Let me begin by saying I realize talking about religion is not popular with many however, this post is not meant to persuade, anger, or have others take sides. It is just some late night thoughts about something very important to me.
First and foremost, let me go on record that I do believe in God and that yes, my manner of professing my faith is through the Catholic Church and its teachings. I mean, what choice did I have, I was born into a catholic family and raised in the catholic faith; I have to be catholic otherwise I would feel really “guilty.” 🙂
Being raised catholic has been a blessing. I don’t pretend to have understood my faith as a young child. It was what I was taught from a young age even though I never really understood all that was being taught to me through attending mass and catechism classes. All I knew was that it was an expectation of my parents that I go to church with them, be good, attend my catechism classes and earn the right to my 1st Communion and then my Confirmation. To me, it was cool because in each case they through me a party where I was the center of attention. At those ages I did not really embrace my catholic faith for what it was but more for the fact that it made my parents proud of me.
As I matured into my teen years I continued to practice my faith, that is, I kept attending mass with my parents and attend church functions as they wished. I became a “lectern” and read the word of God at mass. This made my parents happy and it also helped me grow in my faith while feeling like I was a part of the church. I can’t say that I studied what I read or understood most of it at the time.
As time went on I continued practicing my faith by attending mass. Even in college I attended mass on campus quite often which is fairly impressive at that age. I think I did because I liked how I felt when I was in the church. The peace it brought me, the hope it brought me. But, as time went on I attended less and less. Always having a “reason” which was really just an “excuse” not to attend mass. My attendance at mass became less frequent and for a while I became one of “those Catholics” who attended mass ONLY on the sacred HOLIDAYS of Christmas and Easter!! The shame of it all.
When I moved away for my first job out of state I found a Catholic Church in my community. It was progressive and seemed “young.” It was upbeat in its music and its message. I came back to the church. My future wife who was not “catholic” surprised me by taking classes and became catholic. She did this because she knew how important my faith was to me (not to mention it made her a “saint” in my parents’ eyes!) We were married a year later (after we took “marriage classes from the church!)
We joined the church, we became involved with it through its youth programs. It felt right. Then we got busy with our lives and our careers and we fell away from practicing our faith regularly. Did this make us less of a christian of a catholic? I didn’t feel any different; I didn’t feel less of a catholic or christian. I began to question some things about my catholic faith.
As I listened and read about my faith I began to question its teachings on some things more and more. Some I just could not agree with at all. I then began to see the church as big business, political and power hungry. The more I saw the church in this way the less “guilty” I felt about not attending regularly or giving of my time and money to it. I began to question if I was a Catholic or not.
I realized I would always feel like I had to be a practicing Catholic; I just began to practice it less formally. Then we had our 1st and only child. After many complications conceiving we had our miracle little boy. Guess what? We raised him “catholic.” He attended mass with us, he went to his catechism classes, had his 1st Communion and Confirmation (parties included) and I began to be active in my church once again. Then his teen years came upon us and life once again got in the way of being a consistent practicing catholic. Our son for awhile was our “glue” to our faith. He learned a great deal by attending classes and he began to study the Bible and interpret it for himself. He also was torn between his faith and his reality.
Sometimes the catholic faith just doesn’t measure up when you apply its beliefs or teachings to the common sense of the real world. Interpreting the Bible is not an easy thing to do and many different religions have put their own spin on various topics in it. I always end up going back to my upbringing and it brings me back to my catholic faith overall.
Do I know a great deal about my faith and the Bible? Probably not as much fact as I should but I do know the essence of its teachings. The essence is be the best person you can be not for yourself but in helping others. Believe and continue to love and have hope in the human race. There is more good in people than bad but that we must always be conscious that evil is a fact of this world. Service to and for others is the goal.
My faith has helped me in my life more times than I can remember. It has been my “rock.” I don’t pretend to understand it but I do know it has always been there for me when I needed it the most. Difficult times are hard to understand, the “why” question at times is unanswerable but when you have faith, it is just that little bit easier to manage yourself through the crisis.
Looking back and forward, I am glad I am a Catholic. I may not be put up for sainthood anytime soon but I am comfortable in how I practice my faith. I do believe in God and am thankful for being raised in my faith. Whatever faith you are be proud of it; it does not matter what faith you are but more importantly that you believe in God. God takes many different forms and names in certain religions however, it is ultimately the same higher being that we all pray to and have faith in when we need to.
Catholic – Yes? Most definitely but, I am the “new” catholic generation who believes in tradition while being steeped in common sense, real world, and service to others and who values free thinking while accepting other faiths as equal. After all, it is about how we treat one another in any faith…isn’t it?