I also find it amusing when I hear someone say "oh, I'm not religious, I'm just spiritual". I'm sure that for some people this is perfectly authentic (and if that is you, then no offense intended), but for others, it's a copout ('spirituality' can be pursued while sitting on the deck; 'religion' requires some time on hard pews and kneelers) or just a safe, politically-correct assertion. Sort of a "don't-hate-me-because-I-go-to-Mass/temple/mosque, I'm not really one of 'them'" kind of thing. I am definitely a spiritual person, but I am proud to say that I am also religious, and my religion is Catholicism. Whoosh. And some readers bounce away.
I harbor no ill-will towards atheists; if anything I kind of feel badly for them, because I can't imagine a life without my relationship with God. Despite being told during one sermon that Catholicicm is not a buffet where you can take some things and leave others, I do sometimes question rules and decisions of my Church, and I'm no perfect Catholic (I've been married 9 years and have two children. Enough said.) I do, though, consider Catholicism to be a huge part of my identity. I have no interest in convincing anyone else that it's the 'best' religion; I just know that it's mine. Ours.
As a child, we attended Mass EVERY Sunday, as well as all other days of obligation. My father comes from a long line of Irish-Catholics, and my mother is a very active convert; both are retired Catholic school teachers. And when I say we went EVERY Sunday, that means we hit a church in every city on my brother's summer-lacrosse circuit, and Saturday weddings did not replace Sundays' obligations. While attending a Catholic school in a little Irish community (I have since moved 40 minutes away to my husband's hometown, which could easily pass for the same place I left) I was in the choir, and eventually read on the altar. I wanted to be an altar server, but in 1987 our priest just wasn't ready for girls in that role.
When looking for a partner, a belief in God was a deal-breaker, a strong faith was very important, and finding a fellow practicing Catholic was a huge bonus. My husband and I both teach for the same Catholic School Board we attended as children, as do two of my husband's sisters and my brother. I enjoy teaching the catechism and incorporating our faith in to our daily lessons and activities. (And I'm not just saying this in case my employer is reading!)
Our parish really feels like extended family for us. Admittedly we attend Mass a little less often than our devoted parents: compared to my in-laws, who often go more than once in a weekend, our attendance rate is an embarrassing 90 - 95%. Frannie and Maggie were baptised within weeks of their births, and their godparents were chosen carefully for the example they would set. All future sacraments will be very special occasions for us.
Lately, I have been reading a Frannie a story each night from her children's bible, though at age four, some of it is a little over her head. Her big thing right now at storytime is that she wants to "be" any female character we read about:
Me: "This story is about Abraham and Sarah, who --"
Frannie: "I want to be Sarah!"
Me: "Fine, you can be Sarah. Whatever. Just let me read."
The other night I had to try to explain to her why she really wouldn't want to "be" Delilah.
It's not always easy to try to explain something as abstract as religion to young children. The other day, while driving to daycare, Frannie said "I'm glad there aren't any bad guys in heaven. You said there aren't any bad guys in heaven, right?" I don't even remember that discussion, but sure, okay. "But I have another question. Do we all have to die on a cross?"
Despite all of your efforts to instill your beliefs in your children, if you raise them to think for themselves, they may very well grow up and choose to abandon your family's religion, to find another, or to question God's existence altogether. But you still will never know the impact of the gift of a childhood full of faith and religious tradition.
So back to my bead. I chose this beautiful crucifix as a symbol of my firm religious beliefs. I truly never question the existence of God, and if some details of Jesus' time on earth have been tweaked a little in translation (as I am sure you DaVinci Coders will be quick to argue), it certainly hasn't hurt me, my family, or my students by setting our standards as high as those of a man we know once lived and died for us.
How about you? Are you religious? "Just spiritual?" What role does faith play in your childrearing? Do you still have the same beliefs and practices that you did growing up? I am very interested to hear my readers' thoughts on this. I welcome opposing ideas, but please be gentle. Remember, what would Jesus do?