Welcome to CoCo’s Chitchat! Today we’re continuing our Meet the Church series with an interview from a very good friend of mine! Her and I have been friends for many years and I’m really excited to be able to share this with you. I think it’s a good reminder that we are called to unity in the Church–differences in theology shouldn’t stop us from loving one another or encouraging one another in Christ.
1. When did you accept Jesus, and what was that experience like for you?
As a cradle Catholic (aka raised Roman Catholic from birth), I was always surrounded by Jesus. Generally speaking, Catholics are baptized at birth (except in the case of conversions, of course), so my baptism wasn’t my own choice. I also received my first Sacrament of Reconciliation (a sacrament in which your sins are absolved, commonly called a confession) and my first Communion (a sacrament in which you receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the form of bread and wine) under the authority of my parents. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to receive them (in fact, I consider the day of my first Communion to be the happiest day of my life), but it wasn’t my decision. When I was fourteen years old, I received the Sacrament of Confirmation (a sacrament which, in simple terms, is a reception of the gifts of the Holy Spirit – i.e., wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.). As I approached receiving my Confirmation, I realized that it marked a turning point in my faith. Very soon, I would no longer be under the roof of my parents, and it would be sinking or swimming in my spiritual life. In realizing this, I also realized that my faith needed to be more than the habit of going to Mass every week or going to confession once or twice a year. I realized that God was calling me to mature spiritually and to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. It’s been a day by day process, but that’s the same with any relationship.
2. Who or what has had the most impact on your spiritual journey?
My family and my amazing friend CoCo have all been incredible influences on my spiritual journey. In a world that is often antagonistic towards Christianity, they never fail to give me support and guidance. On a less positive note, however, I’ve faced rejection because of my faith. As painful as rejection is, I found my experiences with it positive in the sense that it strengthened my relationship with and my reliance on God. I became far more thankful for the good family and friends that God has blessed me with. It also taught me that there’s nothing in the world, no person or thing, that’s more important than God.
3. Why do you personally continue to seek Jesus? In what ways has He changed your life?
I continue to seek God in my life because honestly I haven’t found anything else worth seeking over God. Any time I get distracted and pursue something over God, I just end up feeling empty and lost and depressed. Whenever I think about God, I start to see Him everywhere, feel Him everywhere, and I realize that everything the world has to offer you that isn’t God is just a sham. If you don’t seek God, no matter what you think you might be doing, you’re seeking straight into the hands of the devil. I’ve always thought of it a little like being with your parents when you’re a little kid. When you’re not by your parents where they can protect you, you’re in danger of anything bad happening to you even if you don’t realize it.
4. What is the hardest struggle for you about being a Christian and/or believing/obeying the Bible?
The hardest struggle is actually doing it. We are fallen, after all, so it’s easy to fall into sin. I’ve always been afraid of being lukewarm, because I go to church every week, I follow all the protocol for lack of a better term, but I’m not always full of faith. I write a lot of fiction, and I’ve found my faith life to be similar to my writing habits in a sense. I like to daydream about my writing, and that’s okay, but I also have to write it too. If I don’t write it, I’m not really a writer then. It’s the same thing for my faith. I can think and say a lot of amazing things about my faith, but if I don’t live it, I’m not faithful to God.
5. What characteristic of God do you appreciate/connect with the most?
Definitely God as a Creator. All of my art and writing is based on His Creation. I can’t even fathom something outside of His Creation – in fact, I can’t even fathom all of His Creation. I’ve always been amazed by how God wants me to share in His Creation, which is why I think I’ve always been attracted to art and attracted to the prospect of being a mother someday. Whenever I write, I’m trying to capture just a fleeting glimpse of the marvelous things God makes. There isn’t even a word suitable enough to describe Him or any of His Creation, it’s so far above me. And yet, God blesses me with the ability to make my own creations based on His Creation. The same goes for procreation. God didn’t have to make the world or humanity to begin with, but when He did, He decided that out of all the endless ways He could have created more human beings, He decided to have us share in His Creation. I don’t know if God will bless me with the honor of having Him create another immortal soul through me and my love with a son of God, but I’ll always be awed by His love for us represented through this choice.
6. What are your favorite books of the Bible and why? Any specific verses that are special to you?
I don’t have a favorite book of the Bible, but I’ve always been drawn to the first chapter of Genesis when God creates the world. Specifically, I’ve always loved the line “… and God saw that it was exceedingly good” in reference to His Creation of mankind. I’ve often imagined God creating the entire universe, every tiny detail I can’t even fathom, and then creating me to be a part of it. It’s staggering and humbling, but every time I think about it, I feel this peace throughout all of me. There’s just something peaceful about realizing that an all-powerful Being who created everything decided His Creation needed you in it too.
7. What does spending time with God/reading the Bible look like for you? Any resources you’d recommend or advice you’d give to someone struggling in this area?
The easiest ways to spend time with God is through prayer and through the people He places in your life. For praying, I try to pray every morning when I first wake up, every night right before I fall asleep, and every time I think about God during the day. I also pray with a livestream of Adoration on my phone. Adoration is when the Body of Christ is displayed in a monstrance (an ornate container made of a precious metal, basically), and you pray and adore God in His Presence. It helps me to keep my thoughts focused on Jesus instead of having them wander all over, and it’s also a good way to feel closer to God. It feels a lot like facetiming a friend. For spending time with God through the people in my life, I just try to be as supportive and as positive as I can for them. I am by no means perfect at either of these things, but I think the important thing is to be aware of them and to ask God for help. The good thing is, He doesn’t expect you to live your life on your own. He wants you to ask for help and for strength, so always remember to turn to God. It’s totally counterintuitive to be worrying about not being close to God and then not ask for His help.
