A Question of Faith

Hippie Child laughed at me on Good Friday. It’s not unusual for Hippie Child to laugh at me but this time she included  questions that left me tongue-tied.

There was no food in the house on Good Friday. Despite my best intentions to get to the supermarket on Tuesday I just hadn’t made it. By Thursday I should have left work and gone straight to grocery shopping, instead I went out drinking with my work colleagues. Yes I left my children without sustenance on the one day of the year the shops are closed just so I could enjoy two three glasses of champagne.

I decide we’ll have fish and chips on the beach for lunch (the takeaway shop was doing a roaring trade). The children don’t want fish and chips. They want chicken wraps.

“No” I say “it’s Good Friday you have to eat fish”.

“Why?”

“It’s a Catholic thing”.

“So, you are saying it a religious rule that we eat fish on Good Friday?”

“Yeah”.

Laughter

“Mum, I hate to break it to you but we are not religious”.

“We’re Catholic”.

“Mum, we don’t go to church”.

“We’re still Catholic”.

“Actually Dad’s Anglican but never got confirmed because he got kicked out of confirmation classes. I’m baptised Anglican but confirmed Catholic, the only Catholics really are you and the Princess”.

“Doesn’t matter for the purpose of the exercise we’re all Catholic”.

“Mum this is ridiculous, why are we following this rule about eating fish when you don’t follow the other rules?”

“I follow some of the other rules, I’m a good person”.

“You don’t go to church – isn’t that a pretty big rule you should be following? Seriously Mum I think God will forgive us not eating fish, I reckon he’s got bigger issues to deal with”.

Life was so much easier when they were small and you could feed them anything you wanted without having to answer a barrage of questions. Seriously, blind obedience, that’s what I want.

The kids got their chicken wraps, even I went a BLT, in fact the only one who ate fish on Good Friday was the disgraced, unconfirmed Anglican.

Just for the record I felt guilty about the BLT and could hear Sister Christina describing the burning fires of hell in every mouthful (and if that isn’t Catholic I don’t know what is).

The issue of religion is a murky one for me. Haven’t been to confession or communion in decades. Yet on all those forms you have to fill out with the “religion” box I still write Catholic. I got married in a church, albeit an Anglican one, and had both my daughters baptised (again one Anglican, one Catholic). I fully expect my funeral will be a Catholic one (although not so hypocritical as to go the full requiem mass).

The girls started their school life in public school, and I remember feeling guilty (see Catholic) that they were getting no exposure to religion, except for the 40 minutes of  instruction from visiting clergy that you can opt into in the public system. At six Hippie Child told me she “really like Father’s stories about Jesus and stuff”.

When we moved to the country I enrolled them in the Catholic school system and it was a bit of an experience for them. We had a crash course in saints, the scriptures and the holy trinity. Being younger Princess Child seemed to embrace the religious teachings quite fervently, I still have a faint fear she may one day opt for life in the nunnery but then I remember her penchant for make-up and sparkly dresses and I rest easy. Hippie Child agreed to the confirmation then decided that was enough she didn’t need no more religion. She still does surprisingly well in the subject at school, apparently her zoned out daydreaming demeanour translates to devout and I’ve told her to keep going with that approach because it’s working for her.

If I truly had to define my approach to religion I think the best I could come up with is confused. If I seriously think it through from a purely logical point of view I’d fall into the atheist camp, yet there are moments of life that remain inexplicable tipping me toward the agnostic, and when I have to bury anyone I immediately turn to believer. It’s much nicer to convince yourself that your loved one has gone to a better place where you may one day meet up again than deal with the reality of the situation.

Of course when it comes to the children that’s where my confusion has become a parenting deficit. What child gets to make a decision on whether she will follow through on the sacraments? The child of a dithering parent willing to go with the kid’s decision because she’s not that sure of the right choice herself. While I do my best to support the religious teaching in the school I have had to argue against it on a few key points which are diametrically opposed to my own beliefs. Somehow the girls seem able to wear the contrasting viewpoints.

Shortly after we arrived in town I attended a school celebration, steeped in religious symbolism there was much talk of faith and hope. In one blinding moment of epiphany I realised my sense of optimism had been born in the long-winded masses at St Mary’s in the 1970’s, although I may not always believe faith in God will get me through I carry a deep sense that whatever happens we will survive it, there is always a way out, a faith in our capacity to survive and a continual hope that better times are ahead.

I see the importance of ritual and the deep sense of community around the schools and church.  I am sad at the lack of diversity in the teachers my children are exposed to and can only hope their religious lessons are broad enough to include tolerance and respect for all.

At the end of the day, as with all parenting decisions, you just have to hope for the best. I am comfortable that at least I’ve given my children exposure to a religion which they are free to abandon or embrace when they are older. I am also confident I show them an example of living a good life, honest and caring, even if not adhering to the “rules” of the church. Sometimes that’s all you’ve got to offer.

