Sustained by grace

In a pick-your-spiritual-path culture, one young woman doesn’t have a choice about faith because it chose her.

Guest blog by Colleen Reiss

As a woman of the Millennial Generation, I keep the faith through the very same, glorious, and unmerited grace that turned my heart to God for the first time and continues to convert my whole being day after day.

This eternal mystery of grace has been claimed by our spiritual mothers and fathers for thousands of years, and yet as a young adult surrounded by voices proclaiming prestige and self-accomplishment as the true measure of one’s worth and declarations, by messages that all moral beliefs are merely culturally relative, and by images objectifying and clouding the beauty and dignity of women, the gift of faith and grace of God are as sustaining and relevant as ever before.

Compared to previous generations, when culture, geography, ethnic identity, or even overt social stigma directly or indirectly kept many women unquestionably in the Catholic Church, for my generation keeping the faith is largely a personal choice. We have a freedom of movement to explore and change religions at a nearly unprecedented pace, and most people are tolerant and open to those who confess no faith at all.

In this world of choices, many ask me, why Catholicism? Why not the non-denominational Christian church with a hugely popular and growing young adult ministry where you could network? Why not a mainline Protestant church where you could be employed as a pastor? Why not join in the grassroots enthusiasm of a newly formed independent local church where your participation is essential to the entire group? Why not the church with the music and preaching style you like best? Why do you choose a church that attracts international media coverage of clergy abuse scandals?

The answer is the inviting pull of grace that continues after our initial turn to relationship with God. Responding in faith to grace opens up a universe infinitely larger and grander than what I as a young woman see in the world around me on a daily basis.

In reading the book of Acts and letters of Paul, I am formed by the depictions of fervent debate over how to live the life of faith, juxtaposed with a commitment to full unity, regardless of the cost to personal pride. God’s will is not for believers in faith to be divided, but united. Who am I to contribute to division?

With this faith in the unity of God’s people, I keep the Catholic faith as a woman in the church. I pray for the grace to love and appreciate all of our diverse expressions and manifestations of the faith that are orthodox, reminding myself not to be limited by my merely personal preferences of devotions, art, music, preaching, and ministry.

I cannot turn, run, or flee from God who loves me as a true daughter in Christ. I keep the faith as a woman in the church, answering Jesus’ question to the disciples, “Do you also want to leave?” in the same spirit as Simon Peter’s reply, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68).

Guest blogger Colleen Reiss is a reader from South Bend, Indiana, currently pursuing a Master of Divinity at the University of Notre Dame.

As a supplement of the January 2011 special issue on women, U.S. Catholic is asking guest bloggers, “How do you keep the faith as a woman in the church?” To submit your answer (about 500 words), e-mail

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.