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How I Fell Away From Catholicism and Returned

Wanting to be a saint

At six years old my role models were Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, so I knew I had aspirations to become a saint one day with the latter. This went on throughout my first few years in elementary school and finding myself still wanting to be a saint despite all that sinning and not knowing it.

It wasn’t until the 5th grade when my Evangelical friend invited me to a 3-day summer retreat in her non-denominational church that this changed.

There I learned some of the ‘mistakes’ that we Catholics got wrong about religion and while I thought I converted to Evangelism, there was still something in my heart that was unsure of it. So I continued taking the Eucharist without knowing that I had taken it while in sin.

The decline

In our freshmen year of high school, we were separated into two sections and so we never really had as much contact as I’d like with them. I had a half-French best friend who I had known since kindergarten and had been an influence on my later attitudes about religion and school that I started neglecting my Evangelical friend and her beliefs. During that freshmen year of high school, I had gotten in trouble with the glee club since I haven’t been there with my half-French best friend for several months. So starting from that first year, I already had trouble with indecisiveness. This indecisiveness would continue during college.

In 2005, my Evangelical best friend would hand out those infamous Jack Chick tracts and while I didn’t believe them myself, there was something terrifying about it when you know nothing of the history of your own religion. In the same year, she once again invited me to join her on a three-day retreat and that was when I was sure I had converted to Evangelism despite never saying it out loud and was told that Catholicism was man-made so I was being pressured by the group to accept being a born-again Christian, whatever that means.

I had wanted to stop taking the Eucharist but I was forced to take it by my own mother, despite not even knowing that I was sinning while also taking it. A few months after school started again, my best friend asked me to ask a question for her as to why we pray to Mother Mary when she has no power of her own. I promptly asked the question for her to our history teacher and our classmates and friends were just stunned. No one gave an answer as to why we prayed to Mother Mary. I

t sealed my choice into one day converting from Catholicism to Evangelism or Protestantism. There were other instances throughout my life when I insisted that Mary was only a person and not God Himself.

A death in the family

In my first year of college, my grandfather who drove me and picked me up from school and bought my Wednesday lunch for most of my life died after a 9–11 month battle with lung cancer. His childhood pope was Pius XII and when the Jubilee in 2000 was celebrated here, he preserved some of the flowers that were being thrown out of the helicopters. It made me wonder if he ever met John Paul II when he came to our area during the 70s. All this talk about my grandfather has made me nostalgic over the past. It was the same time when I quit going to Sunday mass due to my grandfather’s illness that required the family to look after him. I had met him in the ICU once, telling me to tell my dad not to smoke anymore because he wouldn’t like my dad to end up like him. I never even said ‘I love you’ in all those years we spent together which was the greater regret than not taking up literature or passing the board exam, and later suffering from depression and anxiety.

The second decline

A few months after I failed our board exam, I was diagnosed with mild depression which frankly didn’t seem mild at all. I was having problems with walking as well as attention span-related problems. My mother is not a patient woman, actually in terms of personality I am closer to my dad than I am to my mom, while my brother is more like her. I did not take any medication since it quickly faded away once I rediscovered my interests. And of course, I returned to Church without knowing anything about all of my sins.

The third decline

In October of 2017, I had another bout of depression but this time it was mixed with anxiety and PTSD. I was inclined to take medications and therapy for a few months until around March of 2018 despite continuing my therapy with a psychologist. In March of that same year, I was invited by a family member to a 3-day retreat for Catholics to learn about the history of the Church, its founder, and its goals.

It opened my eyes and I decided to remain Catholic, though my faith back then was very weak and the bias of the group leader sharing about mental health made me more insecure about sharing myself with others. Writing is fine as no one really knows me in real life despite having shared one of my posts online.

Now, things went fine afterward until we started our Bible study group. It was the same time I became obsessed with an actor, and once someone said something bad about him I would go on an inward rage directed at that person. This was incredibly unhealthy, imagine depending on someone who likely doesn’t even care about you in real life? And who doesn’t even know you? It continued on until around late September 2020 when I decided to read the Bible, starting with the New Testament. It was the same year when my grandmother died at the age of 84.

Three months passed, and I was more confident with myself than ever, that in December I took a cab to the city and confessed my sins in a cathedral. Now the priest said I must make an Act of Contrition which I did not even know about so I did not do it (wondering now if this is a sin?). As I continued reading the Bible, I became more scrupulous, obsessing over whether something is a sin or not which ended up in another bout of depression and anxiety in January of 2021.

My mother made me go to a psychiatrist again; and she was really the right psychiatrist for me, I poured out all of my problems to her, and she prescribed me medication and a time and day for a new session for the following month.

That same month mother made me go to a spiritual director, who lectured me about why I care more about the history of the Church than other members of the laity who just believe and love Christ. I wanted to reply that I wanted to be certain it was the right Church, but since he was all fired up I did not want to say it out loud and provoke him. We talked for nearly an hour about it. Before he gave me his blessings he asked if I learned the Act of Contrition and I said I know the prayer but did not memorize it, he did not mind at all and just gave his blessings freely, his palms hovering over my head as a sense of humility washed over me.

The return

We went to our farm in the mountains and went canyoneering, mountaineering, and swimming with whale sharks around February of 2021. I had stopped reading the Bible at this time, and it challenged me in putting my faith all in Christ though there were times when I returned to obsessing over that actor and committing sins on occasion I still went to confession regularly with about a 3–4 month gap. I began reading about the lives of the saints, mainly in summary about their early life and how they became saints, I found their stories much more inspiring and fascinating than any life of an actor. Saints from Catherine of Sienna to Thomas More were of great interest to me that I began watching Catholic faith-based movies despite most of them not being of great quality (A Man for All Seasons was just visually stunning and great though as was Calvary). My wanting to become a saint was reignited again from reading about their lives. These were quiet men and women who brought no attention upon themselves unlike today, and who were firm in their beliefs at the cost of their own lives.

No blame?

You might be asking if I blame my best friend for my own story. At one point I did, but I have no power to change that now since this is the only timeline. We are still very good friends despite her own flaws, which I have too.

My friend and I never really talked about it, nor have I confronted her about that point in our lives. I have blamed her for things worse but I can only keep those to myself.

Last words

I realize now that I have similarities to St. Augustine of Hippo who was once a great sinner and became a saint as well, as St. Peter the Apostle who rejected Christ three times. St. Augustine and I returned to the faith at roughly around the same age and I am grateful to have such a connection with a great saint, I have a copy of his Confessions, but have yet to read it. The best lesson I can learn from the saints is being consistent, like Catherine of Sienna who fasted for 19 years, and being grateful like St. Ignatius of Loyola who was hit in the leg by a cannonball.

In the end, I still submit to the old saying: "no one deserves sainthood." It is only up to the Church to decide who becomes a saint.

I also recently ordered The Great Adventure Catholic Bible on Amazon and I cannot wait for it to arrive so I can read the Bible again with more insights into the history of salvation. Last but not the least, I have to thank my own family for sticking by me through thick and thin and whose own faith in the Lord helped me find my way back to Him.

Did you also dream of becoming a saint one day? When did it start? Are you a believer of the saying ‘no one deserves sainthood’ or not? Comment below for your thoughts!

1 Comment

Michael Snellen
Michael Snellen
May 31, 2022

Great conversion story!

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