Megan (left), with her sister, celebrates her First Communion.
Top of the Christmas Wish List: Holy Communion
By Megan Carlotta (Dec 16, 2013)
I like to refer to myself as a "late-bloomer" Catholic. Growing up I was baptized and raised as a Protestant, but by the time I was in high school, I declared myself to be an atheist. Even now, it's hard to believe I went from hating Christianity and not believing in God to converting to Catholicism in my mid-twenties. My conversion was a slow one that I attribute to Our Blessed Mother, which I wrote about in an earlier article on our website.
Just before Christmas in 2009, while watching a program on the History Channel about Jesus, I felt the calling to go to church. In some ways, I was afraid to go to church, and it wasn't until that summer that I finally went to my local Catholic church at the invitation of a family friend. That first experience of Mass at St. Peter's Parish in Great Barrington, Mass., was a quiet awakening to my faith. I began attending Mass every Sunday and started learning everything I could. I read, asked questions, and just fell in love with the Catholic faith. Being a bit of a history geek, I loved the rich history of the Catholic Church. It was like I was a sponge. After attending that first Mass, I decided very quickly I wanted to convert to Catholicism, and that fall I began RCIA classes.
Leading up to Christmas that year, I felt I was finally able to experience the true joy of Christmas. Even Christmas music had a new meaning to me. For the first time, I understood why Jesus came to us as a Baby and the joy His birth brought to the world. After one of my RCIA classes during Advent, our priest, Fr. William Murphy, asked me if I would like to make my First Communion on Christmas Day. I jumped at the chance. I knew it would be special to be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and at the same time being able to receive the Eucharist for the first time.
I knew I needed to tell my family, but I had a complicated family dynamic. My parents divorced when I was 10 years old, and with my mother being Protestant and my father a fallen-away Catholic, I had some reservations telling them my good news. During my childhood my parents had always been supportive of my sister Emily and me. Our parents attended our plays, sporting events, choir performances, and so on. I don't know why, but I thought this would be the one time they wouldn't be there. It wasn't that I thought they wouldn't support me; I knew they did. I just figured since it wasn't their "thing," I would go to Mass in the morning by myself.
When I told my mom I was going to Mass on Christmas morning and that I would be receiving my First Communion, she not only told me that she was proud of me, but she would be there. I remember telling her, "You don't have to go, Mom." But she insisted she would be there. Telling my Dad was a little harder, as he hadn't been to church in many years. I never really talked to him about my conversion, but he, too, was supportive. He told me he would also be there, even though he lived an hour away. It was the hardest telling my sister. At the time, she was against religion, and I was a little afraid of her reaction, but she, too, said she would join us for Mass on Christmas morning. I was surprised and amazed. It was awesome to have both of my parents and sister all coming to support me. Even thinking about this now, it brings tears to my eyes, because I don't know if they ever realized how much that meant to me.
I know many people who have converted or who are in the process of converting who are not as lucky as I am to have the support of a wonderful family. At times I have struggled with friends who describe themselves as atheists or agnostic who think I am crazy for converting. My family may not share all or most of my beliefs, but their love and support encourage me. This Christmas, please join me in praying for those who do not have as strong of a support system and that God may keep their faith strong despite whatever challenges they may face.
Megan Carlotta works in the Communications Department at the Marian Helpers Center in Stockbridge, Mass.