Lent as a counterfeit Catholic

I lived like a good Catholic for more than 15 years. I attended Catholic school from the age of three until I graduated high school. I went to church every Sunday with my family, received my first Communion in third grade and was confirmed in ninth grade. It was the typical religious journey of any Catholic child.

However, when I was 15-years-old, I stopped liking religion. My tether to Catholicism snapped, and I’m still not entirely sure why. While I wanted to be part of the Church and feel that same joy everyone else around me seemed to have, I couldn’t.

I stopped going to church with my parents except for major holidays. I was still receiving As in my religion classes, but the work felt cumbersome and menial. I tried prayer programs and retreats, and even became a peer minister in high school, hoping I would somehow be struck with the awesome power of God and reconcile with Him and the Church, but to no avail.

Now that the Church has left Ordinary Time and is in Lent – a 40-day observation that begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes at sundown on Holy Thursday – I am reminded more of my decision to stop partaking in Catholicism. Last week on Ash Wednesday, I got a knot in my stomach when I saw people with black crosses smudged on their foreheads. For more than a decade, I stood before a priest and heard the words, “You are dust and unto dust you shall return.” I have not heard these words in over three years and haven’t so much as considered attending an Ash Wednesday Mass since high school. This year, I felt awkward looking at anyone with a cross; It seemed like God was judging me through the burnt palms.

Catholics are encouraged to reflect and self examine for Lent, and this sentiment is felt most by those who are struggling to reconcile with the Church. For these 40 days, I won’t be reflecting on the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice or the goodness of God, I’ll be reflecting on where I went astray and why my relationship with Catholicism seems irreparable.

Pslam 130 tells us to wait for God and trust His timing, “I wait for the Lord. my soul waits. And in His word I do hope.”
I’ve been waiting and hoping for much longer than any 40-day Lenten season.