Growing up, I evaluated from a kid who played mass at home and preached to the family congregation in a non-understandable language, to a lapsed Catholic who pretended to sleep on Sundays. It worked from time to time, but my parents got me on this.
Sure, I was baptized, received Holy Communion and was confirmed, and I was learning about the Catholic faith in School, at home and even at mass through the priests preaching. But, becoming a teenager made me drift away from Catholicism, not in the way of leaving Church or not attending mass. I was just not interested in this topic, nor did I realized at that time, that God is a friend of mine, someone who strives for a relationship.
As a family we attended mass every Sunday, we prayed the rosary and faith was kinda important for my parents. I remember days, when my mother would come up to me and my brother, telling: “It would be nice if we would pray the rosary together.”
We knew that this kind of prayer wouldn’t be short, what means, when we accepted the invitation it would be more like: Hm, we would rather continue playing PlayStation or watching television instead of sitting down twenty and more minutes for the rosary.
My parents were good people, and all they tried was to live their faith and share it with us. We knew the commandments, the sacraments and some prayers, but I must admit that my relationship with God was similar to a machine you mostly find on train stations. I would put in as many prayers as I could, mostly before exams and after them, praying for a good mark or something else. Imagine putting in prayers like coins, pushing the button and waiting for something good to come out.
My prayers were rather one-sided, if you compare it to a relationship with a friend. How else should it be, because I never heard that the big mysterious invisible guy sitting in the clouds could be a friend, someone who strives for a relationship with every individual.
I never enjoyed school, mostly because of mathematics and physics, but after finishing it finally, I found the freedom to pursue my goal of being a graphic designer. And I did it. And I worked for a while as a designer in Frankfurt, the major financial center of Europe.
At this time I went to mass in a Croatian community near Frankfurt, mainly because I would meet there a friend of mine. But, one Sunday morning at mass, while standing in line for Communion, the choir sang Adoro te devote from Thomas Aquinas.
The words hooked me immediately and did something to me I can’t explain. After this experience, I attended mass every Sunday, no matter if my friend was there or not.
But, I started to feel like I was in a wrong place at work.
I felt a kind of restlessness in my heart. Like the priest-theologian Michael J. Himes writes in his book Doing the Truth in Love, restlessness is the path to joy, which keeps you hungry. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit, which drives us to always want more, to give more and to seek God.
This restlessness brought me to the enormous desire of working and serving in the Church, but not as a priest. I came to the conclusion that I should study theology, but I had to go back to school and get my A level, the general qualification for university.
In this period, I drifted deeper into the Croatian Catholic community by working on their new website. I even started to write for some religious websites, and found out that writing, journalism and media can make an enormous impact on people. I loved to communicate this way.
Well, through the time I met new friends in Church, attended mass on a regular basis even throughout the week and started to read the readings at mass. Years before I was probably the most shy person on earth, and I couldn’t imagine to stand there in front of five hundred and more people.
My brother always asks:
“What has happened to you? You are like a new person, not the old one, the shy boy who couldn’t even look at people.”
Indeed I changed radically, but the upcoming months and years were full of up and downs, tears and failures, situations and moments with no hope. Without faith, I wouldn’t come through. Failing the exams, being lost and not seeing your goal anymore felt like darkness. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the French Carmelite nun, experienced also moments of darkness. “If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into!” she once said to the sisters in her convent.
But, faith strengthened me, and after all these up and downs, I finally got my matura, which opened the door for university and my desire: theology.
Throughout these years I learned that God wants to be in a relationship with us. He communicates with us in many different ways: through emotions, feelings, memories, desires and prayers, but also through people and happenings in our daily life. Not to forget, relationships are also a way of communication God uses.
Through my girlfriend, I learned that prayer is not always a quiet moment in your room, but living your life and being aware of his presence. Through her, God showed me that prayer also means to be and to live, to enjoy time together, to laugh and live his love through our lives. It means being aware of his presence and love. “Imagine God looking upon you and smiling”, the Jesuit Anthony de Mello once said.
You probably know some of these desires: becoming a better person, loving more and so on. It’s not about having visions or experiencing tremendous miracles, it’s about having an open heart which let you find God in All Things.
This is the real miracle that happens every day.
When you walk to the train station, to school, to work or wherever else, try to experience his presence. The wind rushing through the leaves in autumn, the snowflakes in winter, or the wonderful sunshine in summer.
Knowing that God is your friend, walking with you, makes live much more interesting, for you have so much to discover. Here ends my piece, but not my way, not my life and not my searching.
How about you? Are you already on the way?
Mario Trifunovic is a student of Catholic theology in Frankfurt/Main. He is writing on English and Croatian on his website called, “Think outside the box”.