Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Faith

Aliza's baptism is coming up soon. I started the process back when I was still pregnant, and spent little time thinking about the whole thing other than to know, without doubt, that I wanted her baptized at the church where we were married. We attended our baptismal class when I was still pregnant also, and I found it to be rather uninformative in a very disappointing way. Now that her baptism is right around the corner I find myself thinking about faith, and religion, and spirituality and all of those intangibles that are in some way-large or small-in everyone's life.


I was raised a Catholic. My relationship with the church, and with my own faith, has not been the easiest of journeys. The first major bump in the road came when I was a first year in college and a high school friend died in a car accident. I was angry. I was angry in a way that came from living a life that was filled with light and laughter and love and blessings. My parents did an amazing job sheltering us from the world and so this, this inexplicable, sudden, shocking, tragic death rocked me to my core and made me question so much of my world, and most especially my faith. I became angry at the people that said the platitudes--things like "God needed another angel" or "It was her time to go." She was 17. She hadn't been drinking or doing drugs or speeding. The two other people in the car walked away without even a broken bone. And my friend died. I didn't get it and I was pissed. I wanted an answer, I wanted to know why....

It took me awhile to figure out that there was no answer. It just was.


My second major bump also came in college....after my friend died I avoided church for awhile. Then I started to go back to it--slowly. I admit a part of it was for the social aspect--my roommate and a number of close friends were Catholic. Then I started going to a liturgical group on campus. We'd talk about upcoming readings and help the Chaplain with her sermon. It was a time where I came to struggle and question and wrestle with the bible and I enjoyed it. Until the other members of the group would say things like "if you don't believe ____ then you aren't really a Catholic" Wow. I didn't understand this....I was on this journey and taking some pride in not having blind faith. In questioning and struggling and discarding those beliefs which didn't make sense to me. To hear someone say that I wasn't truly a Catholic because I didn't believe every single teaching....well, that confused me and made me wonder if maybe I wasn't a true Catholic. This time it took me awhile to figure out that you could talk to a hundred different people who called themselves Catholic and discover that they each had their own set of beliefs.

After college I started going back to church with my mom and dad. I love this time that I get to have them all to myself. I love that Sunday morning has turned into my weekly dose of calm and reflection. A time where I get to stop and breathe and stand in awe at the blessings I have in my life and start a new week feeling lighter. I imagined, years ago, bringing my child with me to church with my parents....and now that dream is a reality.

Now I wonder what Aliza will learn from the church. Interestingly, my husband does not attend church, and, of course, I have never pressured him to do so. Because he is the amazing person that he is, he supports me--even getting married in a Catholic ceremony because he knew how important that was to me. He also supported the decision to raise Aliza Catholic, even though he himself doesn't believe in much of what the church has to say. Whenever we talk about faith I find myself frustrated with him. How do you explain a belief system that you have spent your whole life learning and defining? Especially when so much of it is indefinable....He approaches faith and spirituality in an intellectual way--talking about the history of the church, analyzing the beliefs that people hold. And I approach it in an emotional way--knowing what I believe comes from my own struggles and questions. Knowing that when my friend died, it was, at the end, my faith that helped me through it.

What's most interesting is that I actually believe my husband to be a rather spiritual person. Not in the believing in God sort of way, but in the way he lives his life. He is a good man. And he has a good soul. You can spend less than five minutes with him and learn that right away. And when I think about Aliza, and raising her in the church, I realize that what I really want for her is to take away the most important of lessons: to be a good person in everything that you do. I believe my husband is a good person, without being raised in the church. And I try my hardest to be a good person. So I hope that she finds that, in the church or out.....

9 comments:

Love, your daughter said...

Hi Lis,

I question my faith every single day. I look forward to the day where I can finally be at peace knowing that my parents are in a wonderful place. A place where I know I will go when my time is up. Faith is an interesting thing that I am still trying to figure out and while church certainly helps us connect, it's defintley not the only way, like you said.....
I feel the same way you did when your friend died, I am in the "angry stage" right now.

On a happier note, I will see you this weekend! I will be there on Sunday and look forward to meeting Aliza.

Lots of love,
Cousin MEL

Liam said...

I was born Catholic... my mom is from Ireland... when I was about 7 we converted over to be Episcopal... which is Catholicism Lite (all the rituals, none of the rules!)... I was that until I ventured out onto my own...

I drifted away... further and further away... I still consider myself Episcopalian many times... but more the point is I think there's something out there... What it is I have no idea, honestly I don't think we CAN know. I'm fairly certain the christian idea of God isn't really right... my wife is completely an athiest... I'm just... Well I don't know what I am...

Kelli said...

As you know I'm not a parent, but I've always thought the most important thing is to raise children with a good foundation - morals and faith - and let them know it's okay to ask lots and lots (and lots more) questions about faith and what they believe in, rather then telling them straight up what is "right" versus what is "wrong" in terms of religion and beliefs.

Of course, I am lucky enough to know both you & Russ personally so I already know you'll both be strong guiding forces with Aliza...the very fact that you've thought this much about all of this already shows it's something you take seriously.

(And I like that I can picture the church she'll be baptized in! :-)

Kelli said...

Also, I think you would appreciate the fact that I just typed in the word verification of dancinnn...
what? who's dancin? where's the party?!

KTP said...

This is a very thoughtful post. Interesting how having babies makes one reflect on such things. I am having a hard time with it right now. Too many dead babies and children. I want to shake my fist at God and say "It's not fair!" and "Don't you dare make that happen to me!" I know that being faithful and pious and attending church regularly will not prevent bad things from happening. On the other hand, I do want my children to have that foundation. It's a struggle.

Gram S said...

Lisa,
I too struggled with how to raise my children. I was raised in a very Catholic household, attended Catholic School, even College and Nursing School was Catholic. I consider myself a former Catholic. I disagree with too much of the doctrine to be active in that church today. But I still feel strongly connected to the church and to God.
I did not raise my children in the church. My husband and his family were not religious and it has always been a big separation in the way that we see our lives.
I try to keep my belief in God and my spirituality for myself and allow him his ??what?? lack of it. It was and is our "rawest" subject, and I don't know why.
But the hardest part for me was not giving our childrena religious foundation to grow from. They both seem to have aquired their own sense of good vs evil from our attempts at combining my beliefs with their Dad's.
I'm glad that Aliza will have something - a base to learn and compare. Thanks for giving her that...
great post!!
Gram S

Gram S said...

Oops! many spelling errors above- oh well, it's late-I wish that this space had spell check!
Gram S

Dad said...

I love you, honey.

Jules said...

What a beautiful post. Reflecting on our past experiences with the church, organized religion and spirituality are think of the most important things a person can do for themselves.

I often wish I had more of a foundation in our church growing up than I did. I am involved in that church now, appreciate it, and come and go when it suits me. Maybe if I'd more foundation I'd feel differently, but I stil wish there had been more as a child...

I hope you enjoy and cherish the memories of Aliza's baptism.