By Emily Kate Marticello
Have you ever tried to capture a moment in your life — not through the lens of your camera but in the very depths of your heart? When I find myself really enjoying a moment, I will put down my phone and try to capture it through the smells, the sounds, the surroundings, and I hope to carry the happiness and warmth with me as long as I can.
I am entering into my final weeks of college and embarking on a long list of “lasts” before graduation. Every day presents another opportunity to revel in nostalgia and quietly hum “Stop This Train” as I reflect on my final days on a university campus.
Although graduating from undergrad is a very particular time in my life, I have felt these feelings before. Senior year of high school, my last week of middle school, the time I went on my last youth ministry retreat, when I moved from California to Ohio — each of these moments contain overwhelming emotions of both happiness and sadness, abundant hope for the new opportunities, and deep sorrow for the ending of a life chapter.
As these moments of transition that have been “captured” in my heart find their way to the forefront of my mind, I realize that I’ve not been alone in any of them. At times, I’ve faced uncertainty, or even felt disconnected from others, but when I look back, I can see the steady presence of God leading me through. I can see clearly the connections and paths God has laid out for me in the past four years, and even before that.
That’s why I’m Catholic. Faith connects dots in my life — from blessings to misgivings, moments of consolation as well as desolation. As I look back on all of it now, I have a feeling of being accompanied by God through my journey. Faith gives me the eyes to see how all of these experiences — good and bad together — fit together under God’s love.
At my university, there are major senior send-off events: senior retreat, a boat cruise, and a toast on the quad. Each of these events are created to help us capture beautiful memories with friends during the final week of college. I know I will find myself putting down my phone, breathing in the smells, taking in the love of the people I am surrounded with, holding onto the warmth and happiness of the moment. And I know God will be in those moments, as well.
God will be with me 10 years from now, too, when I am reflecting on these last weeks at school. I know there will be great sorrow in saying goodbye, but God’s love fills my memories with gratitude and hope. And my faith gives me strength and confidence to step into my future knowing that whatever comes, it will all fit together.
Being Catholic means never being alone.
In moments of exquisite joy and experiences of profound sorrow, Christ walks with me. On my morning drive to take the kids to school and my regular trips to the grocery store, He accompanies me. The funny thing is, though, He doesn’t always do it in the same way. He likes to keep me on my toes.
Sometimes, a friend recommends just the right book at just the right time. Other times, I receive the hug I didn’t even know I needed. On fleeting and glorious fall days, I see golden leaves set aflame by the sparkling late afternoon sunlight. Often, our children’s tiny voices and joyful laughter adorn our home with mirth and delight.
On all of these days and in all of these ways, Christ is present. He reveals Himself through different people, and, sometimes, one of those people is me. That’s the truly exciting reality of our faith. On any given day, I can see Christ and be Christ. All that’s required is keeping my eyes (and my heart) open to the world around me.
And the best part? The more I look for Him, the more I find Him.
I can say that I’m Catholic because it’s the most rational, sensible way I’ve found to see the world. I can say I love the Church’s foundation of logic and common sense that has held up under attacks from governments, kings, and philosophers for more than 2,000 years. I can say I’m Catholic because my faith also gives meaning to my call to love others, encourages me to grow in virtue, and gives me the hope of heaven. But the best answer for why I am Catholic is the one that I received when I was 14.
After lots of moving around in my first decade of life, I’d spent years struggling with severe shyness and social anxiety at school, and I had very few friends. I vividly remember a moment after my family’s Thanksgiving, where I’d just spent time socializing with my massive extended family — I was so comfortable around them. After that Thanksgiving, as I picked up my jacket, I spoke the first true prayer that I can ever remember saying. I said, “God, if I could talk to my classmates as easily as I talk to my family, then that would be great.”
A person only seeks out something when they know that they need it. God used my shyness (and my desire to overcome it) as a way into my life. But through His grace, I found the God-shaped hole in my heart — my shyness gave me a reason to go to God and find in Him the answer to all the other needs I didn’t know that I had.
Since that first, honest prayer, I’ve made many wonderful friendships, spoken in front of hundreds of people, and developed strong social confidence, but none of those gifts have been as important as the gift of my faith. My social skills weren’t an instant miracle — they grew quietly but steadily over time, intertwined with the faith in God that made their growth possible.
So, that’s why I’m Catholic: at the heart of all the logical reasons is God’s heart, because He seeks to be in relationship with those whom he loves. That relationship with God is vividly alive in all of my experience, regardless of my faith’s dry periods and seasons of doubt. I am Catholic because the same God who accompanies me now is the God who heard my prayer when I was 14, and who will meet me with open arms when my life is over. He is constant in all of my life’s changes, and His Church is the rock upon which I stand.