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My Journey Back to the Catholic Church

By Carmel Brizzi

I was what you would call a "cradle Catholic:" my parents both grew up Catholic and Catholicism was a defining point with my whole family. My grandfather was even going to become a Catholic priest, but his father died, so he had to go home and care for his family. He eventually got married, but never lost his love for the Church. My grandmother would always have a rosary in her hand. When I was a child I would always ask her what she was doing and why, and she taught me about God and penance.

As a child, I was sent to a Catholic School and learned all about being a Catholic, but, like many people, never really took it seriously. As I entered my teen years, I figured that my parents were too strict with me. By the time I entered high school all my friends were non-Catholics and non-Christians. I wondered why they were allowed to have boyfriends and go to parties and I wasn't. I wanted to act like my friends: parties, boyfriends, and doing anything that was going on at the time. Being a good Christian was the last thing on my mind then. I would pray just to make sure I was still saved and not going to hell, but the rest of my life was devotion to me.

When I was 16, I developed a strong interest in God. I prayed stronger and harder. I loved to talk about God with a Catholic lady that I had met while I was working. She gave me some things to read and she taught me a little about God, but we lost contact after I moved away from my small hometown to Melbourne.

While I lived in Melbourne I met different friends and there were more parties and more excuses to forget my faith. So, I simply let it go again. I eventually left Melbourne and moved back to the small town I grew up in. One day, while back in my hometown, I decided to pick up my Bible and start reading. I read how I was accountable for my sins. It struck me and I did feel accountable and condemned. I needed to feel this condemnation in order to be sorry for my sins and ask for forgiveness.

I had not kept in contact with any Catholics but had recently met a Protestant woman. I called her and told her that I knew that I had sinned and wanted to make a change in my life. She taught me about the Bible and I learned about many topics.

So, I spent the last 6 years of my life going to a Pentecostal Church in my hometown. It was a learning experience but after a while, it felt so casual, almost too casual. I heard a lot of bad things regarding the Catholic Church from a few (but certainly not all) of my Pentecostal friends. For example, I was told: "They worship Mary." I didn't think this was true, but wasn't totally sure. Growing up as a Catholic, I certainly never experienced worship to Mary. One person told me: "priests are going to hell because they know the truth of the Word, but lie about it." I recalled a wonderful priest that I had met in my childhood and knew he was a good Christian; could he be so kind and caring in the Name of Christ and go to hell? I had heard a lot more negative things, so I began to ask questions about what Catholics really believed.

My boyfriend, who has really been a great inspiration, helped guide me home to the Catholic Church. He explained a lot about the history of the Church and I learned the truth about what Catholics believed. As I learned more, I wanted something more out of a Church, something that I wasn't getting.

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Slowly, from my boyfriend, my own research, and my prayers, I began to learn more and more about the Catholic Church. We read books together and he gave me a lot of other information. I began feeling such satisfaction from studying the Catholic Church. For example, I began to look and find sins that I would have previously swept under the carpet. I actually felt accountable again! I actually noticed things I was doing wrong. I examined my conscience and prayed all these wonderful Catholic prayers. All this was a real eye opener and the more I explored the Church, the more I felt like I was entering into a wonderful place. I felt like an excited child who was getting all dressed up and ready for a wedding!

Deciding I wanted to explore returning to the Catholic Faith, I met with my local priest. He was great and we would meet every Monday night. His excitement for me blew me away and his advice was always great. I was finally feeling like I was on my way home. Since this was in late October/early November, I had a chance to experience All Souls Day, which I especially loved. I got to pray for the faithful departed and to pray for my dad. I know that he would be so happy knowing that I have come home to the Church he was a part of. I would love to run home and tell him all about this. A relative close to him told me: "Carmel, your father would be so happy for you now." That was another big moment in this journey, just to hear that.

Also, the traditional ways and beauty of the Church captivated me. I believe that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ during the Eucharist. The way the Catholic Church does things, like the sign of the cross and bowing before the Blessed Sacrament, is how I believe a Church should be.

I recently experienced the Sacrament of Reconciliation and it was one of the most awesome experiences of my journey home. For the first time I not only felt accountable for my past sins but I had to fight back tears. I knew that I had let down God, my family and all Christians who are in the Body of Christ. However, I also knew I was forgiven! My penance gave me a feeling of peace that I have never felt it in my whole life. I felt like I had a huge weight lifted off of me and that I was finally home and free. As I bowed down before the Blessed Sacrament I felt like a new person.

It has never been easy for me to live as a Christian, but I have a great joy, I know that I am home and it has been worth the wait.

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