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20 thoughts on “A Question of Faith

  1. I keep it very simple with my children…it’s not about church or following religious ways created by man, it’s all about the one person who died on the cross for us…Jesus, look to Him and you can’t go wrong..this is my personal belief. Hope you & your family are having a lovely Easter Janine. Catherine x

  2. Amen!
    We have both been sailing on the same boat! I’m conflicted and confused, but feel I’m a good person/parent that sets a good example. To this day I see Sister Angelina’s finger wagging in my face more often than I think I deserve, but the experience served its purpose. I think in the long run, we’ll all be just fine. Happy Easter. There’s no rule against chocolate bunnies. 🙂

  3. I’ve learned to embrace the Catholic woman’s guilt syndrome. As for confession, given all that you have shared with us (love the undies blog), consider it a ticked box.

  4. A challenging topic for Easter! I’m also an ex-St Mary’s girl, and was brought up in a pretty strict Catholic household, lots of church, some out there “charismatic renewal” services (whatever they were about) and Catholic educated till Yr 10. And not one of my siblings or myself are religious today. I think if you force it too much your kids may well reject it. I like the “broad” approach – give them all the info and lots of different experiences and they will find their own way.

  5. Pingback: Whaddup, Jesus? « True STORIES.

  6. LOL. I feel your Catholic guilt. I was raised in a Catholic home, attended Australian Catholic Uni and was a Catholic school teacher. Since then it’s all been ‘downhill’. I left teaching and stopped going to church, married an Anglican in an Anglican church, divorced, remarried (a former Catholic) and have two children who are not baptised. To top it off, last census I marked ‘No Religion’. Do I have Catholic guilt? Not really, as I don’t see the relevance in my life anymore. So why did I feel guilty about eating half of Isaac’s chicken nugget at dinner after eating seafood all day on Good Friday? Damn Catholic guilt.

    • My goodness you can’t get more Catholic than that! I left the Catholic system in Year 6 to go to the public highschool (only two choices in a country town) and I still can’t bring myself to write no religion. You have truly come the full circle.

  7. Very well expressed! I am not catholic or any other christian – Hindu in fact – and I feel the same way! Like you I believe that all ‘rules’ are man made,and just like you, I find myself reverting to the comfort of some of those rituals – against my logical instincts – when I am disturbed!

  8. I was raised Catholic….I went to mass on Sunday’s and attended some classes. Fortunately I don’t have the bad nun stories. The one thing I heard from you is that you are good. That’s all that counts in my book. I’ve always been a rebel and my catholic teachers always said I have a more protestant point of view. And I didn’t even know what that meant. And still don’t. I don’t claim to be any religion any more. Don’t be harsh on yourself. God, universe, divine, whatever you want to call the power that is loving and caring doesn’t really care what you ate on Friday. Just know that you are loved always.

  9. Pingback: Good Friday guilt trip « 365 Completed Tasks

  10. I am very Catholic and in a very Catholic nation. Hang in there. The whole fish thing on Friday’s is not necessarily a strict rule, but what is important is a small corporal sacrifice.

  11. I’m Catholic in paper. I lost my religousity when a priest didn’t let me have my first communion because I got an illness and missed one practice/bible study. After that, I have become agnostic. The incident got me thing how religion can be so practical instead of being spiritual. I do understand what you’re saying. Upbringing really brings out the personality of every one of us. I really think you should allow your kids (??? they sound like adults) to expand their beliefs and let them be with their option.

  12. There are a bazillion things I want to write right now about this post. Let’s see how concise I can be (ha).

    I remember learning in Western Civilization class at my Catholic high school that the reason we can eat fish on Fridays in Lent is because the Pope had a treaty with a fish-producing country… or something. From that point on, I sort of looked at it as a really good idea and a guideline, but when I accidentally stopped at Sonic for dinner on a Friday during Lent while running late to a competition and I didn’t see any pescetarian options… I decided popcorn chicken was the answer.

    Love the line “and if that isn’t Catholic I don’t know what is”. So true.

    I went to confession for the first time in 6 years this past year. I’ve got to tell you, I was impressed. I felt like I got free/good life advice that can actually help lead me towards a better life and somehow didn’t make me feel guilty when I left. I was impressed. If I could always guarantee that, maybe I’d go more often.

    My favorite part about growing up Catholic was having an excuse to hang out with friends at catechism class on Sundays. My favorite part now about growing up Catholic is being part of the church choir (my home away from home family). So, it’s really all about the people you meet and surround yourself with as far as I’m concerned – oh, and that golden rule thing.

    The book “Heaven is for real” was pretty awesome, I recommend reading it. For better for worse, it gets you thinking.

    Clearly I failed at keeping it short. Sorry about that…

    • I love long comments! Confession sounds a lot different to what I went to, but then I was an exceptionally well behaved child who usually had to make sins up for the confessional, where a grumpy old priest decreed three hail mary’s and sent me on my way. Your point about the friendships is really important – I think there is a strong sense of community built around religion and those without an active religion have to work at building their own communities.

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