By Natalia Gallo
So, I grew up Catholic.
Sit. Stand. Kneel.
Peace be with you.
I went to catechism every single Sunday.
I was baptised.
I was reconciled.
I made my first communion.
I was confirmed under St. Teresa of Ávila.
I sang the songs, I said the prayers. I did the sign of the cross.
I did it for 20 years. I knew God existed. I knew Jesus Christ died on the cross.
But I was taught to know. I didn’t know because I felt it.
I prayed in words. I formed sentences in my head.
“Dear God. Please help me through this time. Please be with my grandmother. Please don’t let me fail my algebra test. Amen.”
I went to church, and then I did what I wanted.
My parents always said that I should seek God in every decision I made. Were they serious? They said I should care about God more than anything. Yeah, I sure love sitting in church bored for an hour every week more than anything.
See. That was ‘God’ to me.
During my early twenties, I hit a major spiritual block.
I felt completely empty. I felt no passion in me at all, only emptiness.
All I was was a body. A soulless, Godless, lifeless body. Depressed, unable to write, unable to pray, unable to enjoy anything I ever once enjoyed. I began questioning why I ever thought God was “real” to begin with. Did I think God was real? Or was I just raised to act like I did?
In my quest to feel some sort of life in me again, I decided to put my focus into my body.
At the time, I was struggling in my desperate journey to become a successful model (a morally crippling career to pursue). The business was always telling me to be whiter, thinner, more toned, better posture, better this, better that.
No one cares about your feelings in the modeling world. No one cares about your inward struggles, your beliefs, your morals, nothing. All they care about is your body. Maybe this is how I began to feel like a body without a soul.
So I signed up for a gym. I got my body into fantastic shape. I became addicted to working out. I loved the high it brought me, I loved my newfound energy. I loved the praise I received from those who were criticizing me before. I felt like I had meaning again.
I wanted to do more to enhance my body and my overall health. That was when yoga started piquing my interest. I went to my local library and checked out 8 or 9 books about yoga. I didn’t know where to start, so I grabbed them all. Some books explained the techniques of yoga, some explained hand positions, some explained the history.
I fell in love with a book called ‘Yoga Cures’ by Tara Stiles. The book is filled with specific yoga routines to overcome some of the most common ailments we suffer from today. There were poses for headaches, arthritis, hangovers, sugar cravings, broken heart, wrinkles!!
So I began to do yoga, and I watched the benefits happen.
I watched my anxiety melt away. The once paralyzing migraines I used to lay in the dark with for hours were cured with 5 simple minutes of a specific yoga routine.
I used to think meditation was some kind of mystical, Buddhist, boring practice that monks in the far east would do, chanting songs or sitting in silence for hours.
Indeed, that is how some people meditate.
But that’s not the only way it’s done.
All that meditation is, is prayer.
It’s not A prayer. It’s not words at all.
Meditation is silencing all of the thoughts going on in your head so that you can work with God to manifest your heart’s deepest desires. You silence you so you can listen to Him.
Along with regular prayer, I also began living my life the way I knew God wanted. I stopped letting myself fall into sins I would normally be tempted to fall into.
I felt better than ever. My life began to take shape in ways that I hadn’t even dreamed of yet. Everything began to fall into perfect place. I knew I had truly found God. I knew how happy He was to be with me, and how much He has always loved me.
I began to wonder if this meant that I wasn’t a real Catholic. I hadn’t been to church in years. I hadn’t received the eucharist, I hadn’t prayed the prayers. I hadn’t been obedient to my religion, but I found God within. Was I still a Catholic?
During meditation, God told me he wanted me to go to church and confess my sins.
So that’s what I did. I took out a notebook and I literally wrote out all of the sins I could think of. I separated them into columns.
Sins Against My Parents:
Sins Against My Body:
Sins Against My Religion:
Bad Intentions Towards Others:
And then I went to church.
And it had been so long since I confessed, I didn’t even know where I was supposed to go.
I sat in the pews and prayed while I waited my turn. I read through all the sins I had written, and I prayed on them while I waited.
Finally, I knew it was my time.
I entered the room and saw a wall with a kneeler in front of it and a window, and alternatively a chair. I knew I did not want to see the priest. I was so lost, that with tears in my eyes, I blurted “Hi…” and waited for instructions.
That was when the most comforting voice blanketed my cold, dripping soul.
I began sobbing uncontrollably. I knelt in front of the window and begged “I haven’t done this in years. I don’t know what to do!”
The priest assured me not to be afraid.
“Tell me what you wish to confess.”
Without hesitation, I poured out all of the tar in my heart. I didn’t hold back a single thing, no matter how ashamed I was to say it. I told him everything.
The priest listened patiently, with kindness and love.
When I was finished, he spoke. He went through all of the things I said and gave me advice on each portion as a whole.
We talked for a time that I had absolutely no measure of. It could have been ten minutes or half an hour. I have no idea. Once he was finished, he absolved me of my sins. He told me as penance to go back out into the church and simply say the “Our Father” one time. He asked me to say it very, very slowly, word by word, and think about what it really means for possibly the first time in my life. How amazing it was that the very prayer that got me into silence was the one that would absolve me of my sin.
Sitting in the pews, saying that prayer, I realized that I was talking to the same God in here in church that I was inside my house, cross legged with my eyes closed. I was still a Catholic. But now I knew what it really meant. Now I understood confession in a way that I hadn’t until I knew God. Before, it was a “have-to”. It was the motion of being a Catholic. Now it was in my heart.
And now I know what it’s like to be a true child of God, not a robot of Him.
If you’re living like a religious robot, trying to go through the motions of letting God into your heart, but not actually feeling Him, my advice to you is to do whatever it is that makes you feel truly close to Him in your heart, not just what makes you look close to Him to your neighbors.
Find Him. And then you will understand everything you have come from. You will understand the rituals that once were motions. It’s not enough to be religious if you are not also spiritual. Remember, your body and soul are one – one single nature. (CCC 365)
Natalia Gallo is a freelance writer, she writes for MyCatholicTshirt.com among other blogs. Follow her on Twitter @NataliaAGallo.