Again, I cannot describe my gratitude for your prayers and positive thoughts and the measurably positive impact they have on my life. Even if you don’t pray, your words and thoughts have impact and power that I can feel. Thank you.
Yesterday, I found myself in an hour-long conversation with our parish pastor. While that may sound like a common event in my life, it is not. Not because of him; he is a pretty cool guy. He is from a large Irish-Catholic family, has an easy sense of humor and is comfortable around people. Before he joined our parish, he was the priest who worked with oncology patients at MGH (while I was there). He seems to be around my age, so he doesn’t fit the mold of the authority figures from my Catholic school days.
But I continue to carry with me the image that priests are unapproachable, or at the very least, only meant to discuss “big” things, so I was surprised to find myself talking with him for so long. He was probably surprised too, but for a different reason. He was having one of those days where he didn’t get to even the first thing on his to-do list. At 4:00 p.m., he was about to finally start tackling that list when I stepped into his office “with a quick question.” I don’t think talking with me for an hour was on his list.
Regardless, he stopped and made time as our conversation unfolded. One topic was how children learn their faith.
Though I grew up in a Catholic family, we aren’t exactly a group of holy rollers. All of us went to Mass at least once a week, received the sacraments, and got married in a Catholic church by a priest. We baptized our children in the church and held Catholic funeral masses for our grandparents. But outside the formal structures, we don’t talk about religion or pray together, and we only say grace together before meals on special holidays. Our general beliefs were kind of assumed.
I live in a different environment now. In fact, I crafted an entirely different environment for my family and me where we used to joke that science was our religion. Though I may have morphed over the past few years, returning to my faith, that doesn’t mean that my family has been similarly inspired. I teach religious ed to kids at our church, but I have little clue about helping my children grow in their own faith, outside the formal structure of religion.
When my friend Genevieve talked about the way her grandmother wove her faith into their daily lives, I felt myself say, “Yes! THAT is how I want to be!” I want my children to be able to know God and access that part of themselves. When they are older, they can make their own decisions about the role of faith in their lives. While they are still young, I want to do my part to show it to them.
Father Thom suggested starting small. He noted that when you pray, God will meet you where you are. He will take what you offer and work with that. He suggested maybe just saying grace before a meal.
Ha, my internal voice said. We barely pause before we dig in. Besides, I have an agnostic husband and one son who insists that he does not believe in God. I was open to the possibility of it happening. I just had no idea how it would.
He and I didn’t pray during this conversation. We just talked. When we finished, I picked up my son from swimming. It would just be the two of us that night – me and my “I don’t believe in God” son. We were talking about his day as we sat down to dinner. When I took my first bite, he suddenly stopped and said, “Mom, we should say grace.”