December 23, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – When life is easy, it’s easy to forget God.
I’ve found that in situations where I feel powerless to do anything, being forced to rely on divine providence is the best thing that can possibly happen. God is much more in control of things than we will ever be; in fact, there’s very little in life that we can control at all.
A tidal wave of peace and grace came when I gave God total control as I was helping my friend Anja Baker (then Anja Scheib) become Catholic and receive the Sacraments of the Church. Anja’s a spunky pro-life activist with a lot of talent for a lot of things, and when she asked me to be her Confirmation sponsor I was flattered and overjoyed.
Watching Anja become Catholic majorly deepened my faith and showed me the power of God’s grace.
Anja jumped through hoop after hoop to become Catholic. The paperwork, anti-Catholic hostility, and logistical issues she faced would have been enough to break down any normal person. There were issues with getting a baptismal certificate from a Protestant church and questions about how Anja would get Confirmed in one diocese while possibly doing marriage prep with her non-Catholic fiancé in another and then getting married in possibly a third diocese.
Anja was unsure where she or her fiancé would live when her internship ended and then where they’d live together after getting married. The logistics of getting her to RCIA involved a weekly Sunday night sleepover, extra time on public transportation, planning her hurried snacks and meals, and a 30-minute late-night drive home every Monday night.
As all of this was happening, I was just trying to keep my head “above water” spiritually so I’d be able to help Anja with questions about Catholicism and not be a terrible example to her. The difficulty of this time caused both of us to pray more and rely on ourselves less, putting God in control and trusting His plan.
Anja was going through RCIA during all of Lent, and by Good Friday we were used to lots of things going wrong and getting screwed up, but then turning out alright after prayer. So when my car mysteriously broke down on Good Friday, I just laughed (although I think I did whine a little bit too) and abandoned it where it wouldn’t start.
We changed our plans so that someone else would drive Anja, me, and our friends to the Church. I took a bunch of Ubers to run errands, like picking up a celebratory cake, in what felt a rather silly and expensive game of moving musical chairs. I prayed God would take care of any anxieties or stress related to my dysfunctional car, and sure enough, He did. On Easter, it started on its own so I was able to drive it to a shop to have part of the engine fixed.
In years past, there’s no way I would have been able to play a role like this in someone’s conversion because I was still undergoing a reversion of my own. Often in college I wished I could be someone’s Confirmation sponsor, but I think God knew I wasn’t ready.
After Anja’s First Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil Mass – just after getting Confirmed – she came back to our pew and some tears silently streamed down her face. It was like watching a little child be reunited with her long-lost parents after years and years of looking for them.
I cried, too, because I think at that moment I saw a human being be the happiest she can ever possibly be. She was united with God and everything had been worth it and more.
Finally, Anja was home. She looked so at peace.
Throughout the whole process of becoming Catholic, she’d had the faith and devotion of an innocent child while carrying herself with the grace and maturity of a dignified, Godly woman.
It felt in so many ways like it was the entire world against Anja. But she was so convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith and so determined to be able to receive Holy Communion that she pushed through it all. Dozens of people tried to talk her out of becoming Catholic (some rather rudely, I might add), but with great patience and charity she defended her decision. In doing this, she also managed to explain some fundamental Catholic teachings and correct a lot of misinformation about what Catholics believe.
With great hardship comes great grace. God gave Anja the grace to get through all of those conversations and confrontations, just as He gives all of us grace to get through tough times.
Perhaps 2017 was not a grace-filled year for you. Maybe it was crummy and you’re overcome with sadness or despair or loneliness. Know that good times will come for you eventually, either in this world or the next. God loves you and only wants what’s best for you.
There is so much grace available during Advent and Christmas. Go get it. Go to Confession and Mass. Bond with a friend over the faith. Thank God for all He has done for you and all He will do for you.
Merry Christmas and God bless you!