New Catholic describes the joys and challenges of growing in his newfound faith
I was asked recently to write about my journey since becoming Catholic. For those who do not know, I did not grow up in a faith-filled home, where church was every Sunday and prayer before meals was a regular occurrence. I have parents, though, who are believers in God, but also believers in allowing their children to make the choice, as adults, to join a religious following if our hearts felt called. Among the Catholics I have come to know, most are taught from the moment they are born what it means to be Catholic, to attend regular Mass and to listen for the voice of God.
For many of you, baptism happened during a time you cannot remember. For me, it happened two years ago on the night of the Easter Vigil. Being a 25-year-old male showered in baptismal water in front of more than 100 people is something you remember for the rest of your life. And it wasn’t because I had the bishop pouring water over my head in front of all those people, but because it was a night I truly felt the presence of God by my side.
Going through RCIA as a catechumen and getting to be around so many knowledgeable and excited minds was a blast for me. I would not say I am an attention seeker, but throughout my journey to baptism, I felt the spirit of the community — and it felt good! It lifted me up, made me feel proud. I could feel God choosing me to join that community. Every day I interacted with the Church and my fellow parishioners, I felt so alive. I could feel God’s presence just pulling me in. It is a funny thing, the Holy Spirit, the way it pours out of everyone, even when we are not aware.
After baptism though, I could feel it, the eyes were off of me. That feeling of attention and presence of the Holy Spirit felt like it was fading. The community still showed up every Sunday as they had previously every week, but this time their catechumen was missing — I was among them in the water. In the moment, I felt lost among the people, forgotten from the spirit of those around me.
Throughout my journey in RCIA, my sponsor and I would have conversations pertaining to the night’s material we covered. On one night I will always remember, he said, “Sometimes it can just feel like people become so caught in the rhythm of church, they become ‘lukewarm.’” This caught me off guard. I had been so naïve that I assumed everyone who went to church every week felt irradiated by the Holy Spirit! When I looked around, I could see that glow, but it wasn’t in everyone. It seemed once the excitement was taken away, people began to fall back into their rhythm. Following my baptism, fast forward a few weeks, and I, too, began to feel “lukewarm.”
This started to become difficult for me. Was I not important to God anymore? Have I been forgotten?
As I pondered in confusion as to what was happening to my faith, I began to think about my relationship with the Church and, more importantly, with God. I started to realize it wasn’t just a phase I went through. We wait for God to show us a sign of what to do next. We put all the work on him. But just like a relationship with a friend or a spouse, you cannot just wait for them to suggest doing something. I realized God was present every day. He always had something new to show me, and that I, too, needed to bring something new to show him. I since have attended a men’s Bible study, spoke to confirmation students about my journey to Christ and have had a few dinners with our wonderful parish priests. I think so many of us get caught up in the conformity of life that we miss the opportunities in front of us.
So next time you find yourself asking God where he is, ask yourself, “Have I become ‘lukewarm’?”
Travis Hartnell is a member of St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. He was baptized into the Catholic faith on April 15, 2017. He enjoys spending time with his wife watching movies in their new home. Travis is from the St. Cloud area and attended St. Cloud State University. When he is not busy working as a fraud investigator, you can catch him in the sky flying airplanes around central Minnesota — so keep your eyes open and noses pointed up.