Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's Who We Are

Uncle Andrew picks up a very moving letter run in the WashPost...

I like it so much that here's the whole thing:

I was born Catholic. Six years before I entered the world, my parents, in a traditional Catholic marriage ceremony, vowed to raise any children they might have in the Church. In a baptism ceremony shortly after my birth, my parents christened me "Mary Theresa" and began the process of making good on their promise.

Nearly 30 years after my parents married, I stood under a garden arch in front of a Unitarian, folk-singing minister and exchanged vows with my husband. Despite my parents' adherence to their promise, I had fallen away from the Church. I questioned some of the basic tenets of the Catholic faith, and I was strongly at odds with the Church's position on homosexuality, the role of women in the Church and a handful of other social issues. My Catholic baptism and confirmation would have allowed me to marry in a Catholic church. But my misgivings prevented it. On my wedding day, I only wanted to confess to beliefs I was certain of and to make promises I intended to keep.

So I didn't make any promises about future children and the beliefs I would instill in them.

But the truth is, despite my issues with the Church, I most likely will raise my children Catholic. I may not believe everything the Church believes and may even actively oppose some of its positions. But as time has passed, I've come to see that, for me, Catholic isn't so much my faith but my culture. It's who I am.

It's 13 years of Catholic schooling. It's praying the rosary while crouched down in the hallway, hands over head, tornado sirens blaring. It's the Ursuline Sisters, with their quick laughs, steady guidance and humble intelligence, who acted as teachers, mentors and friends. It's ashes on my forehead on the first day of Lent, midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, Stations of the Cross, summer church picnics, "The Lives of the Saints," fish on Fridays and "Ave Maria." It's so many pieces of me that I would not be who I am if I took any of them away.

My Catholicism is for me, in many ways, like home -- not always what I want it to be, yet often exactly what it needs to be. It is where I come from and where I belong. For my children to know me, they must know the Catholic Church.

More than just sometimes, we unwashed, unworthy layfolk have this way of loving the church which can put the pros to shame.

Then again, it's one of the beautiful things about being in communion that we never stop learning from each other. Or, at least, we shouldn't stop.