Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My Faith Life: Part I

When I was in the second grade, my family was still mostly attending church services at my mother's Methodist church because my father didn't really go to church then. I was preparing for my First Communion, and tried to reconcile this fact in my mind. I didn't like asking others for help understanding Church teaching, even at seven. I felt that I went to a Catholic school, so if I couldn't find the answers to my questions, I was not using my resources. One Sunday, my mother's father told me to go up to the front of the church to receive communion. I told him I had not had my First Communion yet, and that I would not be going up. We argued back and forth a bit, and I grew more and more defiant. I attended daily Mass in school and knew the difference. I knew that there was something different in the Eucharist and the Mass and I did not feel it in that church. I held my ground, and I could tell it angered him. He was the first person that taught me about the resentment felt towards Catholicism.

I don't have many practicing Catholics in my family. I truly do not know how I have managed to stay Catholic. I certainly have doubts, and teachings that I struggle to understand. I have also certainly experienced the resentment and misunderstandings that others carry concerning the Catholic Church. In the words of Stephen Colbert:

"I love my Church-- warts and all."

There were two events in my childhood that lead me to seek God and to understand Church teaching. These events might not feel like anything special to anyone else, but they were comforting to me. They also stood out. There was something happening, a feeling, that was different.

The first involved my fifth grade teacher and my grandma. I had a hell of a year in the fifth grade. Fourth grade had been hard, and I only made it through because my teacher cared about me. At the end of the year, there was some sort of a test we were all given, and I was placed in the Extended Learning Program upon entering the fifth grade. It meant that I would be spending time in the sixth grade classroom for Literature instead of Reading class. I was introverted, maybe a bit shy. It was incredibly hard to leave the comfort of the students I had been in school with since Kindergarten, even if it was just for an hour or so. My fifth grade teacher was a little nutso, I soon discovered. She was an elderly nun, and lived on the property. She would often talk about the children she had taught in the past that she loved, would leave us alone in the classroom to work independently while she went to lay down, and she would get physical with me if she felt I was out of line. So, despite my introversion, getting to leave her classroom was a blessing.

Some time after Thanksgiving of that year, I was told that my grandma had breast cancer. I was terrified to lose her. My relationship with my teacher was not improving. It was then announced that she would follow our class to the sixth grade. I fell apart. Another year with her? I didn't know if I could take it. My parents gave me the option of going to public school. I am not sure which scared me more. So, I decided to bargain with God. If He let me keep my grandma, I would stay at my school. I repeated this pledge constantly. I stayed and she is still with us. I've known for some time that my pledge probably had little to do with my grandma surviving, but that pledge is what started my prayer life. It sent me on my way to know my faith.


My forever home parish.



3 comments:

  1. That's a beautiful story. Thanks Jess. :)

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  2. Lovely post! I love hearing about people's faith journeys!

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  3. Thank you, ladies. My own journey feels foreign to me sometimes... how odd!

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