“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas 1:2-4).
As a Catholic, there have been times when my faith has been challenged and tested. I especially think back to my years as an undergraduate student in a public university, where I was surrounded by much hostility toward Catholicism. There were days that I felt utterly attacked for my faith, and I wanted to crawl up into a ball and simply cry. But it was my personal relationship with Christ that enabled me to withstand the storms that came my way.
The first time I experienced negative behavior toward me for my faith was during a six-hour organic chemistry lab. I was standing near the Bunsen burner holding a test tube in my hand when all of a sudden a young woman stood in front of me, glaring at me with pursed lips and an uplifted brow. She blurted out, “For such a smart and intelligent woman, I can’t understand how you can be a Catholic.” I just stood there frozen in disbelief, and I wanted to answer her question as a million thoughts ran through my mind. At the same time anger overcame me, so I remained in silence.
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Then another student, who came over and began making the sign of the cross, mockingly asked me, “So is it left to right, or right to left, how is it that you Catholics bless yourselves?” With a smirk on her face she reached over and touched my crucifix and told me that I should not wear it because it offended her.
Lab class that day seemed as if it would never end. I wish I could say that the taunts ceased right there, but it continued throughout the rest of my time working on my experiment. Later as we continued to wait for our solutions to evaporate, so that we were only left with the substrate, one of the young women appeared to pass out right in front of me. I looked down as she began laughing and shouted out, “Look, I’m Jesus, I claim to heal others, but really I just fainted.” She got up, and continued to chuckle before bowing to one of the Protestants in the class. He became enraged and told her to go toward me and bow because only Catholics bow to the cross.
I was angry and humiliated, filled with the desire to cry yet also to let them have it. Instead, I continued working on my experiment while praying to God in silence. There was nothing that I could do, so I asked him to take care of the situation. I am not sure if it was coincidence or not, but toward the end of our lab class that day, the individuals involved in poking fun at Catholicism had to do their experiments over again because their lab stations went up in flames — literally. The professor was horrified because she could not understand how my experiment was fine but the two groups in the same row had their hot plates catch on fire, and their end products completely destroyed.
My story is not uncommon. Yet, despite such trials and tribulations, I’m still Catholic because I believe that the Catholic Church has the fullness of the truth. I know and believe that the holy sacrifice of the Mass is a re-presentation of the same sacrifice that occurred at Calvary, and at holy Communion we receive the actual and real body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. For this reason, despite the many obstacles and hardships I have faced, I have remained a Catholic. I will always remain a Catholic.
But my rootedness in the Faith goes deeper. As a young woman, Jesus Christ is my everything, my whole world. My relationship with him is real. I know that I can always go to him in prayer, and he waits for me in his holy dwelling place. He is the Bread of Life who nourishes me physically and spiritually, giving me the strength, courage and grace to continue on the rest of my day — especially in the face of persecution. He is my beloved who dwells within the very depths of my heart. And it is by being close to him and receiving him in the Eucharist that he continuously helps me on my earthly journey while I gaze heavenward.