowd to enter. My local community seemed to be composed of numerous exes: ex-nuns, ex-priests, ex-seminarians.

My preparation for baptism included no true explanation of the sacraments, and many questions I had were given superficial answers that left me unable to defend my faith. Indeed, the priest who prepared me for baptism, certainly a well-meaning servant of the Church, gave me Communion before my baptism. I suppose it was a bit like couples who see no need to wait when they plan on getting married anyway, except that there is a divine order for these things and there are always consequences when we ignore this order. Mine were the following: a rapid loss of faith in the Eucharist and all other sacraments and absolutely no appreciation for liturgy. I had never seen anyone kneel at the consecration, and I'm sure I didn't even truly understand that there was one, nor had I ever experienced eucharistic adoration. Mary, the saints, holy water, etc. were relics of the past, as well as votive candles, novenas, rosaries, and First Fridays. I was told that we have the Holy Spirit and no longer needed that other stuff.

What was available were a lot of "spiritually based" political gatherings, women's groups, and meditation and "Christian" yoga. One Sunday, my theology teacher at university was giving the homily at Sunday Mass. She wore a stole, of course, which she said she "deserved." Deserved? At that time, I lacked the knowledge necessary even to question something that just didn't sit right. While spending time at a Visitation Convent, I never once heard St. Margaret Mary Alacoque mentioned or the devotion to the Sacred Heart. It didn't take long for me to migrate toward a church that at least seemed to take the Bible seriously, and so I spent the next twenty years in evangelical/Pentecostal churches in Europe, where I reside.

About ten years ago, I received the grace to rediscover the true Church. Perchance I had attended a Mass where the Lord, in his mercy, revealed his presence in the Eucharist. It was the beginning of a long journey home. Communities such as Fr. Groeschel's, as well as my own, Emmanuel, are precious. They have dusted off the treasures of the Church and put them back in the window for those who care to see them. It's almost like vintage clothing that is quite the rage at the moment--rosaries, miraculous medals, and scapulars are now trendy, like...

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