It has been ten months since I returned to the Church of my youth. I am happier being Catholic than I have ever been in my life. Just a little over a year ago, however, I would not have imagined being back in the Catholic Church. But in reflecting some on my faith journey, and the various twist and turns it took, I've come to realize that my being in the Church was inevitable. For the first time in my Christian life, I have joy, real joy. There is true joy in being Catholic--the joy of being home.
What do I mean? Where have I found my joy?
Joy in the Eucharist. Every time I go to church, I know Jesus is there in the Tabernacle. With each mass, I receive his true body an his true blood. I can sense him with me throughout the day. From the Bread of Life, I receive strength for the day. He heals my heart when it hurts, and he fills me with joy when I'm sad. The Catechism refers to the Eucharist as the "source and summit of of the Christian life." I can't speak for all Catholics, but the the Body of Christ is really the source and summit of my life.
Joy in the Catechism. When I was a protestant, I was always trying to find the answers to questions about the faith and how to apply it to specific situations. But there was no one reliable authority. This is why I have joy in the Catechism. That one book summarizes 2000 years of teaching, preaching and thought on every issue that could confront a person. I don't have to figure things out on my own; if I have a question, I know where to go for an answer. Then, with the answer, I can look for things that will deepen my understanding of the answer. The Catechism has answered questions for Susan and myself about different things. But my first real demonstration of the power of the Catechism was when Maggie was preparing for confirmation. She had real questions about the Eucharist and Transubstantiation. I tried on my own to explain it to her, but to no avail. Finally, in desperation, I went to the Catechism. I showed her what it said. She looked at me and said, "Oh, I get it now." So now, I go to the Catechism first.
Joy in the Pope. Closely related to the joy I have in the Catechism is the joy I have in knowing that the Church has a visible Authority, the successor to St. Peter. The Pope, and by extension the bishops in communion with him that make up the Magisterium (teaching authority), is a visible connection to Christ. From the Pope comes authoritative teaching, as well as a spiritual example to follow. I have learned so much from Blessed John Paul II Theology of the Body and his encyclicals. To the current Holy Father I owe the way I returned to the Church, through Anglicanorum Coetibus.
Joy in Confession. I may be one of the few Catholics who actually say this, but I love the sacrament of confession. Going into the confessional, unburdening myself of my sins (large and small), and receiving absolution from Christ through the person of the Priest--it leaves me feeling light, filled with peace and joy. Saint Maria Faustina, in her diary, called confession "the great tribunal of God's mercy." I can say from experience, it is. There are sins I've struggled with for years and could not get free from; I'd pray and ask forgiveness, but within a short time I'd fall back into the same sins. Only since I have been going to regular confession have I been freed from them; the grace of forgiveness has given me the strength I've lacked in the past. [Note: check out Maggie's blog post on her first confession.]
Joy in Mary and her Rosary. Ah Mary, my Mother, Our Lady! Queen of the most Holy Rosary! She was a stumbling block to entering the Church, but one I was able to overcome. Now, I can truly say I love the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her rosary is my favorite prayer. My family has received so many graces and answers to prayer through praying it. Because of the intercession of Mary and many rosaries said by Susan and myself, our son Josh came back home after being away for months and turned his life around; he was confirmed on Pentecost. She is my Mother and my Queen, as her Son is my Lord and my Brother! As my devotion to Mary has deepened, my love and devotion to Jesus has grown. Mary truly does show the way to her Son. [Note: check out my blog on the rosary.]