Sometimes I find that reading blogs is a bit like opening up a random book to the 9th chapter and trying to understand what the story is about. Oftentimes, if I don’t know who the writer is, what their faith formation is like, what they’re about, then their blog will have no context and I’ll often be confused by the things they write about. Context is key. I’m always seeking to know why and I believe that many why questions can be answered by understanding where the person is coming from. I’m assuming the same thing could happen to someone stumbling upon my blog, so I thought I’d give a little context about the “Catholic world” that my husband and I are from so that you may understand our experiences and faith formation a little better. Maybe some of my writings will make more sense. Maybe I’ll just confuse you even more. There is a lot more to my faith world in particular, but I’ll stick with the Catholic one for now. Either way, here’s a glimpse into the “Catholic worlds” we live in:
The Catholic world we grew up in:
- For me, was non-existent. The only things I heard about Catholics were short quips from my Grandma or Mom, that weren’t “friendly” to put it nicely. I heard about these people who left the Catholic church (like my Godmother) and who felt so “free”. I once went to mass with a neighbor friend after a sleepover and thought it was funny that they called it “Mass”, like “weight” (I was science nerdy from the get go). A statue at a local Church (I think the same one I went to with my friend) got the stigmata and I didn’t understand why that would happen, or why people would care. (We were raised Lutheran and attended services for most of my childhood, which I recall being eerily similar to Mass when I finally went).
- For my husband, was ubiquitous with his culture. Everyone was Catholic in his family even if no one went to Church or received the sacraments regularly, although his immediate family did make an effort to go most Sundays, missing a few here and there. His parents worked multiple jobs to afford to send the kids to Catholic private school in an area where cost of living was very expensive. He remembers singing songs and bringing flowers to Mary during school, having Priests coach his sports teams, and influential ethics teachers that challenged him to follow his thoughts to their logical end in order to determine their validity. His family still doesn’t understand what this “NFP” class is that we teach.
Catholic world of our young-adulthood
- In grad school we both went to a very Catholic retreat series, called Awakening. Although I was not Catholic when I went and I do not attribute going to my conversion (I wanted to leave at times and the really religious people scared me), it was a profound experience in my life that helped me realize that it was OK to ask these questions that I was wondering about.
- I eventually start RCIA several months later to learn more from the source, since my books won’t talk back to me. I make many good friends with the older students who are converting. Many couples wanting to get married are in my class and at times I feel I’m the only one asking questions. In spite of that, we have great discussions regarding the Trinity, morality, end of days, and the real presence in the Eucharist. At the final retreat 2 weeks before Easter we play Pictionary with Catholic themes and I choose “Natural Family Planning” and no one guesses it. I have to explain what it is after time is up.
- Through Awakening we met a large, active young adult group who was strongly catechized and on fire about their faith. Coming from a background where I never saw this, these fellow adults were a great inspiration to me to see others actually living their Catholic faith. Have never felt so open talking about these things with people and give a talk on Faith at one retreat. There are several religious vocations that come out of this group and others that seriously discern a vocation but end up returning. Many couples go on to marry and have kids. A few later divorce. Many of our friends wear scapulars, veils, attend daily mass, know the histories and prayers of many saints, and generally pursue these sorts of very Catholic activities that were very foreign to me at one time.
- During my RCIA process I am told by Catholic friends and Mike’s family that sometimes he can be “too strict” about Catholic rules and if I want another opinion, to just ask them.
- Once we were engaged, many Catholic couples came up to me and told me how great the marriage prep classes were, except for that horrible NFP class they had to take. We usually tried to stop the conversation there by saying how excited we were about that class.
- We had to combat much resistance from the University Student Center in order to teach our NFP classes there.
- In our NFP classes, minus most of the Awakening friends that we advertise too, about 90% of the other couples turn in their application listing only one address and refer to their pets during the class. Most have never heard of NFP before and take the class for requirement. However, getting married in the church is very important to them and we are surprised by the number of positive comments after our classes.
- We have made great friends with the NFP teaching crowd who has really brought us under their wing and mentored us during these earlier years in our marriage, teaching us that being “open to life” means so much more than just having children.
- Our priest who witnessed our marriage is very active in our lives and has had a couple dinners with us and several other couples who have been trying unsuccessfully for years to have kids. He is a blessing in our lives.
- Sometimes my non-Catholic family goes to Mass with us, but most times they don’t. When we’re in town, most times we go to Mass with my husband’s family, but if we all wake up to late or there’s something else scheduled on Sunday, we go by ourselves.
In short, my Catholic world is what I consider “normal”, but it may not be what you consider normal. I like reading other Catholic blogs sometimes because I feel a solidarity that there are other people who really believe this stuff, instead of going through the motions. While I know the Catholic Church teaches the same thing everywhere, sometimes the extent to which the parish follows and encourages each other can vary greatly. So I ask, what does your Catholic world look like? Not to point fingers, but to understand a little better where we came from and who you all are.
You can answer in the comments if you like or in your own blog post :) Just let me know if you write one so I can be sure to read it!
And I don’t mean to be exclusionary of reader’s with other faiths, I have just been thinking about this issue as it relates to Catholics for a while now and wanted to pose the question. Please feel free to answer if you want to and you’re not Catholic too!