When I was little, I pored over the stories of the saints, especially the martyrs. I was morbidly fascinated by stories of little 6-year-old Conchita of the Drooping Veil who loved God so passionately that, whenever her wicked pagan stepmother would torment her and put tar in her hair and report her to the governor for being Christian, she would simply smile and pray for them all, because she just loved God so much. (Please don’t look Conchita up; she is just an amalgam, but you get the idea.)
I was enthralled. I was captivated by the exoticism of the setting (saints all seemed to live in a time when people wore robes and carried things around in clay jugs, which sounded amazing) and the exoticism of the spirituality itself; but even more compelling was how every story carried a clear message: This is what I was supposed to be like. I was supposed to imitate this girl in my own life, right now.
I was savvy enough to figure out that a lot of the details of the story were adaptable. You could wear shorts and a shirt with a purple unicorn on it, like my own favorite shirt, and be a saint. You could pursue holiness by not fighting with your sister or by cleaning the living room like your mother said or by putting your whole allowance in the basket at church instead of spending it on nail polish. I understood that.
The part that was not clicking was the part where St. Conchita loved God. And I, myself, did not. And boy, did I feel bad about it.
It actually shows some pretty good self-awareness that as a kid I even realized I didn’t love God, and loving him is the main point of the stories of the lives of the saints. It wasn’t my fault that these stories were presented in a grotesque and melodramatic way that made them seem foreign to my own life, and it also wasn’t my fault that I didn’t automatically and naturally feel a great love for my creator and savior by the time I reached the age of reason.
It would have been nice if someone had told me how to go about learning to love God, though. Because I have discovered that, for most people, it is something that they have to learn. We may be created to love God, but that doesn’t mean it happens on its own….Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine.