It went really well. For most of Saturday, I was pretty relaxed about the whole thing. I had read it through a number of times, and knowing I could have it in front of me was reassuring. (When I did those speech competitions over 20 years ago that I mentioned in this post last week, we were allowed palm cards only for our 8 minute speech.) However, just after lunch, re-reading it again, I started to feel the butterflies. That churning in the pit of my stomach. Nothing major, but there, nonetheless.
I was ok in the afternoon. My wonderful friend, Jen brought dinner and we had all our kids eat before church. Then we walked down to church and arrived just in time. The kids were very good. By the time I got up (it's was a long mass this weekend!) I felt ok. Not bad at all. I was a little bit nervous, but I relaxed in to the speech about 2 minutes in. When the first one was over, I felt incredibly relieved. The first one was the hardest.
Both speeches the next day went well. I wasn't as stressed out as I thought I would be getting the kids over to my friend's house by 7.10am. It was all pretty easy.
Now it's done, I'm relieved. I got a great response from many, so that was really nice.
And so my speech follows. It's about my personal faith as a Catholic. Therefore, it contains my religious beliefs. (For those of you who follow Mamamia, you may have read a little of this before, as I commented on one of Mia's post detailing my becoming a Catholic.)
I am not posting this speech to convince you to believe in what I do. Not at all. I don't judge anyone for their choice of religion/belief system. I don't preach. What you believe in, is your choice. I am posting this speech simply because I knew some people would be interested to read what I talked about. That's all.
Anyway, enjoy. Or not. Whatever. Here it is...
Once upon a time, I was not Catholic. In fact, even though I was raised Church of England, my parents were not churchgoers.
The first time I attended church (apart from some relatives’ weddings and baptisms), I was about 10 years old. My friend, Kim Adams, and I decided we wanted to find out what this whole “going to church thing” was all about, and so we put on our best frocks, hitched up our skirts, and rode our bikes to the local Anglican church. We attended regularly, and even joined the Sunday School there. In fact, I won a bookmark there once, and decided that it was a sign that God must be very pleased with my attendance!
Then in 1993, I started seeing my husband, [Hubby]. A Catholic. And Christmas Eve, that same year, I was asked to join him and his family for Christmas Eve mass.
To be honest, I was nervous about it. I was worried I would do something wrong and embarrass myself. My future mother-in-law was great. She said, “Just do what I do.” And so I did. When she sat, I sat. When she stood, I stood. And when she kneeled, I kneeled. And before too long, I was feeling part of the community, and quite confident in following what was going on.
A little too confident though. At one point, I thought that the priest was about to make the sign of the cross. As he raised his arm, so did I. But he, ah, didn’t make the sign of the cross at all. And so I quickly pretended to shoo a fly away. It was summertime in Perth, so I think I got away with it.
But after that, I attended church regularly with [Hubby]. I felt as though I had finally found the missing piece of the puzzle in my life. I felt more complete for going to church, and praying as part of a community.
Then one weekend in 1995, I felt a strong need to attend mass. [Hubby] and I had missed a few weeks due to other commitments, and I was insistent that we go.
As we stood in my parent’s kitchen washing the dishes - with my hurrying [Hubby] along - he asked, “If you weren’t seeing me, would you still go to church?”
“Yes,” I replied. “I like going. I always feel better afterwards.” And then I said, “Who knows? Maybe I’ll become a Catholic someday.”
As we arrived at church, the priest was inviting a guest speaker to address the parishioners. She got up, introduced herself and then she said, “Some of you here tonight may have thought about becoming a Catholic, but don’t quite know how to go about it. I’m with the RCIA programme (which is the ‘Right for Christian Initiation in Adults’) and I’m here to tell you how you can go about it.
I was amazed. Immediately, I felt that this was a message from God to me. After the conversation with [Hubby] in the kitchen, and my strong desire to attend church that very night, I believed and still believe wholeheartedly today, that it was God’s plan that I be in that church the moment the woman from the RCIA spoke.
At the first RCIA meeting, I found that the priest who was coordinating the program was the same priest who had married my bestfriend and her husband two weeks prior. It was he who suggested my bestfriend’s mother be my sponsor. When I first asked her about doing it, she lowered her head, and I thought that perhaps she really didn’t want to do it at all, and was about to tell me just that. But instead, she raised her head, crossed the room to embrace me and expressed her relief that I had asked her. She had just, that morning, cancelled a trip back to her homeland of Northern Ireland (which would have coincided with my catechisms), as she didn’t feel ready to see all her family, and had hoped instead to get more involved with the church again. And there I was, standing before her, giving her that opportunity.
Both [Hubby] and my parents were very supportive. [Hubby] only had one stipulation when I announced my plans to become a Catholic: that I do this for no one other than myself. And that was my plan. But there was someone else other than me that I felt I had to do this for. I had to do this for God.
And so, on Easter Saturday, 1996 (almost 14 years ago) I became a Catholic.
My faith in God did not start that Easter Saturday. Nor did it start that first Christmas eve mass, or even when I won that bookmark when I was 10. You see, even though my parents didn’t take me to church, they, and in particular my mother, are the reason I have such a strong faith in God today.
When I was 20, I went on my first overseas holiday. For the 6 weeks I travelled through Europe and the UK, it all went pretty smoothly. Well, except for that one night in a German bier hall when I indulged in a little too much of the local beverage. Ahem. However, one day during that trip, I called my Mum – reverse charges, of course - upset about one thing or another, and she was great. She consoled me and she comforted me, and then 5 days later, when I arrived back to my hotel in London, there waiting for me was a letter from my mother. In it, she wrote something in relation to my phone call that I have never forgotten. She wrote: “God has a plan, and in the end, everything works out for the best. Have faith.”
My mother knows a thing or two about the importance of faith. In fact, her own faith in God was tested 20 years before she wrote that letter to me in London.
During Easter time, 1971 - on Good Friday in fact - my 17-year-old sister, Valda, and her 20-year old boyfriend, John set out to drive north of Perth to Geraldton. Both ballroom dancers, they planned to compete in a dance competition there. However, they never made it. Their car was involved in a car accident, and they both died. I was not quite 7 months old at the time, so fortunately for me I can't quite recall what it was like in those early days after losing Valda.
But I have no doubt that in the hours, the days, the weeks and the months that followed my sister’s death, my mother questioned her faith in God. No doubt, she asked, “Why?” a million times. And yet, growing up, you might be surprised to hear that it was my mother who taught me about God from a very early age. She taught me how to pray to God, and, in fact, how to talk to him. She taught me to believe in Him. Put my trust in Him and to have faith in Him. Which, as a mother of 3 boys today, I can appreciate just how strong that faith was for her, and continues to be, considering all that she, and my father, went through in losing a child.
My mother strongly believes, as do I, that God will determine which path our lives take. It may not suit us at the time. It may not be part of our plan. And we may not understand His decision as to why certain things happen in our lives, but we we should know that in the end, everything will be ok.
My faith is strong, and I owe much of that to my mother. It's just as she wrote in that letter to me back in '91. God has a plan for us all, including me. I just have to have faith.How about you? What was your stand out moment this weekend?