How God Called Me Home
By Mary Arcement Alexander
As a child I was constantly getting into trouble for both my attitude as well as my eye-rolling. It would typically entail my mother yelling at me and telling me to go to my room. Fast forward to my later 20’s and early 30’s, and I found myself once again having a bad attitude and rolling my eyes, only this time it wasn’t in my childhood home with my parents, but rather in God’s home with my Lord. He didn’t yell nor send me to my room, rather, He waited. He waited for my attitude to change and my eyes to once again focus on Him. “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2Peter 3:9
I grew up the last of four children in a small South Louisiana town. Everyone was Catholic, or at least that is what my child’s mind thought. I attended Catholic school K through 12, went to Mass every Wednesday and, of course, every Sunday. My family never missed Mass. Never. We used to joke that we could vacation in the Sahara desert and my parents would find a Catholic church for us to attend. This way of thinking stayed with me throughout my struggles to remain Catholic.
My first memory of questioning whether or not to remain Catholic came during college. It was primarily due to living in North Louisiana where Catholics seemed few and far between. Also, I did not like standing out. As I aged into my 20’s and 30’s my reasons shifted to the more common reasons people will give: The Mass is boring, I’m not getting anything out of this, the Church has too many rules, the homily is boring, I don’t like the priest (to name a few). And to make my case even stronger, it was during this same time that the first scandals in the Church came to light. This is when my struggles grew even stronger. Ironically, God used those years to slowly but surely ease me back home. In my early 30’s I continued to attend Mass (almost) every Sunday, mainly due to my upbringing with a sprinkle of guilt. I would sit towards the back of church on the aisle and feel nothing but frustration and boredom. This is when my bad attitude heightened (along with eye rolling) and judgment towards the Church and priest became evermore present. I recall sitting in church at various times and asking myself, “Why? Why am I here? All I need to do is stop coming. I have free will. I can go to any church I choose. So why am I still here?” I did not know it then, but I kept going back because of God. Because He wanted me there. He had a plan, a vision for me and He needed me to stay steady despite how I felt. During these same years I would attend different churches from time to time and not one of them ever felt like home. I tried so hard to make one particular church feel like home, but it just didn’t happen. Nothing seemed to be happening, until my fateful conversation with my brother Corey.
Corey and I were riding to our parents house for the weekend, just the two of us, so I thought I would take this opportunity to pick his brain. My brother had then recently renewed his commitment to the Catholic church. I felt desperate for answers then and wanted him to give me the magic answer. Of course, there is no magic answer. Or perhaps there was? When asked, he simply replied, “Pray, Mary. Ask God for help.” Really (I thought). That’s all you have for me, brother? It was both a disappointment and a revelation all at once. I decided to take his advice and simply pray. Pray more, pray differently, pray with more feeling. And lo and behold, it worked.
I don’t remember the exact day or time, but I do remember the feeling. The feeling of sitting in Mass one random Sunday in my mid-30’s and no longer having my bad attitude nor rolling my eyes. He had waited patiently for me to once again fix my eyes upon Him. I willingly did so and I haven’t looked away since.