I’m Angela Maria Therese Marinelli- baptized & raised Catholic. I think it’s fun to know all my friends’ confirmation names and I like celebrating St. Therese’s feast day more than my birthday. The word “testimony” simply terrifies me and I can’t say this one is whole. But it’s a small piece of my lifelong journey of opening the door to Christ and reconciling the knowledge of His love in my mind with my heart.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been known to people as the “good Catholic girl.” I liked it, I never had a problem with it. But my biggest fear was that I’d be known as the “good Catholic girl” but too afraid to truly live up to the name. I’ve always “known” Christ’s love for me, but I never fully understood it. I never even realized there was a disconnect between what I knew with my mind and what I knew with my heart.
It was easy for me to grasp the teachings of the Church- it was easy for me to get straight A’s in religion class, and easy for me memorize everything about who Jesus is. Because of that, it was also easy to keep Christ at a distance- always just a little too far away to fully capture my heart. He was always on my mind but never in my heart.
There’s a painting of Christ outside, knocking at a door where there’s only a door knob on the inside. My religion teacher, senior year of high school showed it to us at least once a week, reminding us that each of us is the only one who can open the door to Him. I never thought much of it because I didn’t think that was something I needed to question- of course I opened the door for Him, I wouldn’t leave Him out in the cold!
But I never opened the door for Him… it was always just a window. He never came in because I didn’t let Him. Yet I still allowed myself to think that I trusted Him. After all, I could still see Him. It’s not like I closed the blinds. I was in this middle ground where I knew Christ loved me and I knew whatever Church teachings you wanted me to explain, but I couldn’t answer with a pure heart who Christ was to me.
I could tell everybody who Christ was to them and why they should love Him. But I couldn’t understand that He was those same things for me. Towards the beginning of my freshman year of college, a dear family friend passed away. He was the “big brother” my sisters and I never had. A few weeks before, he had asked me to make him a rosary, but I never had time to make it. On the day of his viewing (the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary), I made the rosary and gave it to his best friend, someone I had never met. A simple conversation with a stranger helped me realized that my biggest fear was slowly becoming a reality in the relationship and friendships I was involving myself in. I needed the guidance of a protective big brother and I felt like I just lost mine.
A month later I started preparing to consecrate myself to Jesus through Mary on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. On the last day of the preparation, late at night in the Chapel, I finally opened the door for Him. I finally understood who Jesus was to me. It’s a simple, childlike answer and it’s not a complicated groundbreaking theological doctrine, but it’s exactly what I needed to understand- He’s the protective big brother I always wanted. I’ve always had Him and I always will. That night He taught me everything I think a big brother would have. He gave me the safety I longed for and the protection I needed. He told me all the things I’ve always told my friends.
He taught me I’m beautiful simply because of who I am, not what I look like or what I can do. He taught me that He’s the only man I belong to. He helped me realize how much more I deserve than what I had in the relationship and friendships I was in. He filled my heart with courage to make changes that were necessary to become the woman He’s calling me to be. He also showed me the necessity of relying on the Church. He’s acting through each and every one of us. I felt His hand reaching out to hold me through one of His children.
I learned that true strength is not found in denying our fragility and swallowing our tears, but in offering our fragile selves to Him with tears in our eyes. We don’t need to be perfect to give Him our hearts. I always wanted to give Him only the best gift, I thought He deserved only the best- and the best gift was never me if I wasn’t perfect. But that’s not true. He’s the one that changes us into the best gift. And we can’t be the best gift for others if we don’t allow Him to transform us.He’s always waiting at the door of your heart. My door had/has about 9,718,263 pure steel, deadbolt locks…approximately. Probably more. And I think every time I unlock one of them, there’s always one more to unlock for Him. He deserves to be fully in our hearts and He’ll wait as long as it takes to be.
I hope you thank your big brothers today for acting as Christ to you, and thank Christ today for always being your protective big brother.
One of God’s Daughters.
Angela is a senior at Mount St. Mary’s University, double majoring in Accounting & Math. She likes drinking coffee, baking, making rosaries, sewing, crocheting and a lot of other stereotypical-grandma hobbies. She’s thankful for the creativity God’s given her and she enjoys sharing His love with others in small and simple ways.