I grew up in a devoted Roman Catholic household, but over time, I have drifted away from the church. I have the utmost respect for all my friends and family who are practicing Catholics, but as I really pondered my own spiritual beliefs and stance on various social issues over the years, I realized that the Catholic Church wasn’t the best fit for me.
To be honest, I lean more toward agnosticism. I believe we are part of something much bigger than ourselves to which we can positively contribute by our words and actions, but I am not sure how I define that “something.” I am a spiritual and moral person, but I don’t feel drawn to formal religion. And I do not want to go through the motions with something if it does not truly resonate with me.
While all of this felt fine for me and my similarly minded husband for years, I started to panic when I became pregnant. Despite my misgivings about certain teachings of the Catholic Church, I do value my childhood that was grounded in a church community.
I thought about how I learned about death at an early age, having several members of older generations of my family pass away. While uncomfortable and sad, there were clear rituals for dealing with death and clear explanations about where these folks were going. It was comforting to have that. As a new parent without a religious home, I worried about how I would tackle these things with my children.
I tried to be practical. On my pre-natal check list, I had “Find Religion” listed somewhere near “Write Birth Plan.” I tried visiting the Catholic Church again. While enjoying a sense of nostalgia, I still didn’t feel at home there. I explored other types of churches, but none of them really addressed my agnostic tendencies. I came the closest at a Unitarian Church, but it felt so loose, so non-churchy, that my old Catholic sensibilities couldn’t be satisfied.
I guess I learned that you can’t force a religious awakening, even if there is a baby on the way. Instead of looking for those external supports, I decided to focus on building positive rituals into my own home.
As my first son got older, we began doing “intentions” together. We start the day with our morning intention that states, “Let’s be present to enjoy all today has to offer. Let’s celebrate our rosy moments. Let’s learn from our thorny moments. And let’s honor and respect ourselves and each other with love and kindness. Let’s make it a great day.” Then we blow each other a kiss. My second son, still a toddler, cannot recite these words with us, but he understands the ritual and joins in by blowing a kiss at the end.
We pause before meals and remember to be thankful for the food we are going to eat. And at the end of the day, we do an evening intention, in which we remember the parts of the day that were most meaningful.
It’s a start, but it doesn’t tackle the big questions. When my son wanted to understand what happens when you die, I faced my first real challenge. I wanted to provide him security and comfort, but I had to be honest about my beliefs. Instead of saying “this is how it is,” I decided to frame things with “this is what different people believe.”
We talked about how some people think of God like a person who created everything and watches over us, and when we die we go to be with him. We also talked about how some people have different ideas about what God is, and how some people don’t believe in God at all.
We talked about different cultures and religions. Around holidays, I not only celebrate the secular pieces but explain any religious significance behind them. I explained to him that as he grows, I will help him learn about all of these different faiths and ways of talking to God, so he can figure out what feels right to him, even if it’s different from what I believe.
Right now, he said he likes to think about God as a person he can talk to, and he has renamed my “intentions” to “prayers,” which I support fully. I thought not giving him all of the answers would be too stressful for him, but he seems ok with having these things be a work in progress.
I don’t know where our journeys of faith will take us, and I am not discounting joining a church again someday. But for now, it is all based in our home.
Were you raised with religion, and do you still practice it with your children? How do you pray?
This has been an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara B. of Washington (State) USA.
Photo credit to the author.