Being raised Catholic is not the same as being Catholic by choice and complete conviction. I believe this could apply to any religion really. There is a very fine line that is often fuzzy for me when I think of this difference. I didn’t know that having this very clear in my head would determine the way in which I would instill faith in my children. I grew up in a Catholic home, went to a Catholic elementary and middle school and attended mass on Sundays for as long as I can remember. First it was what my Mom and Dad wanted, later in my teen years, it was were all the guys and girls met socially and dinner after mass with a fun group of friends was a given. During the service I would probably spend more time looking out for the guy I liked back then , where he was sitting, who he was with, etc, than listening to the Sunday Sermon.
Later, it was the place to go with your steady boyfriend on Sundays, then of course, dinner or a movie. So mass really, was part of a cultural and social routine. It also gave me a sense of belonging. And yes, it reminded me every week about the commandments, about being humble, about helping out those in need etc. And it also gave me that “person” that I needed to pray to, to thank for. To talk to.
I married a man who is not a believer anymore, but who used to be a (very) active member of a well known religious community, who knows the Bible better than I ever will, who dedicated two whole years of his life to missionary work. However, from the day I said “Yes” to him when he proposed, I knew that I was on my own when it came to religion. We set some rules that very day. He would be (and still is) respectful and supportive of my beliefs and would allow our kids to be baptized Catholic. He however, did not want me to impose religion on them. Any children we would bring to this world would have the freedom to learn and then choose what to believe in.
I agreed, it sounded fair and I still think it is. But I didn’t know that as children get older and smarter, they would start asking questions, many questions for which I don’t have the answers.
When I went to Catechism as a girl, I bored myself to death. I don’t think I learned a thing except the force-fed prayers that we were expected to memorize like the National Anthem or the Math Tables.
As a young adult, I was never studious or curious enough to learn and read the Bible, like my husband did. He knows it like the script to a good History Documentary. So today, as an adult that believes and has faith and prays, I feel complete ignorance when my children question me about God, the Universe, miracles, etc.
Some think that the Catholic Church is on a crisis; it is losing its believers, its followers. It has been said that many people have lost interest: they get bored during Sunday Mass, they see the whole institution as a money squeezer or just as a joke. The child abuse cases that have emerged and discussed on the media during the past ten years don’t help. A big part of our faith, our loyalty and even our monetary contributions are a direct result of how much we like, understand and agree with in Sunday Mass. That is the one hour of each week (for the average Catholic) in which we listen from an actual human being the words that we yearn for, the advise, the comfort when we are sad, the optimistic and cheerful speech it the occasion allows. So it is not surprising, albeit sad, that some people stop going to Sunday Mass and eventually stop believing and teaching it to their own kids when they are bored and uninterested in the weekly service. I really wish the priests of this world knew how big a responsibility they have when it comes to keeping the faithful close and attracting non- believers.
It would be safe to say that both my kids have been exposed to the same information, prayer and religious events. Yet, I have noticed for a while now, that while my daughter cannot go to sleep without saying her prayers, my sons says that it doesn’t make sense for a regular human to cure illness with a simple touch or make any kind of miracle happen for that matter.
The difference in opinion and actual faith is so extremely opposite, it has made me wonder more than once: what have I done wrong with my son?
He has begged not to go to his lessons on Sundays, he asks me directly why I take him if he doesn’t believe a thing. “Jesus is not my thing mom”. This first time he said it it actually hurt. I was silenced by his words. I had nothing to say. Now it just makes me feel so bad, I am losing patience with him and I take it rather personally.
With a father that will not encourage his religious upbringing and a mom that is not exactly an expert of the Catholic faith I feel like my son has not much left to guide him and take him down the path that I really wanted for him. I console myself thinking that even if he doesn’t believe, I can still teach him to be a nice, kind humble person, to be respectful, honest and polite to those around him. There is no religion required to teach that to your kids. And if I am honest with myself, that is really what I want. Still, there is that “looser” feeling in the back of my head like I just didn’t cut mustard as a Catholic mom. 😦
Two nights ago my husband and I had a date night. I was in a cheerful mood looking forward to the rare occasion. We decided to get dinner and actually talk, as opposed to watching a movie and not communicate at all. Before I knew it I found myself talking about this with him. “I feel like a failure” I said, explaining to him what the situation was with our son. My eyes filled and tears just started coming out and I realized I was sadder than I thought. I had expected my husband to say something like “Don’t make him go anymore” or “Respect his will”. But he surprised me by telling me our son was not allowed to decide if he believes or not until he knew more and understood better the whole concept of religion. He said to me that religion is and would be (faith or not) present in his life, in the people around him, in the media, everywhere. So there was still a lot to learn before a decision was made.
He told me it was not my job to “make him” believe, but only to give him the resources to learn about faith so that later in life he could make an educated decision. I not only felt like I loved my husband 1,000 more times that moment, but also felt a huge relief, of knowing that this is not 100% in my hands. That children have a mind of their own and as they grow and mature they each turn into a person that we need to respect and accept and support. That leading by example and talking about what I believe in will help, but will not make my children change they way they feel about faith. That loving them is respecting them. I don’t believe I have failed anymore. Not in this respect anyway. My waffles are still a failure but I have learned to choose my battles.