My husband and I both grew up in families that regularly attended church, but our attendance waned as we got older. By the time we met, neither of us had attended church in years. We decided that if we were going to raise a family, it was important that we start going to church again. Two weeks after we got married, we found a church and have gone almost every Sunday since.
I didn’t really know what to expect, but to my surprise it all felt very familiar and welcoming. As we became regular church-goers again, an incredible thing began to happen. Things that we had been fretting over and worrying about in our lives just started working out for us. There was a sense of peace that fell over us and our relationship, and we gained a lot of perspective. As the week would go on, I could feel tension and anger over everyday stresses building up, but then attending service was almost like recharging my batteries. Church became my place of self-reflection and almost like meditation. I enjoy the message, but it is also a place where I look deep inside myself to see where I fit in to the equation.
I became pregnant about two months after we started attending church again. After I had our baby, I missed a few weeks of service. My husband went by himself when our son was a week old. When he came home, he told me that at least a dozen people stopped him to ask if I had had the baby. They were so excited for us and offered him their blessings and prayers. When he told me that story, it really made me realize that we didn’t just join a church, we joined a community. I had no idea anyone even paid attention to us, and for them to take the time to send their support meant a lot to me. Since then, I have made more of an effort to be aware of others around me and offer the same compassion that we received.
As to why I think it is important for my son (and any future children) to grow up in a church, the reasons are endless. It is a place outside of the home where he is given unconditional love. We are instilling values in him that are being reinforced by people who are not his parents. For one hour out of the week, he can be in a place where he feels completely safe, knowing that no one around him will be rude, call him names, or harm him in any way.
My son is still a toddler, but when a teenager holds the door for me, calls me ma’am, and helps carry my bag or takes my missal back to the lobby for me, I am glad he is witness to these acts and hope he grows up to be just as polite. He also participates with us in donating food to the food bank every month, adopting a family every Christmas, and volunteering our time and money to help those less fortunate.
I'm disheartened that in my community, faith has become such a taboo subject. I recently had some college friends in town for a bachelorette party - one atheist, two agnostics. My son was still nursing, so I met them for dinner, but bowed out from the other festivities. They asked me what I had done that morning. I said I went to church. I could see them exchange glances, which I ignored. When I left, the group had already consumed a few drinks. As I walked out, they told me to be safe and “pray for them” (snicker snicker). I chalked it up to the drinks, but I was really disappointed in their reaction.
I have friends who are atheist, agnostic, Jewish and Buddhist. I would never judge any of them for their beliefs, because who am I to say who is right? All I know is, being Catholic is right for me. I hesitated even disclosing that, because I know just putting that in writing is cause for attack by some.
My church is a place of love and acceptance. If it wasn’t, it would not be the place for me. The word "homosexual" has never been uttered in my church. The only time abortion was ever brought up was in reference to praying for the aborted and the women who had to make such a difficult choice, never condemning them in any way. Everyone deserves respect, understanding, love and compassion, and that is the message we are given time and again.
Church is my place of meditation. It is important to find something, whether it is yoga, hypnosis, reiki, prayer, etc., to find an outlet to release stress and frustration.
My individual church (not necessarily the entire Catholic religion) has values that are closely aligned with my own. I look at choosing a church similarly to aligning with a political party – you likely will not agree with 100 percent of what your party backs, but it is what you most closely identify with.
I have no problem with atheists. I know many that are caring friends, wonderful sons, great fathers, superwoman mothers and lovely daughters. However, it bothers me when I see an atheist say how they hate being accused of having no morals or compassion, but in the same sentence accuse everyone who believes in God of being a Bible-thumping Westboro Baptist church follower.
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