I can remember my mom waking me up at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning when I was 14 years old and also doing the same thing to my older sister, whose room was across the hall from mine. She was waking us up so early on a weekend to drag us to the next town over, to the former Catholic school my father and all of his sisters had attended so many years ago, and was now used as a parish center. For us, it was the site of our catechism classes. We had been going here since the first grade, and soon we’d be preparing for our Confirmation, the last stage of our initiation into the Catholic church and the one in which we’d receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and our faith would be sealed in the church.
Needless to say, I never really liked getting up early to go to these classes. Although I found a lot of comfort in the church over the years and the classes when I was younger – particularly when I was going through that phase that some kids go through where they are afraid to die, I never felt that all things holy were only within the walls of a church.
As I’ve aged, I’ve learned so much more about what it means to be a Christian. I’ve studied many of the different branches of Christianity, as well as other faiths. I’ve talked to believers of all types and really listened to their beliefs and really think of myself as a student of theology. in a way.
However, if you talk to me, my faith will never be the first thing I’ll mention to you about myself. Although it certainly doesn’t bother me when others discuss theirs or encourage others in their beliefs, that’ll never be me. My faith is personal. I’ve always kept it close to my heart, like a close friend I want to protect.
I have respect for all religions, and I truly think we are all entitled to our own beliefs or lack thereof. My personal beliefs are Christian-based, but perhaps not in the traditional way.
While I believe Jesus Christ is our savior and have a belief in a life after death, I don’t necessarily think we have to go to church every Sunday in order to be faithful servants of God. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t brought up going to church every Sunday, or maybe I just haven’t found “my church” yet, who knows.
But, I have always found God in other places.
My faith was found at the foot of my grandmother’s bed, as my own mom held her sweet, aged hands as she took her last breath in this world and our hearts broke.
My faith was with me the entire year my now-husband was unexpectedly deployed to Iraq.
My faith is present in the faces of my children, as they round the corner with smiles every morning.
My faith was with me both of the days I found out two of my babies had gone off to Heaven too soon.
My faith was with me on the day I walked across the stage of my alma mater and received my degree after taking several years off.
My faith is with me everyday when I put my son on that school bus and put it with the Lord to keep him safe in this dangerous climate that has become our world.
My faith is with me on the beaches of Maine, where so many childhood memories were made between my siblings and I and one that will carry over one day to my own kids.
My faith is in the memories of a little girl folding her hands together in her bed at night and saying prayers for all of those that she loves before falling asleep.
Sure, my faith was present in a church on the day I married my husband, on the days both of my kids were baptized and for the funerals of loved ones that have gone to Heaven.
But, it is not limited to those four walls.
It’s within me. It’s in my own personal relationship with my God. It’s sacred. I hold it very close to my heart and protect it like I would anything else that I hold precious.
I firmly believe my God isn’t going to lock me out of the gates of Heaven just because I didn’t attend mass every Sunday all of my days on Earth. And, I hope whatever version of God you believe in (or even if you don’t have a belief), you can respect the fact that many of us show and express our beliefs in our own ways.