22 Jun TALES FROM THE JOURNEY HOME: A Young European Reclaims His Catholic Heritage
Q. How old are you? What do you do for a living? Where do you live?
I’m 25 years old and was born in Trier, the oldest city in Germany, which has a rich Catholic tradition. Now, I’m studying Japanese studies/economics and living in Japan.
Q. How old were you when you left the church?
I can’t pinpoint a specific year; it was rather a process of moving away from the Church and Christianity. I was baptized as a baby, received Holy Communion at the age of 9, and went to Confirmation with 14, as it is tradition in Germany. Of course, at my first Holy Communion I didn’t think about religion in a deep way, but in retrospect I cannot say, that I had a relationship to God either. And to be honest, I only wanted to get confirmed for the money.
As a teenager I was fascinated by Zen-Buddhism, but didn’t practice it. So until I was 17, I had my own one world outlook peppered with a bit of Buddhism.
Q. Why did you leave the church?
There are a lot of reasons, which I understand now, but didn’t understand at that time. I’m a person, who really like thinking about philosophy and I love spiritual places. When my friends in our “wild-years“ went to party, I preferred to take our dog for a long walk in the forest.
I think that’s the key to understanding why I turned my back on the Church. At that time I couldn’t find spiritual nourishment there. I cannot relate to sentimental, pseudo-religious stuff like, “we-are-all-brothers-and (most important)-sisters-sitting-around-a-table-and-thinking-about-how-we-can-help-the-poor-children-in-Africa-while-we-are-holding-hands.“
For sure, we have to minister to the poor (Pope Francis is doing it right), but what’s going on in the most parishes is finally only a cheap attempt to salve the conscience.
Sitting in a circle and talking about “Who am I?“ is another example. That’s what we did in religious classes. Or guitar-masses.
What I experienced was a Church that set man in the center and not God. And that’s not what I was searching for.
Q. When and why did you return?
A. That’s a good question. I read a book “Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organisation of the Catholic Church“ written by Thomas Reese S.J.
I found it fascinating. Then, I researched the Vatican, the Roman Curia and – with the Catholic Faith. About that same time Blessed John Paul II was dying and – I don’t know why – I felt the urge to pray for him. I had never prayed before that time.
In an Italian magazine my mother read, was a poster pictures of the pope and on the back side psalms were written. So, every evening I prayed these psalms (i cannot speak Italian!), and it was an important time for me. I started speaking with God!
Then, the bishop of Trier celebrated a requiem and it was the first time in years that I saw a church from the inside – and I was ‘caught.’ I felt so great and excited, that I decided to go regularly to Holy Mass. For sure, that was the work of the Holy Spirit.
Over the years my parish changed, and now the masses are dignified and beautiful, so I found a place where I can find God. And I discovered the Latin Mass. So my view on the church changed, as I read further books about the Faith, talked to priests and prayed a lot. When a German Cardinal was elected pope, this pushed my decision trying to follow Christ.
And now I can say, it was not a mistake to re-start my Catholic life. The belief in Jesus Christ enriched my life and helped me in so many difficulties.
When my father died two years ago, it was a hard time, but the Faith helped me. The hope of eternal life makes those sad things much easier to carry. And that’s not only a promise, but reality.
But the most important thing is, that I have a relationship to God. We humans belong to God and it’s great to come home, after a long journey. I found God, and that’s what I was searching for.
I can say, despite the fact that less and less people accept Catholicism in Germany, in a Christian country (what Germany for sure is) living the faith is easy. In the region where I come from there are lots of beautiful churches and chapels. You can find crosses everywhere; we have a lot of priests.
Now, that I’m living in Japan, it is much more difficult. It is not an Christian environment. As only 1% of the Japanese are Christian, you will be lucky if you find ONE Catholic church in a town.
It can be easy to forget the Faith, if you don’t take care. This has taught me the importance of religious symbols.
Q. What advice would you offer to someone who has left the Church?
Often people are going to leave the church because they had bad experiences and didn’t really know the Catholic faith. That’s the point! Faith!
If someone doesn’t believe in God – and in Germany most young people do NOT – objectively it makes no sense to stay. So, they leave the Church.
But in most cases, the bad experiences (such as guitar masses, a humanistic view of God, etc) – these things are not really Catholic.
If your parish has only these types of things and you are searching for God and the Sacred, my advice is as follows: 1) Read the Bible, 2) Learn the Catechism and 3) Find a good, Catholic parish with a good, Catholic priest. Talk to him and to the parish people. Try to get to know the Church from another perspective.
Learning about the faith and living it is difficult, if you don’t have someone to learn from.
If you have the chance to attend a Mass according the Extraordinary Form (Latin Mass), DO IT. You will be overwhelmed by the beauty of this old rite.
And last, but not least: PRAY. Ask God to show you the way back home. He surely does!
If you do these four things: reading, learning, talking, and praying — your life will change.