Not long ago an older person was telling me that their children, whom they had brought up Catholic, no longer attended church. He was probably wondering why I had come back to church after many years of non-attendance. If I could have put the reason into one word, it would be suffering. A painful, apparently unresolvable situation pushed me into seeking out the church. However, one word only tells half of the story. The joy I found in the church and in a renewed relationship with God is what has kept me coming back.
A few years ago, a close family member became seriously ill. Long before that I had kicked against the traces and left the traditional church in which I was brought up. However, I still remembered many of the Bible verses I had learnt as a child, and I decided to cling onto the promise that if we have faith as big as a mustard seed then we can move mountains.
Although I believed in God, I couldn’t honestly have said that I was comfortable with anything more specific than that. I decided to be ecumenical and asked an Episcopalian priest, a Salvation Army cadet and our parish priest for prayers. I wasn’t just hoping. I decided that however bleak things looked, I was going to hold God to his promise and believe that He could change an apparently hopeless situation. A word of warning for agnostics: if you ask people to pray for a loved one, watch out. You will probably be included in their prayers, and you don’t quite know where that will take you.
I asked our local priest for prayers, and wrote in an email, ‘I am not a very religious person …. I don’t feel I am very good at praying. However, I have a strong belief in God and his goodness and that in him we live and move and have our being. I feel that there is very little I can do in this situation but I still have faith that there will be a way through.’
The reply I received, helped me to keep on hoping. He wrote, ‘But you watch, your faith and hope and, above all, your love, will have startling results.’
He was right. I couldn’t have foreseen what would happen. Over the last two years, my loved one has made a long slow journey back to life, and, even more unexpectedly, I have experienced the great joy of becoming Catholic. The prayers of others sustained me through a dark period and it meant a great deal to me that my friends in the Episcopalian church and the Salvation Army expressed their support and happiness that I have finally found a spiritual home.