Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Childhood Memories of Faith

Taken by me from the pews of my childhood parish.
While I wait for my downstairs neighbors to quit making noise (so I can study; file this under "apartment resident problems"), I thought I'd share something that came to mind while I was praying the Rosary a couple of days ago.

Does anyone remember what their faith was like when you were a child? Did you pray with your family? Did you pray before going to sleep? How about praying before and/or after every meal? How was your attention span during Mass? I'm so very curious as to how others experienced their faith as a child.

As for me, we (Mom and I have) have joked about how I "born to be a Catholic." Some of my earliest memories include being completely transfixed on the priest and what he did during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, especially during the consecration. I remember little 6-7-year-old me in the front pew (I always wanted to be in the front), eyes glued to the priest and what was going on at the altar. I didn't understand what was going on but I knew it was important. I think I even used to sigh happily during it. I knew it was about Jesus but didn't know much beyond that. Did I mention I was about 6 or 7? No one had told me about what happened during Mass. I knew the prayers because my parents taught them to me and I knew little things but nothing deeper than that, of course. I know my little mind wouldn't have been able to grasp the concept as much as I did when I reverted. Still, I loved going to Mass as a child.

I used to say that I wanted to be a nun when I grew up. I think I was particularly attracted to the Carmelite nuns. Those memories are a little fuzzy but I remember that I loved their habits and used to say "I'm going to be a nun when I grow up." Obviously, that didn't happen though St. Teresa of Avila was one of the first saints I admired when I returned to the Church as a 21-year-old.

I also remember that I once called a Catholic company that used to send free crosses to any child who was in catechism and wanted one. I don't remember what their name was (all I remember is that they were based in Maryland around 1993) but I remember how excited I was when it arrived. It was a small, white plastic cross that read "I love Jesus" in golden letters. I took it to school with me, unashamed of my love of my faith. I think I was about 8 around this time since I was in catechism to make my First Communion (which took place in 1994, a couple of days before I turned 9).

My parents taped a holy card of a Guardian Angel helping a child cross a river on the headboard of my bed so I was the first and last thing I saw. I also remember being completely scared of a picture my parents had in my room of two roads -- one leading to Heaven and another leading to Hell. The Hell part scared the crumbs out of me and I hated it. I must've been about 5 years old (yes, I have memories that young) and I think that scarred me a little. lol.

I also remember that I was basically on my own when it came to my faith. My parents took me to Mass sporadically growing up. I went nearly every Sunday (I think) while I was in catechism classes but as soon as my First Communion and then Confirmation (which happened when I was 13 years-old) were celebrated, they felt like it was enough. In fact, that was part of the reason why I unintentionally/unofficially left the Church during my teens until I was 21.

Sometimes I wonder what would've happened if my parents had had a stronger relationship with God. Would I have never left the Church? I won't lament it. I know that both of my parents were also poorly catechized and that both were away from the Church for decades. My father went 40+ years without going to confession or receiving the Eucharist (his return was my 24th birthday gift two months before he passed away) and my mother returned shortly before his death as well. I'm grateful that God has used me to help get them back -- especially my father; my biggest fear was that he would pass without returning to the Church -- and that, through the help of the Holy Spirit, I'm still able to clarify a few faith-related things to my mom. Our theological conversations make me happy and have increased over the years.

I also oftentimes think about how I will want to raise my future children (if God blesses me with any). I know that I want them to develop their relationship with God as soon as they can understand it. Of course, I'll take them to Mass and I'll teach them prayers as they're growing up. Since I didn't experience any prayers before or after meals (until a few years ago when I started doing it on my own) or even with my family (I can't recall ever praying with my parents outside of Mass), I know it'll be a huge learning experience for me but I look forward to it.

Oh! One more question: if you grew up with a strong sense of the faith and if your parents were religious, do you think it helped (or didn't help) your own faith formation growing up? I'm very curious and would love to hear any stories you may like to share. :D

Alright, it sounds like my neighbors have lowered down the noise level enough for me to be able to concentrate on some lecture videos. I have two exams next week and I need ALL the study time I can get. And prayers, if you can spare them. Please and thank you in advance. :)

I hope y'all are having a lovely start of week thus far!

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


Wolf Whispering Thunder Owl said...

Hmmm...How was your attention span during Mass?
Well, I was at Mass with our family..probably not yet 8..maybe 5/6/7?
Anyway, masses at our church always were always well attended, but this one was like doubly so...so likely it was an important holy day of some kind or another. The Knights of Columbus were there, only I was unaware of them. Well, my focus was aware of them; as they passed by during the
beginning of Mass, I was the little kid filled with awe, wonder and more than a little bit of unclear on the concept as I announced "Look, mommy! Pirates!" As to Q.@2, I did grow up with a strong sense of the faith and my parents were religious, and I do you think it helped my own faith formation growing up big time. I can't thank them enough for their help and support...even if I had a bit of a shakey start in the pews recognizing the KOC. -Patrick

James Blackmon said...

Every time I read I see myself almost mirrored, it is so funny. Like you I grew up in the church. My mom took us because my dad would not go, but he insisted we grew up in the faith. I always loved the Mass, and envisioned myself being a priest for years. And like you, after my teens my mom stopped going, and sadly I left the church for so many years. I got married and had 3 kids, than I returned to the church at about 35 years old. I am very involved,in fact I Lector, I am the church Cantor,I am an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist,I serve at the Altar,teach Sunday school, and am feeling a call to become a Deacon. I am very much in love with my faith, and I do pray with my kids and wife every day.I often wonder though, that if my parents had prayed with me and be more involved with the Church, would I be a priest? Being a Father is a vocation as well though, and I take the role seriously. Thanks for the article I am enjoying your blog....James