Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Confirmation Story: Why I Left the Church Shortly After

It's my confirmation anniversary and the feast day of St. Cecilia, my confirmation saint. (side note: yes, I know it's the feast of Christ the King, too. Trust me, I know.) While today doesn't bring the best memories, I did promise that I would tell y'all the full story of how my confirmation basically led to me unofficially leaving the Church so... here we go.

17 years ago, I reluctantly walked to the Iglesia Santa Cecilia in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico with my parents and my godmother (we call them godparents, not sponsors, in Mexico). I was a 13 year-old who was not happy that she was being forced to be confirmed against her wishes. Yes, I said forced. It didn't matter that I had my hair done or that I had a pretty new blue dress on. I'm pretty sure I was in a bad mood during the ceremony, too. I'm getting a little ahead of myself...

The weeks leading up to it were miserable for me. "No," I told my parents. "I don't want to be confirmed in Tijuana. No, I'm not going to study." If I ever acted out in teenage rebellion, it was over this situation. See, my mother's godmother had a brother who was a priest down in Tijuana. Her godmother pulled strings to get me confirmed at 13 so I wouldn't go through the two years of classes here in the States. "But I want to go to the classes! I want to get confirmed with my friends." No, my parents said. They didn't want to have to take me to classes for two more years. It was a pain to have to do it for my first communion. Besides, I would be "too old" and should be confirmed young, they argued. No matter how much I fought against it, I ultimately had no say in it. I was going to get confirmed whether I wanted to or not... and I really, really didn't want to.

It wasn't that I didn't want to go through Confirmation. I did. I was that little girl who dreamed of being a nun when she grew up. I think I've always loved Mass. I used to sit in the front pew, mesmerized by the priest, the prayers, the readings, everything. I envisioned myself in a brown habit once I was old enough to become a nun. I proudly announced that I wanted to be a nun when I grew up. St. Francis of Assisi and the Holy Child of Atocha were my first favorite saints. I loved my catechism classes leading up to the First Communion. I loved looking like a mini bride on the big day. I didn't mind that we had to celebrate it in a large tent in the church parking lot because the 1994 Northridge Earthquake had badly damaged our parish. Even at 8 years old, I knew what a big deal it was to receive the Eucharist. I looked forward to more classes in preparation for my Confirmation but it was never meant to be.

Did I go to confession prior to being confirmed? No. Did I go to classes? Unless an hour meeting the night before counts (in which they asked me questions I had no answers to), the answer is "no." Did I get to pick out a confirmation saint? No, because they don't do that in Mexico. And so I was confirmed and I was not happy. I ended up unofficially leaving the Church shortly after for two reasons: 1) my uninformed, young mind was mad at my parents for pushing me and 2) my parents said that we were "done." We no longer needed to attend Mass or anything since I was done with the Sacraments until I got married.

I love my parents dearly. They were the best parents that I could've ever asked for. My dad took care of me when I was a baby (while mom worked) and then worked the graveyard shift to support us. To this day, mom says that dad was more of a mom to me than she was because I would be bathed, clothed, changed, fed, and asleep by the time she got home in the evening. My mom taught me to not be afraid of hard work and to always help others. Both ingrained in me the importance of a good education. I don't blame their reluctance to continue attending Mass because I know what led each of them to leave Church in their youth. Still, I'm a little sad that faith wasn't more important in my own life growing up.

I think we went to Mass maybe a handful of times between (my) ages of 13 and 21, mostly for weddings and never for Christmas or holy days of obligations. I didn't pray that often. I considered myself Catholic but I certainly didn't act it. I knew nothing beyond what little I learned in catechism classes when I was 7-8. I headed down a terrible path in my teen years. I've written enough about what made me return to the Church so I won't repeat everything. The "in a nutshell" version for new readers: I fell ill shortly after I turned 21, prayed to St. Jude and he interceded... which sparked the curiosity in me. Bam, back to the faith.

Sometimes I wonder what would've happened if I had gotten confirmed at 16 like I had wanted but I don't dwell on it. Instead, I think about what has happened since my reversion. Once I learned that I was confirmed at a church named after St. Cecilia, on her feast day, I adopted her as my confirmation saint. It makes sense, too, since I've always said that music was my first love and she's the patroness of musicians. It was almost like she chose me, in a way. Her story continues to inspire me to this day. I'm very humbled that God used me to get my parents to return to the Church, with my father's official return occurring the day before my 24th birthday (his birthday present to me) and my mother returning shortly afterward.

As I said, I don't blame my parents for those "lost years." It's not great to think about what led to our time away from the Church for years but I just have to remember that what's important is the fact that we're back home. In a way, I'm glad it happened because it made me appreciate the Sacraments that much more when I returned. It just stinks that I had to go through all of that first. And, of course, this has all made me want to teach my future children about the beauty of the Church and the importance of the Sacraments as they grow up.

And, there you have it. That's the story of how my confirmation led to my years away from the Church. Glad to be back home and grateful to have the opportunity to learn more about Catholicism as an adult. :)

I have a Theology paper due in exactly one week and I want to finish it early so I'm going to go ahead and work on it for a bit. Yes, I know it's Sunday and that it's a day of rest but I'd like to think that God would give me a pass considering how much time I've lost this quarter. Still trying to catch up, folks. ;) If not, sorry, God. I really do want to do well in my courses. And, hey, it's Theology. I'm "working" but it's all still focused on the Church and the faith. I get a pass, right? heehee.

I hope y'all continue having a great weekend!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

No comments: