I love my Catholic faith. I enjoy learning as much as I can about it. As I think back to when I was a child in elementary school, I have to admit that I was taught the bare bones basics. I think we all were. I am not saying that the education the good sisters gave me in my faith was lacking, just that it was limited. If we had received more, we would never have learned about anything else. There is, after all, so very much to learn.
To be honest, I think that we were always supposed to continue our religious education as we grew up and matured, instead of thinking that we were completely educated in it during our Catholic school days. Unfortunately, our churches didn’t have Sunday School like Protestant churches have. I can remember when I was young one of my friends asked me if I read the Bible. Now, remember this was pre-Vatican II. I told her that Catholics don’t read the Bible, we get our Bible verses and instruction within the Mass at the Epistle and Gospel. I am not sure if that was actually the case, but it seemed to me it was since I had no recollection of ever having Bible study in school or at my church.
My mom had a beautiful large red Bible that was out in plain view in the living room all the time. I did spend some time reading it, but the language proved difficult and I gave up rather quickly.
When I was young my parents taught me about God and taught me to say my prayers before going to bed. We also went to Sunday Mass. I can remember one Sunday. It was snowing very heavily. We were headed to church moving at a ridiculously slow pace. My dad looked at Mom saying, “When I die, if I find out this was the wrong religion, I am going to kill you!” He was laughing when he said it, but I suspect he was just a little bit miffed we were out in those terrible winter conditions driving to Mass. I, however, was in the back seat laughing like crazy. Mom simply smiled and answered, “Oh Jack, of course, it’s the right religion.”
So, I was brought up to be a good Catholic. I just didn’t realize that I was supposed to keep learning. I can remember prior to Vatican II, the homilies were very instructional. At least at my church. So when I walked out of church on Sunday, I felt like I learned something about my faith. After Vatican II I noticed a change. Homilies were less instructional. Changes were taking place in Mass. The number of men and women going into the priesthood and convent were diminishing. Actually, there was an exodus of priests and religious. I guess you could say the Catholic Church, at least at the parish level was going through growing pains.
I began to feel like a stranger in my own church. Just like many people, I felt that I had lost something. I wasn’t smart enough to realize that the dogma of the church remained, just the pomp and circumstance changed. However, I loved the old ways.
Gradually I pulled away. I stopped going to Mass. Then when I was married and had children, I went back but was a lukewarm Catholic at best. After my kids had received all of their sacraments, I pulled away again. I did pray. That has always been one constant in my faith.
Finally about 14 years ago I came back. It didn’t stick right away. It took a few times returning to Mass before I began to feel like I was home. I guess the fact that I prayed all those years kept the door open for the Holy Spirit to nudge me enough times. I am so blessed that He did.
Now, if I miss Mass I am disappointed and I try not to miss unless I am ill. I feel so much better when I go to Mass and Holy Communion. I am rejuvenated. I am strengthened. I blessed the whole week with God’s abiding love.