These are all questions I've heard, some more than others, growing up in a small Southern town. There was even a time in middle school that I was told I was going to Hell for my beliefs. The area is primarily dominated by multiple Protestant denominations and there are only three small Catholic churches in Lawrence County, two of which share a priest. Let me take a moment to answer the aforementioned questions though. No, we do not "worship" Mother Mary; we do however pray to her often to intercede for us. The saints are all people who lived and died for Christ and led exemplary lives that as Catholics we should try to model seeing as how they modeled Christ's life; no we do not worship them either, simply pray to them for certain things at certain times. While the Catholic Mass varies from Protestant services we are not a cult, and to think so you should probably do a little research. Confession a formal way of confessing your sins to God; think of it as a spiritual cleanse. The feeling you get after confession is fantastic, there is truly nothing else like it. Yes, I absolutely am a Christian. Catholicism has roots back to the days of Jesus. Catholics essentially were the first Christians. Lastly, YES. I am Catholic, so if I say that please do not ask me in a taken-aback tone.
As many of you know, on my mother's side I am the granddaughter of an Italian immigrant and an American with a good bit of Portuguese and Italian in her blood. They met in Massachusetts before moving down South. Most of this side of my family is Catholic. As a result, I am what they call a "cradle Catholic", or someone born and raised in the Catholic faith. Maybe this has something to do with my strong faith. The Church has always been a major part of my life and my family's life.
Being Catholic in a Small Town
From kindergarten to fourth grade I was educated in a Catholic school in Lawrenceburg, until my parents moved me to public school. After moving to public school I took Sunday school classes to ensure I was still learning about my faith, and for this I am grateful to my mother for making me go. When I entered high school, I got involved with my youth group at church. Since there were so few of us I knew most of the kids in the group and saw them around school. Through this group I had many opportunities to grow in the Catholic faith. It brought me to Search (for anyone who has/is a junior or senior in high school I highly recommend making Search. It is AMAZING.) and twice to Indianapolis to the National Catholic Youth Conference (which is basically 20,000+ Catholic teenagers in Lucas Oil Stadium for 3-4 days). Those are just the big things, through my church group I got so many opportunities to help other people in our community as well.
My Faith NowWhen I went to college, I knew it would be different and that it was up to me to make myself go to Mass every week. It helped that one of my roommates was Catholic and that we could go to Mass together. Anyone that is familiar with UTC's campus knows that there are a dozen churches within a 10 block radius of campus. One of those churches happens to be The Minor Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, and the church that I call home here. It is a beautiful old church right in the heart of downtown Chattanooga with a great set of priests that rotate in saying Mass. Sometimes I go through spells where I can't/don't go for a couple weeks, but lately those have been fewer and fewer. I've come to real understanding of my faith and I am so in love with the Church. I know that I have had wonderful people to help me learn and grow in my faith along the way, and thanks to them I am very proud to be Catholic who is very much obsessed with Pope Francis.
Until next time,
xoxo B + Papa Francesco