We've been going to church every week for about the past month. This is odd only because - while we certainly have gone to church before - we usually make it only once every few weeks (or months). It's also odd because we've been attending a church that is not our own.
There's a reason why we've been going to a new church every week for the past month. (And, no, it's not because we've become religious zealots in our spare time.) It's because we wanted to enroll Super Boy in a Sunday School program, both so he learns more about what it means to be Catholic and to help prepare him for his First Communion next year. Unfortunately, Sunday School is no longer offered through our regular church (where Super Man and I were married and where Super Boy was Baptized), and because we didn't want to be hypocrites about "forcing" him to go to Sunday School while we slacked off in observing our faith, we're determined to attend church before (or after) Sunday School each week, too. We want Super Boy to really understand what he's learning and why it's important to his life, and to us as a family.
Super Man and I have talked about our lack of commitment to church attendance quite a bit over the years. After those conversations, we might occasionally get on a good streak where we'd attend more regularly than usual, but we'd eventually revert back to our old ways. So, yes, the impetus for this regular church attendance was the Sunday School thing, but I think it was exactly what we needed to get us to "do the right thing," so to speak.
Because, really, there's been no GOOD excuse most weeks for why we haven't attended Mass. Sure, occasionally someone is sick or we're out of town or whatever, but by and large, we're around, home and just sleeping in rather than getting up and going to church.
Anyway, as more frequent attendance at church often tends to do, I've found myself spending a lot of time lately reflecting on my beliefs, both those I've been taught and those I've acquired, and on my concept of spirituality in general.
While I can't really call myself a highly religious person, I consider myself a very spiritual person. I believe in God, a higher power, forces at work that we can't see or touch but that absolutely direct the path of our lives. And as long as I have that, the specific details of my religion - or any others - don't really bother me too much.
For what it's worth, I'm Catholic. I don't necessarily believe everything I'm supposed to believe in order to call myself a "good" Catholic, and I struggle with that, but I consider myself Catholic nonetheless.
Does it make me a hypocrite to call myself Catholic even if I don't believe everything I ought to as a Catholic? Sometimes I believe that it does. Then again, there are times when I think that it's not about exactly and precisely fitting the mold of a model devotee of a certain faith and is more about finding the faith with which you most closely identify. I believe that I'm most closely identified with Catholicism... then again, I must confess that I'm not entirely sure.
I was Baptized Catholic. I had my First Communion as a Catholic. But then my parents divorced and my mom - the one who had ensured we received religious education and took us to church every week - stopped attending church, so hurt was she that her church would turn its back on her because she divorced my father. So for years - like a dozen years - I either didn't attend church, or we went to a Lutheran church, because my stepdad is Lutheran, and theirs was not as exclusive as the Catholic church was at that time.
Needless to say, I didn't go through CCD or Confirmation with my Catholic classmates in high school. They envied me for not being forced to participate in a Catholic ritual they didn't really give two hoots about all the while I envied them for at least being a part of something spiritual.
It wasn't until I was planning my first wedding - The Wedding That Wasn't - that I had to really confront the question of my religion. My fiance at the time was a Confirmed Catholic, and in order to be married in his church, I had to be as well. I definitely wanted to be married in his church, but I wasn't sure whether I really wanted to go through Confirmation after having been "away" from the Catholic church for so long. All that I'd learned about Catholicism as a young child was virtually gone from my memory by that time, and a part of me felt like I'd only be doing it to get a green light to marry in the church. I didn't want to do it for the wrong reasons.
I had a few long conversations with the priest from the church and shared with him my conflicting emotions about the whole situation. He was a young priest, and fairly progressive for the late '90s, and he assured me that I was still Catholic despite having been "away" for so long. He also told me that it wasn't necessary for me to believe EVERYTHING the church felt I ought to believe, as long as I believed that Jesus was the son of God, and that he was divine. After much consideration, I ended up enrolling in the RCIA program and became confirmed at the age of 23, just in time for The Wedding That Wasn't.
Despite the fact that the wedding for which I'd gone through Confirmation wasn't to be, I was glad I'd ultimately made the choice to be Confirmed in the Catholic faith. And I was fairly good about attending church from time to time going forward, although I will be the first one to admit that I've never been an "I go every week" kind of gal. I will also be the first to admit that it was my faith in God, and my belief that He had a different and better path in mind for me, that I survived the very difficult choice to call off The Wedding That Wasn't, move out of the apartment I shared with The Man Who Was Not to Be My Husband, and move on with my life.
Through all of the difficult times in my life, I have turned to God. To be fair, I also turn to Him during the good times, to thank Him for the blessings I've been given. But I especially turn to Him when I'm facing challenges or I need help making decisions about something important. Yes, there have been times when I've felt that He wasn't listening, or wasn't helping, or had abandoned me. It's hard to maintain faith during those times, no question about it. But then I remember that even when I've not been able to see what He wanted me to see right away, the thing He wanted me to see always revealed itself in time.
