As part of our message series, It’s Better in Here, each week a parishioner will describe what Saint Brendan means to him or her personally. This week’s article is by new mom, Ashley Coakley.
“I don’t know if you’ll like it, but I guarantee, you are not having these kinds of conversations anywhere else in your life.” And with that, my brother Alex made a simple, yet effective pitch to get me to come check out the Alpha group at St Brendan’s.
For those, like me, who may not know about Alpha, the concept is simple. One night a week a small group gathers to watch a video talk on some aspect of faith- for example “Who is Jesus?” or “How and why do I pray?” Afterwards, there’s an open-ended discussion, accompanied by a little food and wine.
If I’m being honest, I went to Alpha that first night for a few reasons, none of which had much to do with my desire to examine my faith. In reality, the driving force was my guilt. I hadn’t been going to Church as regularly as I should. To me, Alpha felt like an opportunity to check a box (hey, it’s a church thing!) that could help offset some of that guilt. Second, older brothers are annoyingly convincing. And third, wine!
Thankfully, God has a way of motivating and speaking to each of us in exactly the way we need Him to. The most important thing was that He led me to Alpha, and the experience really has changed my life.
It’s hard to describe, but after the first night, it felt like I had scratched some itch that had unknowingly been bothering me for years. In a small back room of St. Brendan’s rectory, I found a group of incredible people – so different from me – who were willing to share their ideas and genuinely wanted to listen to mine. To me, the beauty of Alpha is that it’s given me space to ask the questions I’ve always wanted to ask, but never did either because I was too nervous, too embarrassed, or felt like after 16 years of Catholic school education I should already know the answers.
With Alpha in my life, I find myself thinking more often and more deeply about things that were not at the forefront of my mind just three months ago: How can my faith have a bigger impact on my everyday life? How I can better express gratitude for everything I’ve been given? Am I giving enough back to people who need it? How can I give our one-year-old son the best path to find God in his own life?
At times, these questions have felt overwhelming. But this past Sunday, I had a clarifying moment during the Children’s Mass. Listening to Father Roger interact with St. Brendan’s first grade class during the homily, it all became obvious. I don’t have to find these answers all on my own, because after 35 years I’ve finally found something even more powerful than answers. I’ve found a community that understands, accepts, and most importantly encourages all of my many questions.
It really, truly is Better in Here.
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