I was born into an Irish Catholic family. Large and church-going it was, though I was (am) an only child. Thus it was expected of us that I would be raised religious, with outdoor nativity sets, angels, and trumpets, oh my. So I was. I was baptized, had my first communion, was confirmed into the church…and walked away.
This is something that (I think) we are seeing with a lot of young people today – being raised religious (whatever religion that may be) and then simply seeing them give it up after they are of the proper age to be seen as an adult either in the eyes of their religious institution or the secular world. I don’t think it would have mattered if I was raised Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist – being raised in a religion made me take it as given, take it as rote, as routine – not as any kind of blessing. It was a burden.
CCD every weekend for years, church services every Saturday evening or Sunday morning, church on holidays like Christmas (where as a child all I wanted to be doing was opening presents), prayers which I didn’t understand that I had to memorize…the list just kept going for the younger version of me.
The biggest burden was that I wasn’t given any choice in the matter – it was, again, taken as a given that I would be raised in the faith that my father’s family followed. There was no reason for me to go to church other than that I was expected to. I never formed any particular connection to God or Jesus Christ at that point in my mature life. When I had a choice, I didn’t attend service, and when I did, it was usually just lip service.
As soon as I had the opportunity and was given the choice, I decided to walk away from institutionalized religion. Didn’t go to mass. Didn’t pray (in any kind of conventional matter). Forgot the memorized hymns and prayers. Didn’t try and find blessings in my daily existence.
I had to find God and spirituality for myself. I sought a bit…unconventionally, I guess. I still would not say that I am Catholic, nor even necessarily Christian, because that is not where my path has led me – at least not in the sense of going to Christian mass or praying to a Christian God (I still do neither).
But I cannot deny the presence of God in my life. It happened slowly over the years. I have been fortunate enough to live in and travel to a great number of countries. What struck me the most anywhere that I traveled was just how welcoming absolute strangers were to me – welcoming me into their homes, sitting me by their hearths and feeding me. This is not something that I accepted well, but the grace that it gave me is unfathomable.
And because of that grace, I find myself seeking the source – whatever that source may be. Something had to place that goodness in people, and those moments I found myself in the same space as that goodness, I recognized something larger than myself. I’m still not sure what to call it or how to define it, but can no longer deny that it is there. One day, perhaps, I’ll be able to fully define my faith in something larger, but right now I couldn’t tell you.
Ann Michaels is a freelance writer and will always love to travel. She remembers most vividly the candlelit masses and nativity sets of Christmas Eve mass.
A thought from Kurt: I hope that as Ann continues on her quest that she will someday recognize that her “seeking the source” can be realized in Jesus Christ.