Another step in my conversion story – After my visit to the local Catholic Shop in Norristown, I started to secretly say the rosary, praying to Our Lady of Guadalupe to help America after 9/11. I bought books about her and began to feel something stirring inside me. Just before the attack on America, I was telling a person (who was Buddhist) about my lack of consistency in faith and he suggested I develop a “practice.” This rosary was part of my new way of life. Another thought came to me. Perhaps I should go to confession. It had been quite a while.
For some reason, I wanted to go confession. I wanted to go to Mass. What was happening to me? It wasn’t like I felt the need to go (even though it was great) it was as though I just really wanted to.
I went to confession. For some reason I mentioned an abortion I had in early 1973. It was my fourth time confessing it. The priest told me that God has forgiven me, but it seems I couldn’t forgive myself. He suggested I go to a place called Rachel’s Vineyard . With the same inward desire, I did some research and found a weekend retreat. Again, what was happening to me? Although I didn’t understand this new perception of my life, I felt a deep gratitude.
St. Bernard said, “Ingratitude is the enemy of the soul, the destroyer of merit and virtue, causing the loss of favors. It is a burning wind that dries up the fountain of piety, the dew of mercy, the torrents of grace.” I had lived a life of ingratitude. Only now, I was beginning to be grateful and recognize I was receiving graces. May I continue to glorify God with what remains of my life.
This Thanksgiving, I wish you the wealth of gratitude.
My name is Kathleen Mulhall Haberland. This is my first blog as “the happy Catholic.” By God’s grace I have been granted the gift of faith. God continues to be revealed to me in kaleidoscopic, yet microscopic revelations – a realization here, an understanding there. I invite you to accompany me through my journey and then to accompany me through the new insights of a each new week.
I had spent the major portion of my life tolerating the members of my Catholic family who continued to go to Mass on Sundays and say rosaries and, worse yet, novenas. I mentally labeled them naive and smugly tolerated their lack of intelligence. We all got along well, but I would have loved an opportunity to question them. Life evolved into a series of events where I progressed from laughing at their silliness to wanting what they had. I prayed in earnest for seventeen years for the gift of faith. On September 11th, 2001, I received the first installment.
As the planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, I was sickened at the fear I felt that life, as we in the United States knew it, was going to end. The people trapped in the towers went to work expecting just an ordinary day. Instead they lived their last day. I watched in horror with my husband. We were on vacation at the time, but it quickly ended as all we wanted to do was go home.
I kept getting a mental picture of me as a young schoolgirl in my blue serge uniform from St. Patrick’s Elementary School in Norristown, PA. In this image I was kneeling down saying a rosary and looking up into a light. I remembered the event as being on a Good Friday between the hours of noon and three o’clock. I had been trying to remain silent for three hours (not easy for a kid!). While I was saying the rosary, I got a distinct feeling of God’s presence. It was a time of innocense, of course. But in that moment, I felt a personal encounter with God.
Why was I remembering that moment now? I flicked the remote trying to follow all the events of the day. On one station (I know now to be EWTN) I heard an old priest and an older nun discussing the World Trade Center. The priest (I came to know later as Fr. Benedict Groschel) and the nun (Mother Angelica) talked about what we should do at times like this. The friar said that we should pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe because she was the Patroness of the Americas. I had never heard of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The next morning I went to the local Catholic Shop (looking over my shoulder to make sure none of my friends saw me) to purchase a rosary and a little pamphlet on how to say the rosary Isince I had long forgotten the prayers). I asked Our Lady of Guadalupe (whomever she was) to help America. It was the beginning of becoming The Happy Catholic.