Good stories are powerful. They are so much more than facts. They engage our emotions, teaching us as they entertain.
You can teach me rules and regulations, but give me those rules and regulations in the context of a story and I will remember them and perhaps understand them better. If I identify with the characters in the story, I will – “try on” their morals and actions, and envision myself living by those morals and choosing to walk that path. I will draw courage from their courage. I will do my best to imitate their virtue in an effort to grow in my own. I will learn from their mistakes and do my best not to repeat them. If the heroine of the story accomplishes something which seems impossible, I begin to believe that I can do it, too.
My formative years were during the 70’s. My parents took my siblings and I to Mass on Sundays and sent us to CCD weekly, but we didn’t discuss the faith at home. I heard a lot about Jesus, rainbows, and love in our parish, but nothing about how to live our faith or what it meant to be Catholic.
I now know that the priest must have been reading the Gospel at Mass.
Unfortunately my ears were either deaf or I was infertile soil. Whether at home, Mass, or CCD, I did not even get an inkling of the whole deposit of the Faith. I saw Catholicism as rules, Sunday obligations, and the threat of hell for noncompliance.
It wasn’t such a bad deal, though, because as far as I could tell, most of the rules didn’t count. They had been on the books so long that perhaps they just left them there for posterity’s sake. Certainly no one followed them. I was confident of that, as if it were a fact. Discussions with family and friends suggested pre-marital sex was expected; contraception was the responsible choice; living together before marriage prevented divorce, and a woman had a right to abortion.
Occasionally the rules were alluded to, like when the priest who did our pre-Cana counseling did say, “the Church asks that you be open to children.” But that was all he said! Another thing I was falsely confident about was even if we were expected to live these rules, it just wasn’t possible to do that in our modern world. For example, to my knowledge, all couples used some form of contraception, because everyone around me promoted contraception by word or deed. I heard about it in health class, at the doctor’s office, and in the locker room. In college each time I walked into the health center the staff tried to hand me a brown paper bag full of condoms.
So how does my story progress?
I spent years floundering, not following the rules. Then God placed some amazing well-formed Catholic women in my life. These women lived the faith and talked about it too! They shared their counter-cultural Catholic stories with me! Through the Grace of God I let my ignorance show, and these women gently, lovingly pointed me in the right direction. They shared their lives with me, the trials, tribulations and joys of being Catholic. They helped me to see that the rules weren’t outdated, but were actually timeless, loving instructions on life.
Through their stories I began to see the beautiful truths of Catholicism and to envision myself living the fullness of the faith as they did. I drew courage. I made changes in my life. I imitated their virtue and the virtue of the saints they introduced me to. I grew closer to Jesus and saw that through Him all things are possible, especially living the Faith that he handed down to us.
Break the silence! Tell your story!
About Emily Borman
Emily Borman is Editor-in-Chief for Conversation with Women, a website where Catholic women anonymously share their stories of struggle, and ultimately joy, in living the Catholic faith in regards to marriage, sexuality, chastity, and society. Emily is also a Master Catechist for the Diocese of Arlington and holds an Advanced Certificate in Youth Ministry from the Diocese of Arlington in conjunction with the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She and her husband Bill have been married for 28 years and are nearing an empty nest.