My Journey to Catholicism

05-22-2022Weekly ReflectionParishioner Jake Hesse

Why are you here? I mean two things when I ask that. First: why are you here at church? Second: what is your purpose in this life? It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that those two questions have very little to do with each other. After all, why go to church every week, or even only on certain days like Christmas and Easter, if it is not important? For most of my life, I only had to worry about the second question because, for about 24 years, I was not a Catholic.

No going to Mass every Sunday, no abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent, no confessing my sins to a priest. In fact, I did not associate with any religion, though I would call myself Christian because that is what my family did. This last Easter Vigil, however, I received my sacraments and was made a member of the Catholic Church. After that, I can now say that my answer to the second question is the same as my answer to the first. Let me explain why.

The biggest turning point was around four years ago when I had realized that a career in music was not for me. I had given up my degree program, not so much because I couldn’t finish if I wanted to, but because it made me miserable. I had intended to spend the rest of my life seeking purpose in music, and now I was left with nowhere to turn. So, needing to find something in life I could rely on, I began to take the religious question seriously again. Good enough place to start, right? No longer would I be fine with claiming to believe in God but not knowing what that meant, or not knowing how to talk to Him, or whether or not He was really there to begin with. I needed to justify my existence, get rid of the feeling of emptiness, and so began the next four years of searching.

To cover every detail of my search could fill a book, so I won’t go over it here. I am always willing to share in person. Needless to say, I watched a lot of videos and did just as much reading, going from almost becoming a Jehovah’s Witness to being Christian, but not Catholic. I began to realize that every faith, even atheism, makes an absolute claim to truth. If any given belief is not true, it is of zero importance and should be thrown out. But, if it is true, then there is nothing more important in the whole world. Why say you believe in God if He is not really there? It wasn't a question of what would make me feel fulfilled, but what would actually fulfill the desires of my heart.

I still struggled, however, after becoming convinced of Christianity and being able to defend it. That same feeling of emptiness was there. It was still all about me trying to justify my own existence, trying to use what I had been learning to make myself feel fulfilled. However, our Lord once told St. Thomas, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). He said that truth is not something to know, but someone to know. I was only halfway there. The Catholic Church, after coming to realize that it truly is the Church founded by Jesus Christ, would take me the rest of the way.

And so I ask: why are you here? Is going to church just part of the routine? Something to get out of the way so that you can go back to "real life," to justifying your own existence? Or, perhaps, you are here for the same reason as I am. Perhaps you realize that the Mass, the liturgy, worship, is what you were made for. C.S Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, put it best when he said, “Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in."

Please, don't settle for a blind faith. Get to know the truth. "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7). God bless, and happy Easter!