I Am a Christian Because of Others
Letter from Emily Cahill
I’ve known Christ pretty much my entire life. I grew up going to a Presbyterian church, and came to know Jesus at a young age. At three months old, water and spirit enveloped me in baptism. At six years old, I gave my life to Christ in a prayer led by my sweet Sunday school teacher. At nine years old, I ventured to summer camp, where we sang songs about Jesus, and I saw him in the smiles of my new friends among the pines.
Fast forward some years, to high school. My friend brought me to a Catholic youth program with games, goldfish, and Oreo cookies, but little did she know she also brought me to Christ in an entirely new way.
I met Jesus in the Eucharist on that seemingly ordinary weeknight. After the young college missionary at the night program spoke about the miracle of transubstantiation, I wondered and wondered if it could be true. In the dark church sanctuary, filled with soft light for Eucharistic Adoration, I prayed and prayed. I questioned. I asked God, “Could what looks like just a small piece of bread really be you?” About twenty minutes passed, and in a moment of bravery, I ventured to the back of the church and asked the missionaries to pray over me. With a simple, reassuring prayer, they invoked the Holy Spirit. I don’t remember the words, but those two holy college women prayed for me—quietly, boldly, trusting God.
During the prayer, I cried. I cried in the confusion and in the doubt and in the anxiety that came from knowing that this truth could change the trajectory of my entire life. When I opened my eyes, I heard the voice of Christ: “Emily, this is my body and blood. This is for you. I did this for you.” Confusion and conflict in my heart transformed into awe and belief when He revealed Himself to me in that small host on the altar.
Have you ever known your life is about to change? I always knew that I belonged in God’s kingdom, no matter the circumstances. And I soon came to realize that I belonged in the Catholic Church, despite how difficult that may be. I would have to give up precious pieces of the faith and community I knew and loved, but the call was definite, and I knew to refuse that call would be to refuse Christ.
I needed all the support I could get. When I was going through my conversion, I didn’t know many faithful Catholics. And I have to be honest-- not everyone in the Church was friendly or reached out with open arms. People kept to themselves, in their own family circles. The parish didn’t offer much in terms of ministries and social gatherings. I heard derogatory remarks towards Protestants that stung and that simply weren’t Christ-like or true. I missed the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the churches I grew up in, where people would stay for an hour after the service to chat over donuts.
I felt utterly alone. No one spoke to me-- except at the passing of the peace-- when I sat alone at Mass. No one guided me through my process of questioning and research. No one held my hand through the tears, or rejoiced with me in the excitement of new discoveries.
Except one, and that made all the difference. She was a small group leader at the local Catholic youth group I had started attending in hopes of learning more about the faith but, more importantly, to find a Catholic community. She invited me out to coffee for my birthday and from there everything changed. Our friendship blossomed and we began meeting one-on-one each Sunday in prayer, conversation, and study of the faith. In coffee shops all across town, we sat and slowly made our way through a book on Catholic traditions and sacred scripture. We talked about my roots and hers and the beauty of the faith. When I felt as if I had no one, she was there. She was only a text or phone call away and I knew I would see her each week. This mentor-friend of mine was an incredible model of the faith. She invited. She listened. She cared. She prayed for me. Without her support, I don’t know if I could say I am Catholic today.
This is abundantly clear: we come to know Christ through one another. I am a Christian because of people like my Sunday school teacher who gave her gifts, time, and energy to the cause of Christ. I am a Christian because of priests who bring us the sacraments. I am a Christian because of a missionary who spoke the truth. I am a Christian because of a college student who invited, supported, and loved me in my conversion process.
I am a Christian because of others.
And because of these kingdom-carriers, I know Christ in a more intimate way than ever before. I cannot begin to describe the immense joy and gratitude I felt in being Catholic.
I have a strong desire for everyone to know this beautiful faith alongside me. Jesus Christ is undeniably present through the Church, passed on for 2000 years by his faithful followers, like my friend who walked with me by sitting and talking in a coffee shop every Sunday.
It took time and effort, but I am now part of wonderful Catholic communities. I’ve experienced deep belonging in the Church by the witness and warmth of many— college students and moms and priests—ordinary people that God somehow chooses like you and me.
It’s our turn. I’ve met many of God’s people who feel alone in the Church. Sisters, that sentiment should never exist in our beautiful home, open for all.
So let us be the ones with invitations in hand, and arms wide open. Let’s start women’s small groups, and invite Catholics into our homes for fellowship and food. Let’s set up carpools to parish events, and get to know each other over tea. Let’s pray the Rosary with a friend over FaceTime, or with her in our living room. Let’s write a blog, and host parties to celebrate feast days.
Let’s be the body of Christ, and the Church Jesus established.
To belonging and cultivating kingdom community,
About the Writer: Emily Cahill
Emily Cahill is a friend, student, daughter, sister, Catholic convert, and lifelong follower of Christ. She is currently a student at Whitworth University, studying Elementary Education and Theology, with a big heart for English Language Learners. She loves being creative through crafting and writing, singing her heart out to good tunes on the daily, watching British TV shows, and going on coffee dates for the fellowship and meaningful conversations-- and of course the coffee too. She is passionate about women’s ministry and all things Catholic. You can follow her blog @thecrazycatholic on Instagram.