What is the point of being Catholic? What’s the point of going to mass, of going to the sacraments? What’s the point of being a good person? We’re all going to die anyways. Do we just cease to exist? And all the time and effort we spent trying to do good and live up to the standards of our faith will have been for nothing. This is where I was at when I went to CCO’s National RiseUp conference last Christmas. For the first time, I had realized that I didn’t really know if I believed that God exists. Growing up I accepted that going to mass, praying before meals, daily Rosaries, all the things that you do as a Catholic were just a fact of life. It was just what you did. Seeing the deep love and commitment my parents had for Jesus and the Church inspired me to emulate them, hoping that one day my faith would become as fulfilling for me as theirs was for them. Throughout high school I attended mass, I prayed, and was generally proud of myself for staying with my faith.
After I graduated, I moved out and continued to practice my faith. But I spent more time worrying about if I was “doing it right” than actually trying to speak with God. I began to feel uncomfortable with my situation. I knew of many people who were my age who had described getting to know God in an intimate and personal way. Why wasn’t I having those experiences? I was doing all the right things. While at University I got involved with CCO and was interested in their winter conference, Rise Up because I had heard many stories of people’s lives being changed there, and of all sorts of people encountering Christ.
I went to Rise Up with a feeling of desperation, like it was my last chance. If I didn’t experience God personally there, then either I just wasn’t ever going to get it, or he didn’t exist. The second night there, I decided that it was hopeless. I had spent two days, and hadn’t felt anything. I went to confession the second night because I saw everyone else doing it. When I spoke with the priest, I broke down crying and told him how I had been living a lie. I didn’t understand my faith, I didn’t think I believed in God, and I had been lying to everyone about it. Afterward, I told a friend what happened and he and another friend talked and prayed with me for a couple hours. They also gave me a piece of scripture to read over for the next few months. Still, I spent the rest of the conference wondering if God existed. I thought that if He doesn’t, I could go through life, doing whatever I want, but in the end, I’d still die and cease to exist. And that thought terrified me. So I wanted to know if God existed, because if he doesn’t, what’s the point?
I came away from Rise Up with a realization that I wanted to know God personally. Over the next few months, that desire to know if there was any point to life, that desire to really know God in a personal way remained a constant part of my life. I had found a reason why I wanted to keep my faith. Not because it was what my family or friends did, but because through it maybe, just maybe, I could come to know the creator of the Universe. Slowly, even though I still had doubts, I began to see ways that God was personally involved in my life.
But it wasn’t until this summer that this relationship became real for me. It was the Saturday before Pentecost, and the Impact team was gathered for weekly formation. That week I had been getting depressed with my lack of progress on mission. I was discovering that alone, I can only do so much. There are limitations and barriers that I can’t move pass. It was pointed out to me that that is why we need the Holy Spirit. He can do what we cannot; he can give us that extraordinary strength to overcome those barriers. So right before formation, during my personal prayer time, I asked for the Holy Spirit’s help. At formation, we all had the chance to be prayed over individually. As I was waiting my turn, I began to feel very nervous inside. I had been prayed over like this before, but I had never realized just what it meant. I was asking for God the Holy Spirit to come down into me, to give me strength to overcome my limitations. That was a pretty intimidating thought. I realized that I needed him more than anything. After I was prayed over, I went back to my seat, and opened my Bible to the verses that had been given to me at Rise Up. “Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.” Something finally clicked. I had just done that very thing. I had called upon God, and came to him in prayer, and he had heard me. He had sent the Holy Spirit into me. I found God at last, because I had finally looked for him with all my heart. In that moment I felt so close to God, and in my mind, I saw the figure of Jesus, coming over and hugging me, holding me in an embrace of love. I knew he loved me, and I knew I wanted that more than anything.
Since that Saturday, I can say with immediate conviction that I do have a personal relationship with God and because of this my life has purpose. I want to live my life for him not just because I think it’s the right thing to do, but because I love Him. I still experience limitations, but I know now that I can overcome them, if I merely ask for God`s help.