A couple days ago, a friend and I got into a discussion about growing in faith. She told me she felt like I was growing in leaps and bounds — my Father tells me I’m toddling, and do I ever get upset when I fall down — and she was still just barely rocking on all fours trying to figure out how to crawl.
I’m not one to make comparisons on a developmental level for anyone. I think growing in faith is even more of an individual process, because instead of following a height/weight chart or list of skills that a child should be showing at a certain age, we’re talking about God’s timetable here. Every one of us comes from a different background, a different set of circumstances, and that’s going to affect our development in our faith as well as the trials we face and how we personally handle them. The bottom line is, it’s not a race. But fledgling faith is fragile — handle with prayer.
So, you’re thinking about becoming Catholic (or maybe you already are) — what now? These are my ideas…
1. Start a prayer journal.
One of the first things I did after I started going to Mass was start a prayer journal. I wanted a way to talk to God and keep track of my thoughts when I felt like I needed to write something down to be able to talk to him about it. I like to journal (I have a blog…ahem), and there are two people who can read what I write in this journal — me and Him. No one else. When I started out, I wrote a lot, talked to Him about my problems, what I didn’t understand about the Bible, but now I write whenever just praying doesn’t seem to be working or I want to write down words to really articulate what I want to tell Him. And the longer you write in it, the more you can look back and see how much you’ve grown. But the goal of having a prayer journal is having a conversation with Him — it’s not a one sided diary.
2. Find a reading plan.
The Bible is massive — where do you start? I tried reading through the whole thing when I was a teenager and got bogged down somewhere in Deuteronomy. There’s some good meat and potatoes in the Bible, but if you’re just starting out, it can be really hard to digest and make heads or tails out of. My study bible had a handful of reading plans in it that helped me understand some of the stories without having to read chapters and chapters at a time and try to keep track of all the context. I hung out a lot with the Track 1 readings on that site, but the 180 day guided tour plan looks really interesting if you’ve already got a foundation in the Bible or just want to know what all those other books are about. I might try that one next…
When I first started to wiggle as a baby Catholic, my Father told me, “Growing in your faith is two parts Bible, one part rosary.” I think He told me this because I used to pray the rosary every day, but I’d read my Bible once a week or less. I love the rosary, though, because the mysteries helped cement my knowledge of Jesus’s life, and I think the rosary is a very powerful prayer, especially for those young in faith. Mary sits with you and helps you as you stumble through it, and prays for you. She’s a powerful intercessor for us babies — after all, she’s our Mother!
4. Find friends of faith.
Surround yourself with friends who are Catholic. My school had a Catholic student society that met once a week and got together for special events, and even though I wasn’t Catholic, I hung out with the crowd unashamed. Here’s the cool thing about other Catholics (in my experience): they LOVE it when someone is interested in the faith. One of the sponsors of the group took my friend and I under her wing and now she’s our godmother. I have a little sister and brother through RCIA (we kind of adopted each other), and I’m learning how to network and make friends with other people at church. And of course, Catholic sorority sisters on Twitter represent! Jump in and talk to people — you’ll learn tons about the faith.
5. Read everything Catholic you can get your hands on.
I collect the little bulletin inserts from church. I have at least fifty of them. Why do I keep them? Because I might want to read them again. There might be something interesting on there that I want to come back to. And there’s some good stuff in there, too! Before I knew there even was a catechism, the little snippets of theology in the bulletin taught me tons. One of the cool things about the Catholic church is that there is so much reading material — devotional books with commentaries on the daily readings and other articles, things in the bulletin, stuff in the hymnal about how RCIA works, diocesan newspapers, and of course — blogs! The more you read, the more you know, and oh, the places you’ll go.
But by far the most important thing that has helped me grow in faith is perseverance. I’m stubborn. I refuse to give up. I get frustrated sometimes, but I let that frustration turn into an opportunity to ask questions — to play hide and seek, but with a definite goal in mind. Pray. Learn. Love God. He loves you.
Don’t give up. We’re praying for you.