I am going into my senior year of high school next year and there is a stark difference between my attitude towards my Catholic faith the summer before my freshman year compared to now. Middle school was tough for me. People twisted everything I said so I decided to talk less. Eventually people just assumed I was shy and I felt trapped inside people’s perception of me. All I ever wanted was to “fit in” but also to “get noticed” (the oxymoron every kid feels at that awkward age). I often felt invisible and I thought “If only I was cool enough to hang out with them” (which translated into if only I was less Catholic and had lower moral standards). I found my standards starting to slip up in my speech, my dress, the music I listened to, the movies I watched, and my standards for guys (although I never dated any). My justification was always “Well at least I’m not as bad as so and so”. This continued throughout my freshman year. I know for a fact I am not the only one who has ever felt this way and I think many of you can relate to this whether that be now or long ago. However this is not supposed to be a sob story, this is about what I discovered through my experiences the past three years.
The summer after my freshman year of high school I went to a Steubenville Youth Conference (I have talked about these before but they really are awesome and if you have never gone to one you need to!). At these conferences there are talks, adoration, and confession. During that weekend I had heard God’s voice more clearly, felt his presence more strongly and felt more healing from Confession than I had ever experienced in my entire life. One experience sticks out the most from this particular weekend.
We often hear stories of saints, like St. Maximilian Kolbe, who receive crowns from Jesus or Mary, in St. Maximilian Kolbe’s case, crowns of purity and suffering. Although I did not have a vision of Jesus offering me a crown I clearly heard what he was trying to tell me that Saturday night at adoration. He said “You have to choose. It is either me or the world, but you cannot have both”. When you honestly think about this, it is true. For if you try to put all of your trust in God and your faith, the secular world will no longer be appealing to you, and if you give yourself partly to the secular world you will not be able to give yourself completely to Christ. Once I realized this I knew I had to choose the Catholic faith for myself. It could not be forced into me by my parents, or my teachers, or my parish. Only I could choose it.
And you know what? Choosing Jesus did not make me a crazy weirdo like I thought it would… Well at least not completely. Let’s look at it this way. What does it mean if something is weird? Generally this means it is “something out of the ordinary, compared to the norm, which is defined by the culture.” So, will living out your Catholic faith make you weird?… Yes, but only because we live in a secular or even atheistic culture. However, you were created to be a child of God and you were destined for eternal life with him, so who wants to be “normal” anyway (whatever that means). Living your Catholic faith will not change your whole personality, but rather bring out the real you even more. Therefore, standing up for the truth and sharing your love for Jesus will only make you more yourself, because you will be doing what you were created to do; as Saint Catherine of Siena once said “Be who you were created to be and you will set the world on fire”.
We are called to be counter cultural to our secular culture through our Catholic faith, but because of this we will be persecuted, and we will stand out. We may grow weary along the way, however you all MUST know that you are not alone. Isolation is one of the Devil’s favorite weapons for the faithful. Once you think you are alone, you find it hard to keep living your faith, and you question the value in doing so. I have been there, but please know there is hope. After that Steubenville Conference, I felt it was safe for me to be myself at school, and I knew that my Catholic faith was a part of me that nothing, not even our secular culture, could take away. It has been a truly freeing experience. It has opened my eyes to the gifts God has given me to serve his kingdom and people; being aware of these gifts has allowed me to be more confident and more myself (quirks and all). Don’t get me wrong, it has never been easy and the secular culture “detox” is not a short road, however Jesus never promised us it would be easy. He promised us eternal life if we followed him. So in short: will living out your Catholic faith make you weird? yes, but in a totally awesome way. However, you will need to decide for yourself. Do you want to be secular and boring or Catholic and awesome?