8. Can you share a time (or two) you’ve experienced an answer to prayer, or seen God in your life? Any particular moments you just knew He was there? Nothing is too small. 🙂
This is going to require some hefty explaining, so bear with me! One of things you have to do to be confirmed (the sacrament in which, in simple terms, you receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit) is to pick a confirmation saint. Now, as a simple definition, a saint is a person who led an exceptionally holy life. They must be canonized (officially declared) a saint by the Catholic Church, and there’s a ton of requirements for that to happen. However, there are many saints, who, once again in simple terms, are role models for Catholics. So when you pick a confirmation saint, you’re essentially picking a holy person who you admire and feel a special connection to.
St. Philomena was a virgin martyr of about twelve or thirteen years old. In 1802, Philomena’s body was discovered by excavators inside ancient catacombs in Rome. On her tomb was the words LUMENA/PAXTE/CUMFI which translates to: “Peace be with you, Philomena.” Also inscribed on her tomb were the symbols of a lily, arrows, and an anchor and a lance – these indicate virginity and martyrdom. Obviously, her remains were found inside the tomb along with a vial of her dried blood. Her remains eventually ended up enshrined in a village Catholic church, where miracles immediately began happening. People asked for St. Philomena’s intercession (basically for her to pray for them), and favors, graces, and miracles numbered so greatly that she soon earned the title “Philomena, powerful with God.” In 1837, she was officially declared a Roman Catholic saint, becoming the only person to be recognized by the Catholic Church as a saint solely on the basis of her intercession. She is patron saint of hopeless or impossible cases, and her intercession is known widely for cases of conversion of sinners, return to the Sacraments, expectant mothers, destitute mothers, problems with children, unhappiness in the home, sterility, priests and their work, help for the sick, the missions, real estate, money problems, food for the poor, and mental illness. She is, however, known for having no case that is too trivial to concern her.
Ever since I heard about St. Philomena, I felt a special connection to her. I often asked for her intercession (basically asking her to pray for me), and whenever anyone asked if I had a favorite saint, I always said it was her. However, when faced with choosing a confirmation saint, I was concerned about choosing her. I felt called to in a way, but that scared me because St. Philomena was a martyr. After a lot of prayer and discernment, I realized that your confirmation saint isn’t a reflection of your life, but a reflection of something you admired. I admired St. Philomena’s courage to die for her faith, and ironically, I realized that I needed courage to choose her as my confirmation saint. So, I did. I knew that when I was confirmed, I would be standing in front of the Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester. He would anoint my forehead with a chrism (a blessed oil, and it has the best smell I’ve ever encountered) and say “Peace be with you, (insert confirmation saint’s name).” Nothing, however, prepared me for the moment when I walked up to the bishop and he anointed my forehead and said: “Peace be with you, Philomena.” I hadn’t realized that he would be saying the exact words on St. Philomena’s tomb, and I realized that it was a sign that I had obeyed God’s Will. I might not ever know why St. Philomena needed to be my confirmation saint, but I’ll always know that it’s God’s Will.
9. In contrast, can you share a time in your life when you experienced great fear/doubt/opposition in your walk with God? If it was in the past, what helped you get through it?
Throughout my whole life, I’ve always had the feeling that God needs me to do something, something specific. But as much as I pray and beg to know, God has always told me to wait. He’s always told me that I will see what He needs me to do when it’s the right time. Every once and awhile, I become impatient, and I want to know God’s plans for me now. It usually doesn’t last long, because I’ll pray and God will soothe me with the knowledge that I don’t need to know now, I just have to wait. It’s not very interesting, but it is something I struggle with.
10. What has God been teaching you and/or been doing in/through your life in this season?
I’ve definitely been learning to be more grateful for everything that God has blessed me with. The pandemic definitely made my blessings much more clear to me.
11. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the person reading this? Any words of encouragement or advice
“Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to Him. That is all the doing you have to worry about.”~ St. Jane Frances de Chantal.
I think about this quote a lot because sometimes I tend to forget that I get my strength and my instruction from God and not myself. Every time life weighs down on you, just remember that God doesn’t expect you to bear it alone.
12. Where can our readers connect with you?
Readers can find me @writerfeels9 on Instagram – it’s a writing account, full of ridiculous memes, writing quotes, book recommendations, info about my books, and some writing advice. I hope to be expanding my platform on social media and I’ve also recently been published, so this doesn’t have to be the last you see of me! My short story, Nobody and the Other, is available to read on The WEIGHT Journal’s website, and my other short story, Glossophobia, is available to read on Cathartic Literary Journal’s website.
Patricia Jane Donato is a homeschooled senior in high school and an aspiring author of novels, short stories, flash fiction, poetry, and songs. She strives to have her writing provide entertainment and be accessible to a wide variety of readers while having it promote Christian values. When Patricia isn’t writing, she’s drawing manga, playing her ukulele, going for walks in the woods, and chatting with her friends.