It Is Not What We Call Ourselves that Matters Most
16 December 2020 |
My daughter became a Catholic today.
One might think she was pressured to do this, but she says “No.”
Her understanding husband was raised Catholic (even steeped in it), but is barely a practicing Catholic now. He seems neither devout nor fervent, although many of his family members are Catholic.
She says he did not urge her at all, did not even encourage her—which might have been understandable.
Their preteen son has been attending a private Catholic school, which, by all accounts, seems to have a good academic program, run by well-intentioned people. It seems to be a promising launching pad for a potentially bright future at high school and college, though that, of course, remains to be seen. He enjoys school, is an avid student and does well academically. What is perhaps equally important is he seems well adjusted.
But she says, neither did he pressure her.
What led her to her decision was observing the lives of several of her close female friends. She both liked and admired them, and decided she wanted to be more like them, including in her spiritual journey.
So, on her own and with the aid of some classes, she studied Catholicism and found its teachings to be to her liking. They seemed a good fit.
She wasn’t raised Catholic. Rather, like her brother, she was raised Protestant, in a religion that seemed to have little time for Catholics. The interpretation of Holy Writ by Seventh-day Adventists was that the number 666 represented the pope, leader of the Catholic organization. Catholics and all things Catholic were to be regarded with at least a modicum of suspicion. End-time persecution might arise from amongst their ranks.
I have a sister-in-law who was raised Catholic. She and her family eventually became Seventh-day Adventists; not all at once, but different ones at different times.
I cannot say we loved them any less when they were Catholic, but I also cannot say we did not love them more after they changed faiths. And, in that regard, I cannot say with assurance we were that unusual.
When my grandson was younger, his family sporadically attended the local Seventh-day Adventist Church. He attended cradle roll, then kindergarten, and seemed to find them at least reasonably satisfying. It seemed a good idea to believe in something greater than ourselves.
But something was missing. I myself did not find ease in the church. There are numerous issues, some of which readers may interpret to be nit-picking, so I will omit mention.
Suffice it to say, they never attended regularly, and invitations from some well-intentioned people to become closer members of that church family were gently rebuffed.
Her mother had mixed feelings about the transpiration of events, but daughter is an adult and, like the rest of us, makes decisions the consequences of which we may only learn later. And what is life, if not a series of learning experiences?
I admit to mixed feelings, but think it better that she be asking questions rather than, like some disenchanted believers, give up asking at all.
I also think that it is better that my grandson be raised in some religion than that he not be exposed to religion at all. This is not to say, of course, that he will be better for having been raised a Catholic. I don’t think he will be necessarily worse, however. Just as there are recovering Catholics, there are also recovering Seventh-day Adventists. And members of other religions.
The Bible they keep at home is not dissimilar to the ones that dotted the house in which my children grew up.
We consult it on occasion, the better to learn the many lessons it contains.
Grandson seems to have a naturally sweet, convivial disposition. I think his attending Catholic school should do nothing to detract from that. If anything, it may clarify his thinking and improve his behavior.
I do not know the extent to which my daughter will participate in her newfound church. Nor what effect it will have on her. She has always been a kind, compassionate person and an animal lover. I don’t see those qualities being in jeopardy.
Just as Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) used to say (quoting 19th-century Unitarian minister and Transcendental abolitionist Theodore Parker): “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” I believe the prayers we utter on the behalf of our children are not uttered in vain. Like the aforementioned arc, the answers may seem a long time in coming.
In fact, my understanding of the way the universe is ordered is those prayers may be heard before the prayers that are uttered on our own behalf.
So let us continue to supplicate on behalf of our children and grandchildren. On behalf of others. And, last but not least, on behalf of ourselves. That we might more fully understand and live the twin precepts articulated by the Master: love for the Almighty and love for our fellow man. For these precepts distill the Decalogue and define the way we are expected to live. And, with grace, find the path to life eternal.
The Good Place (or heaven, if you prefer) will hold surprises. Some who thought they would be among the sheep will end up in the flock of goats. And vice-versa. Matthew 25 speaks of this.
One of the greatest wonders is that some of us may be fortunate enough to be in a better place than we thought we might be. I believe the distinction between labels, creeds and religions will be blurred. All walks of life may be represented.
It is not so much what we call ourselves, but how we relate to our fellow man that matters.
The author prefers to remain anonymous.