It's not because I'm some Holy Roller or something. It's Lent, and that's my tradition. I'm Catholic and I will always be Catholic. Not a strict Catholic, but Catholic nonetheless.
Why do I even feel the need to clarify this? Religion is such a touchy subject, isn't it? I was raised Catholic, and have felt the constraint of its rigid rules often. I have thought, from time to time, about converting to another form of Christianity, about attending another church with another denomination. But I can't. It just doesn't feel right to me, for the most part, even thought I'm not crazy about the new Mass translation... And Whitney Houston's rousing "home-going" made me contemplate being a Baptist.
The Catholic Church is my home. To me, Mass is more comfortable than other Christian services. It is what I grew up experiencing; it is what most of my family still attends. I was married in a Catholic Church and I wanted my children to be baptized in the church, which they were, and now I am raising them as Catholics.
|Big Girl reading during her Holy Communion Mass|
Because it's my home. It's my tradition. And it has always been my faith.
|The Twins, Baptism Day 2010|
I believe I know what God wants from me, and what is right and what is wrong. I don't push my faith on others, and I am a very firm believer in tolerance. I can't stand it when people allude that something is wrong with someone else's faith. There is a Muslim mosque being built near a major highway near my home, and I can't tell you the negativity that has been mentioned regarding that building.
Or how when the director of my daughter's religious education program greets boys wearing hats at the door of the school with that statement "Why are you wearing a hat? Take that off? You're not Jewish!" it makes me seethe in my soul and makes me want to scream out that Jesus was a Jew and a compassionate one at that so take it down a notch and find another way to tell a little boy that it's not good manners to wear a hat inside.
Or when a friend of mine made a comment about how Catholics adoring Mary was ridiculous made me want to walk out of her house because I found it completely offensive because Mary is an important figure in my religion.
Religion has always fascinated me, and I have always been drawn to find out more about traditions in all religions. Now, I'm not someone who is so politically correct to change the name of Christmas trees to holiday trees, but I also don't think wishing someone "Happy Holidays" is demeaning the "reason for the season" either, especially if you don't know his or her religious background.
When I was a little girl, one of my favorite series of books was "All of a Kind Family" by Sydney Taylor, about a Jewish family with many kids growing up in turn-of-the-century New York. It was fascinating to read about all the Jewish holidays and the fun traditions the family followed and it was so far removed from my Catholic upbringing, in a small town where I surrounded by mostly Catholics. I recently searched them out (some of them are out of print now :( unfortunately) and read them to my daughter. She loved them too. She liked so much we had a long discussion with our pediatrician, who just happens to be Jewish and wears a yarmulke.
(Funny story about our Jewish pediatrician and my daughter: When we read the Sydney Taylor books, the yarmulke came up. I explained to my daughter that a yarmulke is what her doctor wears, because he is Jewish. My daughter said "Wow! I didn't know that! I thought it was just a doctor's hat!")
Faith is faith is faith. (Of course, there are cults and wayward leaders, but that's a different discussion.) I believe that religion, whether Catholicism or not, can provide structure and morals and give children the same sense of "belonging" that I felt growing up. No-meat Fridays are my religious tradition and a part of my childhood, so I continue the ritual for my own family as much as I can. But I also place a great value on tolerance, and why we need to understand and respect other religions. Everyone is different, but that isn't something of which to be afraid, or to shun, or to put down.
So when I eat fish or cheese pizza or egg salad or whatever tonight, I will be honoring my family's tradition and my religion, but I will also remind my children that part of being a good, moral person of faith is being respectful and tolerant of others' beliefs too.