From Cradle To Catholic
-by Vickie Shepherd
My story and faith journey
There are those of us who can say we are “Cradle Catholics”, but what does that mean to others? This rings especially true for those who are coming to us from other faith backgrounds or from no faith background at all – such as those who join us at Easter time through the RCIA process.
I am a cradle catholic, but is this the absolute definition of what a person who was born and raised Catholic, should be? A Cradle Catholic is one who is born, baptized and raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, but what about the children who had protestant parents as in my case? I think my parents-even though they were converts to our faith, did not know all the basics to be able to raise my brothers and myself as the church had envisioned it. My parents at a loss for knowing the catholic pillars of our faith relied on the sisters at our school to teach us the backbone basics to the faith. I think I grew up knowing what the sisters had instilled in me about the catholic faith, but more importantly I grew up knowing the “Christian” values and morality that my parents who were from other faith backgrounds had instilled in me since birth. After all, isn’t the Catholic faith one of Christianity? Above all else I firmly believe in the values my parents inspired within us throughout our lives, I believe in what the Nicene creed proclaims and I believe God will teach me what I need to know through His divine teacher the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes I think there is too much pomp and circumstance in the way things were done in the old days before Vatican II. One such example is when the priest from our parish came to hand out our first report cards in 1st grade. He was a monsignor and he came dressed in his elaborate vestments that the monsignors wore back then, I took one look at the man and fainted dead away. When I came to, one of my classmates asked me what happened and I said: “I don’t know, I can’t remember anything after God got here to hand out report cards”. I guess the sisters had done their job in convincing me that monsignor was “God’s representative on earth”.
What is the best way for children to be introduced to the Catholic faith? I have many fond memories of friends and events that happened at the Catholic school I attended, my friends and I can share and laugh about many of them now that we are older, never to pass that way again (except maybe in our dreams). I guess this is what made me curious to see what other faith services were like, and I began to explore the different churches in my community. The services all had some things of which I could take back with me as a new experience with God, but they all lacked something that my soul longed for once I had left the sanctuary of my own church; the sacraments. I don’t know how to explain it very well except that there was an emptiness that I felt from within, a yearning. It was as if a unity of heaven and earth had not taken place at the services and I was not offered the “bread of life” at any of these other churches that I visited. There was no Rite to celebrate God’s gift to us, no community prayer. I know that we are sent from each Mass we participate in and I felt this was lacking when the services came to an end at the other churches I attended. All in all I felt that something sacred was gone from my life. Concerning my friends and their worship services, I go as a guest with them to their churches and participate with enthusiasm, when I am away from home, I respect their beliefs and background. I do however prefer to attend Mass when possible if I am away from home.
I did not realize the importance of the Catholic faith until I was married. I married a non-catholic and eventually left the church in that year we dated and got married. I was away for about a year when I noticed that something was missing in my life again. There was a twinge of recognition but nothing that would scream; ” Vickie, I need you to return to my flock”. Things of God are never so obvious to the person who is washing diapers and feeding babies and trying to make ends meet day to day, the person running and not listening won’t hear that whisper from God above. It just so happened that on the worst day of my life, God knocked on my door. (Well ok, not GOD, literally) but he sent a messenger, someone who wanted to talk to me for a few minutes. I let the person in and let them do the talking. We chatted about Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit, we said a prayer, the only prayer that popped into my mind was the Lords prayer. Boy that felt good, I hadn’t said that forever! Opps, time to turn the diapers in the oven over for their drying on the other side. Told you, my dryer was on the fritz and I had no one to watch a baby and toddler for me while I went to the launder mat. I think money was an issue here too. It was a while before God’s message had time to set in, and I had to work on my husband. Yes, he was brought up to think Catholics were to be hated and I think he might have been of the impression that we had two green heads or something. He has more than once said to me that I am not the same person he married. This Catholic thing has been going on since the day he found out I was Catholic. But you know, the more he says I am not the same person he met years ago, the more I take that as a positive comment for me, because I was lost, and didn’t have a direction for my family. I do know I couldn’t have made it this far without the guidance and love of God. My husband did eventually become a Catholic on Easter of 1982, he felt he needed to be baptized and that his grandmother would be relieved that he was. I was glad for this opportunity to introduce my spouse to the Catholic faith and to help him to ease into a relationship with God. I still pray for this and hope that he is happy with his relationship with God now. He no longer finds peace in his journey of faith, as I have had problems too, but it is not peace, but a yearning for something more. Something I can’t put my finger on, I am sure God will lead me there when He is ready, (Note: I didn’t say when I was ready!!!).
My husband came to the church through the RCIA process. This is the process where a non-catholic may learn more about God and how He works in our lives. You also learn more about the traditions, practices and customs of the Church along the way. Scripture is the most important element of this process and I have grown to love it over the past 15 years. I joined our RCIA team in 1985 and have seen more changes and gifts from the Holy Spirit than most people do in a lifetime and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to serve our lord as a team member all these years. I hope to eventually return to my ministry when I finish school, I feel I have been called to minister to the people I meet daily in my life now. I hope I am doing the kind of job I can call a ministry. I continue to add to this website and minister in this way, also. May God bless you all abundantly all the days of your life– Alleluia!
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