Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Saturday 18 September |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Daudi Okelo and Bl. Jildo Irwa
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Confessions of a Former Nihilist

Brett-Jordan-CC

Lorraine Murray - published on 06/07/15

...or what I learned at college

I had to snicker. There was my college roommate, across the room from me, and she was on her knees by the bedside, saying her nightly prayers.

I was over all that. I had attended Catholic schools for twelve years, and had been thoroughly immersed in every nuance of The Baltimore Catechism. One of the first questions had been, “Why did God make me?”

“To know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world, and be happy with Him forever in the next,” I had dutifully replied.
But in college, all that changed. I was barely seventeen-years-old when I arrived at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and before long, I had shed my childhood values. It seemed that nearly every class I took was headed by an atheist, and they were eager to gather disciples of nihilism.

Although I had been a faithful Catholic girl who never missed Mass, it seemed one thing was missing from my childhood education: I had never been called upon to defend my faith. And, sadly, as the first rocks were hurled at the edifice, every brick crumbled.

By my junior year, my Sunday missal was gathering dust while I pored over Marx’s “Das Kapital” and Sartre’s “Being and Nothingness.” Forget about loving and serving God, I thought. These great thinkers claimed He was dead.

Sin and hell were mere figments of my childhood, I assured myself. Besides, if there were no God, then wasn’t I free to do as I pleased? I was eager to be a grown-up, which meant ridding myself of the traditions my parents held dear. And so, when the hippie bandwagon rumbled through campus, I jumped on board.

Monogamy? Hippies scoffed at it. Prohibitions against premarital sex? Too quaint. Restrictions against drug use? Completely outdated.

The Women’s Liberation movement also enticed me. Women would supposedly find happiness if we extricated ourselves from traditional sex roles and became men’s equals. And so we tossed aside our make-up, asked men out on dates and indulged in what was called “free love”—although it soon became clear that there was little affection involved.
I moved into an apartment complex known around town as “Sin City.” There, I ran from one relationship to the next, trying to convince myself that happiness was just around the corner. The relationships began crashing and burning, but I was too blind to see the truth. Although I was embracing the freewheeling lessons of nihilism, in my heart I was still the little girl who had gone to Catholic school.

And that little girl yearned for something quite traditional and unhip, which was a man who would love her, and marry her.

One night, after my latest boyfriend had jilted me, I got quite drunk and downed a bottle of Valium. I figured that life was meaningless anyway, so what difference did it make if I lived or died? That would have been the end of my story, except that a friend heard me weeping and took me to a hospital.

The noxious aroma of nihilism took a long time to dissipate. I was thirty-three when I finally met a man who wanted to love me forever, and who asked me to marry him. A few years later, our lives went through a huge transformation.
He was on a business trip to New York City and, out of the blue, stopped in at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to light vigil candles in memory of his father and my parents. When he told me, I was quite shaken up, since I realized I had never prayed for the repose of my parents’ souls.

In that moment, I felt God calling me back to my childhood faith. And after a priest at a nearby parish welcomed me back, I walked into church, got down on my knees and uttered my first prayer in many years. It was very simple: “Help me to believe.”

Before long, that prayer was answered. And the more I prayed, the more I saw the truth about my past. Although I had once scoffed at my roommate’s simple faith, I finally saw it for what it had been all along—a precious gift. And here’s the biggest lesson I ultimately learned from college: Even if I had given up on God and declared Him dead, He never gave up on me.



Lorraine Murray
writes about her journey in “Confessions of an Ex-Feminist.” She is also the author of three comical mysteries, Death of a Liturgist, Death Dons a Mask,
and Death in the Choir.
Readers 
may email her at lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com
Tags:
Faith

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
2
Berthe and Marcel
Lauriane Vofo Kana
This couple has the longest marriage in France
3
ARGENTINE CHILDREN
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
4
Kathleen N. Hattrup
On same-sex unions, Pope says Church doesn’t have power to change...
5
Mathilde De Robien
How a lost masterpiece of sacred art was discovered thanks to chi...
6
communion
Philip Kosloski
How receiving Holy Communion can drive away demons
7
CROSS
Philip Kosloski
Why is the feast of the Holy Cross celebrated on September 14?
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.