When I called off The Wedding That Wasn't, I agonized over the decision. I loved very much The Man Who Wasn't to be My Husband, but it had gotten to the point where I felt physically ill at the thought of spending my life with him, only I couldn't fully articulate WHY I felt that way. I knew it wasn't just "cold feet" but I didn't know exactly what it was. I just knew that I couldn't go through with the wedding and I couldn't stay with him because I felt in my gut that we were not right for each other. I felt it in my bones even as my heart ached.
It was hell for the first few months, trying to sort out my life and figure out my feelings and come up with a new plan for myself. Should I stay in the city to which I'd moved for my ex-fiance or move back to the city I had grown up in, to be near my family? Should I leave the job I loved, or stay and hang on to that one thing that felt right about my life in the new city? I wanted God to show me the answers, and to do it quickly, so I could KNOW whether I was making the right choices or not.
Of course, He wasn't giving me answers on demand. He let me agonize and drift aimlessly for a few months. He let me be alone for awhile. And, see, at that point in my life, I didn't do alone very well. Frankly, it scared the hell out of me. I feared that I'd never find someone to spend my life with and that I'd always BE alone. But as the pain gradually lessened, and the fog that had become each day of my life started to lift, I started to feel semi-alive again. I wasn't just going through the motions day in and day out, but I was starting to feel normal and okay and, yes, hopeful again. I found myself feeling really glad that I'd chosen to stay in the new city, at the job I loved.
And then out of nowhere it occurred to me that I had managed to get through one of the hardest times of my life on my own. I hadn't run home to let my parents help fix it, fix me - I had toughed it out alone, and I was starting to figure out what was to come next in my life. So even though I didn't really get answers from God at a time when I thought I needed them, I got what I needed most from Him - some faith in myself. He was there all along; he just stayed quiet to let me figure out that I was going to be okay and that I could take care of myself.
A year later, after a few miserably failed attempts at dating again and when I least expected it and wasn't really looking, I met Super Man in a most serendipitous way. It was almost accidental, really - although I tend to believe (to borrow a line from the epic film "Kung Fu Panda") that "there ARE no accidents." I think God was waiting for me to stop waiting for someone, and then He sent me just the right person for me.
Maybe He knows that patience is unfortunately NOT one of my virtues, and this is His way of trying to teach it to me, the hard way. It's very hard for me to not feel like I have some control over my life, and I think it shows in my super-low level of patience. I actually think it's kind of funny that I am SO impatient, and yet I have this total trust in God to reveal His plans for me when He's ready, not when I want to know them.
I have to keep reminding myself of that lately, as I continue on this journey to have a second baby. I've found myself questioning whether God thinks I'm a bad mother, since He's chosen to withhold a second baby from me. I've wondered if maybe He doesn't think I'm ready yet, and He's just waiting until he sees that one thing that will show him that I AM ready. I've wondered if we haven't tried hard enough the ENTIRE three-and-a-half years we've been "trying," and thus He thinks we need to try harder. And, yes, I have wondered if He will punish me in some way for turning to science to help me get around the fact that my body doesn't seem to want to do this naturally.
Ultimately, I know He has a plan for me. It may or may not include a second child. Only time will tell. Obviously if it does, I will be ecstatic, and I will be thanking him again for another blessing and miracle. But as much as I would hurt if it turns out that I will not have a second baby, I also believe deep down that the reason for it would become clear eventually. And, as I have in the past, I believe that I'd see the reason one day and KNOW deep down that THAT was why it didn't happen, and I'd be able to make peace with it on some level. This is why I have said of this journey that I will survive it either way.
Because I know that - no matter what - even when I'm alone in body, I'm never alone in spirit. God is there with me, even when he's quiet. He's always leading me where I am meant to go, even if the path - and the destination - are completely foreign and unknown to me. And I also believe that the spirits of my family and friends departed are right there with us, every step of the way, as my guardian angels. I'm never truly alone.
Being reminded of that is one of the reasons why I really do like going to church on a regular basis. It's an opportunity for me to quiet all the chaos inside my mind and body and soul and just enjoy the peace of giving it all over to God. It reminds me to let go of the petty things that I allow to influence me from one day to the next and focus on the big stuff instead. It really brings me a sense of peace and well-being.
I hope that my son and stepdaughter are learning the true importance of having faith in God, both from what we teach and from what they learn in church and in their respective religious educations. I fear that they will end up, like so many of my peers did, feeling disconnected from it while growing up because it's been fed to them, not sought out by them. That was the only reason I felt "fortunate," if that is the right word, for not being "forced" to go through CCD and Confirmation as a teenager. Because I honestly wouldn't have gotten it then the way I did when I had to make the decision of whether or not to go through it as an adult. Regardless of whether the kids ultimately choose to remain Catholic or find their place in another - different - religion, I just hope that they will always be spiritual, and that they will always know that they are never really alone.
Peace and love,