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Feb 16, 2022 1020 Shelina Guedes
Encounter

Is Being Catholic Just a Tradition?

Until then going to church was just to keep my parents happy. I didn’t expect that there was someone there who loved me, even when I didn’t care

I was born into a Catholic family in India, so, for me, growing up Catholic was more because of tradition than faith. Going to Sunday Mass and receiving Holy Communion had become routine, and I never really had a relationship with Jesus. I didn’t take my faith seriously. It was more about keeping my parents happy, so for their sake I went to church.

When I moved to England at the impressionable age of 13, my life went through a complete upheaval. In the midst of this culture shock, I was bullied at school. That was so traumatizing that I felt like trash. I couldn’t understand what was happening, and I felt so depressed that I began to think, “Why am I alive?”

I threw myself into my study, and my grades improved so that I was able to study pharmacy at Birmingham University. I was surprised when I met a group of young people who accepted me the way I was for the first time in my life. Although that felt great, it was also very strange because they would gather to pray and I wasn’t used to that. When they were praising God, I thought that was odd because I didn’t have a relationship with Christ. 

They belonged to an international Catholic charismatic movement for youth called Jesus Youth. Although I couldn’t understand them, I kept going because I felt so accepted and decided to go with them to a conference called “Dare to Go”. During an inner healing session, all the memories of what had happened to me in the past came flooding in. I couldn’t stop crying, but then I felt the love of a Father embracing me and understood that Jesus had been carrying me all that time.

I finally realized that somebody loved me for who I was, and didn’t judge me. He had always been there, even when I did not know Him, even when I did not love Him back. So, I started to spend more time with them and other like-minded people. I asked God how I could serve Him and He put the right people in my path. I discovered that He had given me a musical gift–to sing and glorify Him through music and share His love with others through music. The more I sing for him, the more I praise and glorify God through my voice, the more I am attracted and drawn towards Christ. What keeps me going and what keeps me attached to Christ is His unconditional love. 

However, I wasn’t a paragon of perfection. Like many young people I decided to try out the things that everyone else seemed to enjoy. Alcohol helped me fit in with that crowd, but even when I sidetracked, God stayed with me to redirect my steps. He put certain people in my life to gently nudge me back to Him. He’s a very gentle God. He never pushed me, or dragged me. He waited patiently and gave me countless opportunities, again and again, to come back to Him, so I could experience His love.

The more I got to know Christ, the more I recognized how weak I was. Every day He revealed something about myself that I had never realized. My flaws and struggles became an opportunity to grow closer to Him, whereas I felt that if I shared my weaknesses with somebody else, they would probably reject me, and judge me. But I can keep going to Him again and again in Adoration or Mass, give my weakness to Him and ask Him to take it from me. He willingly accepts the burden. He polishes me day by day like a treasured jewel. I can’t stop myself from being drawn towards His love.

Our relationship has become so close that I cannot reject Him even if I wanted to, and if I do reject Him by falling again into sin, the love of God raises me up again. Every time I fall He says, “It’s okay” and that is what keeps me connected to Him, that’s what keeps me attached. When I go to Mass, I have a tangible experience of meeting Christ in the Eucharist. Every time I receive Him, it moves me to tears because I’m receiving the holiest of holies into my frail, sinful body and that strengthens me day by day.

When I began journeying with Christ and experiencing Him in a personal way, I started realizing that it doesn’t matter what is happening around me—how much money I have or how many friends I have. Before I used to seek for people’s approval and the moment they rejected me my happiness was gone. But with Christ, it doesn’t matter if people give you approval or not. He says, “I have chosen you” and when I hear those words, I feel like I have achieved everything. It brings me a lot of happiness, joy and peace to me. I encourage you to give Jesus an opportunity to make a difference in your life. He stands knocking at the door, but He will never force it open, you are invited to open it to Him. You will never regret it if you do. You would be opening the door to a multitude of good things. The blessings He will shower upon you and the things you can achieve with His help are never-ending. Nothing is impossible for Him. He has given me the courage to say yes to things I could never have imagined.

Christ gave me the strength to take a year out of my usual activities to do mission work with Jesus Youth. I distinctly heard Him say, “Shelina I want you to take this one year. I will show you how much more you can achieve through Me”. I was always so anxious about traveling, meeting new people, or spending time with people that I didn’t know. With Him by my side, I could step out of my comfort zone to do those very things, and enjoy it.

That incessant, self-conscious fear that people would judge me has disappeared because my life now has a purpose–to share Christ with others. There is no greater gift I could give to anyone and He deserves our love. If He left the 99 and came after me, I’m sure that He’s already seeking you, calling you back home.


ARTICLE is based on the testimony shared by Shelina Guedes for the Shalom World program “U-Turn”. To watch the episodes visit: shalomworld.org/show/u-turn

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Shelina Guedes

Shelina Guedes

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