Heart pounding, I walked through the front doors of Catholic High and began my high school experience.
I was expecting to grow physically and emotionally, but I had no idea of the tremendous changes my faith life would go through.
Before I go into detail about my time at Catholic, let me share some facts about myself and my family. I’m a cradle Catholic. Both of my parents and most of my family are Catholic, so I’ve never known anything but Catholicism. I attended Christ the King School for elementary and middle school. All my classmates and many of my friends were Catholic and had been since birth. Pretty much my entire life and everyone in it was Catholic. I expected things to be about the same as I transitioned into high school, but I was sorely mistaken.
Almost immediately, some of my closest friends stopped practicing Catholicism. It was bizarre for me to be around people who didn’t feel the same way about God as I did, and I was shaken up about it. I started to realize that more and more classmates were changing religions or denouncing God altogether out of rebellion or confusion. I’ll admit that I was upset at these people at first. I wondered how anyone could be so fortunate as to receive a first-rate education and still turn away from God.
I started to talk to those friends at lunch. I wanted to understand how they could refuse God’s love. These theological discussions started to challenge my faith. This was a foreign concept; I had always been around people who supported my faith. Now, I was around people who were trying to prove me wrong.
I realized how little I knew about my faith. In middle school, I just believed what people told me. I was now being forced to defend my faith, and I was doing a pretty terrible job at it. I had no idea why we, as Catholics, believe what we do.
Either out of my competitive nature or my general desire for a deeper understanding, I did some research. I used every resource available to me. Whether it was through books, the internet or other well-schooled Catholics, I started to find out why I believed what I believed and the significance of different Catholic traditions.
After my copious research, I could speak confidently about my faith. I knew exactly what I believed and why I believed it. I could defend my faith by explaining the more unpopular tenets of the Church, such as our love of the Virgin Mary or Transubstantiation.
My newfound fervor for God had some interesting results. I expected to be well versed in my lunchtime theological conversations, but I didn’t think about how I would personally further my faith.
The biggest change I noticed was my appreciation for the sacrifice of the Mass. I dreaded going to Mass most of my life. I saw it as a chore: nothing more than a task to check off my weekly schedule. Once I understood the meaning of the ceremonies and prayers, I was downright vehement about going to Mass. I started listening intently to the readings and homilies and taking them to heart.
In response, I became very involved in my Catholic Youth Ministry. I almost never missed a CYM meeting and eventually became part of the Youth Advisory Team. I signed up for every retreat I could. Among these, Search and the Steubenville conference had the biggest impact on my relationship with God. I highly recommend them to anyone who can go.
I joined Catholic High’s faith group, Rockets of Faith. Once I had a solid foundation in my faith, it was important for me to maintain and build on it. Having a group of students who share in my love of God has been more important than I can express. We meet regularly to discuss our faith and any problems we’ve had. Besides being a faith club, Rockets of Faith is a support group. It’s a prayer group where I feel comfortable sharing anything.
I’m fortunate to have made so many friends through this club and CYM, friends who not only encourage me to be my best self, but who also strengthen my relationship with Christ. Once I knew more about my faith, gaining a strong faith community was the most important step I could’ve taken on my religious journey.
Looking back, I’m grateful for those who had challenged my religion. If my life had remained the same, I would have remained complacent and never found that God had much more to offer. I look forward to seeing how my college experience will continue to test and transform my faith.
Michael Broadwater is a rising senior at Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock. He attends Christ the King Church in Little Rock.
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