When I first decided to take a CCO faith study it was in preparation for World Youth Day Rio. I was at a very different point in my faith journey than I am now. I attended Sunday mass fairly regularly, said a prayer here and there, but I didn’t engage in my faith, I didn’t feel it. When I was in Church I was mostly on autopilot. Thus I was apprehensive to say the least, about revisiting the basis of my faith, and sharing my thoughts in a small group. As the weeks went by I enjoyed reading and sharing, but I didn’t truly open myself up to the experience. I didn’t share a lot of my fears, or misgivings, I chose not to do some of the challenges, and then didn’t share why I hadn’t done them for fear of being judged. I was still on autopilot.
However this was not time wasted. Someone recently shared a very good analogy about evangelization being similar to growing plants. One person may plant a seed, another may water it, and so on. Many different things contribute to the plant’s growth, but the seed is essential. During this time, many seeds were being planted in my head. I started thinking more about the Bible verse at the end of each lesson, thinking more about what other members of my group shared, learning the reasoning behind some views of The Church, and figuring out what I believed in. My experiences over the summer, first doing Mission work with the Christian Life Movement in Peru, and then going to World Youth Day in Rio allowed these seeds and others to flourish. Things I had struggled with earlier suddenly made sense. I was learning about my faith, engaging in it, and I was finally feeling the fire alive in my heart.
World Youth Day had largely focused on evangelization and the theme for this year was “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mathew 28:19). I was determined to start doing this. Pope Francis had challenged the youth of the world: “Young people, please: don’t put yourselves at the tailend of history. Be active members! Go on the offensive! Play down the field, build a better world, a world of brothers and sisters, a world of justice, of love, of peace, of fraternity, of solidarity. Play always on the offensive!” I sat around my house wondering how on Earth I was going to do this. Then I got an email from Holly asking me if I’d be interested in leading a faith study.
I was a sign! I agreed to lead a Discovery group, and also decided to take the next faith study, Source. At first I was fearful. How could I lead when I had just started figuring things out? I put my trust in the Lord, and set aside my fears. It ended up being one of the best choices I’ve made. Leading Discovery I was able to reengage in the text, and reflect on my previous thoughts. I was honest with my group about early stages in my faith journey, I enjoyed sharing my testimony with them, and most of all I loved learning from them. Taking Source with my new perspective I learnt so much more about my faith and my beliefs. I shared honestly in the group discussion, about my fears or apprehensions, or enthusiasms, and made an effort to complete challenges. I learned so much from the girls I took the study with, and I enjoyed the fellowship in the faith we shared. Taking the faith studies also opened me up to new experiences, such as attending CCO’s Rise Up conference over this past New Year, or sharing my faith with my friends who aren’t as religious. I can feel that my faith is as strong as ever, and I hope that it keeps growing and that I can continue share it with others.
So, I encourage you to sign up for a faith study. No matter what your faith background is, no matter how involved you are, it’s an excellent way to engage more with Catholicism, figure out your beliefs, and learn from other people. If you took one last semester but are unsure if you’ll take another, then sign up anyway! You may be surprised with what happens. Keep an open mind and an open heart, and share honestly with your group about any of your struggles. Finally, if you’ve taken a faith study, I challenge you to try leading a group. It’s a completely different experience from taking one. Be honest with your group, and listen to their thoughts and feelings. Take up Pope Francis’ challenge, and go and make disciples of all nations!