About a week after I graduated from college, a few friends and I traveled to Rome. I had majored in Latin, so walking the streets of Rome brought so much of the Classical world to life. I would stop and stare at a column or statue tucked into an alleyway, marveling at how the Romans were passing without any apparent interest.
Then I went to Vatican City. And I realized that Rome was not only full of history and a thrilling ancient beauty, but that entering the Vatican felt like coming home. I stood in awe inside St. Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel, letting myself be surrounded by the historic beauty of the church, moved by the art and architecture that celebrated my faith.
Our first Sunday there my friends and I filled our backpacks with our usual bread, cheese, and water for the day and went looking for a Mass to attend. We wandered into St. Peter’s Square and found it packed with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world.
We had no tickets to enter, but a frustrated security guard finally shrugged his shoulders at these clueless American kids who didn’t speak Italian and let us in.
We never did find out the reason for that large Mass, but we stayed, standing shoulder to shoulder with people who shared our faith but not our language. We peered over the crowd and prayed together as Pope John Paul II celebrated the Mass in front of St. Peter’s.
As Communion approached, I found myself thinking that there was no way we could possibly receive Communion in this sea of strangers. Yet somehow extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, deacons, and priests threaded paths through the crowd and brought Jesus to each one of us.
I was just one person in that enormous crowd, and I felt so small. But Jesus sought me out in that group—me, a 21-year-old who was far from home, a recent college graduate with no job and uncertain plans for the future. Jesus showed me, as He has so many times in my life, that I am His and He is mine.
I love being His. I love that I have opportunities through the Eucharist and Confession to connect more deeply with Jesus all the time.
I love that as Catholics we can go to any Mass anywhere in the world and—even if it’s in another language, it’s the same.
I love the beauty of our faith, the statues and the symbols, the bells and the candles, the holy water and the music.
I love the colors and tones of the liturgical seasons, Lent and Easter, Advent and Christmas, and even Ordinary Time. Especially Ordinary Time.
I love that we are on this journey together with those who are living and those who have gone before us. I love the communion of saints. I love that during the Consecration heaven and earth are joined in a way I accept and yet struggle to explain well to my children.
I love that my Catholic faith challenges me, encourages me, stretches me, comforts me, and pushes me to be more than I think I can be.
I didn’t choose to be Catholic—not at first. My parents chose that for me when I was a baby. But, of course, I chose for myself at my Confirmation. I chose again when my husband and I promised to raise our children in the Catholic Church on our wedding day. I chose yet again on the days our children were baptized. And today, as my husband and I share our faith with our children, I hope they will also see it as a gift.