Thursday, January 17, 2008

My faith

Today/yesterday/some time this week, I had an interesting email from someone who reads my blog, but obviously does not want me to know that they read my blog, since they a. sent me an email about this, and b. sent the email under a false email, with a false name.

This person questioned my faith, and my belief system, in the fact that I have been quite "vocal" in asking for prayers for Nathan, Trisha, and Gwyneth.

Basically this anonymous person said how could I a "non-believer" ask people to pray?
Since I don't have a way to reply in private to mr/ms anonymous (I tried), I decided to explain it here. Not necessarily because I think they deserve an explanation,but because it bugged me enough.

I am the first one to admit that I have done some decidedly non-believer things, and things that I know were "sins". Nothing that I feel could/should send me to damnation for, but things that most devote Christians are supposed to say is wrong. I know that there are many devote religious people out there that have done worse, I have met a few of those hypocrites in my life, and have to remind myself that they will get what is coming to them, for preaching on one hand the "word" and turning against it on the other hand, all within a few moments of each other.

When I was growing up, my brother and I were made to go to religious education classes, I was an active member of our church youth group, and we attended church services every weekend, only the worst of the flu could get us out of going, my brother was an alter boy, I did church leadership camps. Dare I say it? I enjoyed being a part of that community.

When I went away (the whole two hours to Flagstaff) to college, I spread my wings religiously speaking. I attending services with all of my friends. I have been to synagogue, I have been to Mormon services, I have been to many many Baptist services (I even went to those while still living at home and still had to attend the Catholic service the same weekend ;) ). I was curious as to what was out there, and what other people believed. I had friends that believed in/practiced Wicca, and listened to them, and what they believed in as well. All in all it was a growing experience for me, but I still attended Catholic services on the weekends I was at home in the Valley, and when I felt down I would attend a service at the Catholic center on campus, to feel at home.

My sophomore year in college found me unmarried and pregnant, by a man that I knew I didn't want to spend my life with. I moved home and attended college at the local community college. My mom helped me find counseling with Catholic services, so that I could figure out what to do. My counselor was a wonderful caring woman. After the second session she offered to start coming out to our church rectory to do the sessions instead of me driving into the city to see her. This to me was great, because I could talk to her on a more regular schedule in between classes if it fell right, where as driving into town I only had one day a week that it was even possible.

However, this change necessitated that the priests at the church being told about my pregnancy. Not that I was hiding it, but I also wasn't going around telling everyone I met either. I was trying to decide if I was keeping K or giving her up for adoption (we all know what I chose, and I would never ever go back.) But I didn't want everyone's opinions on the matter either.

Fr. P was very supportive of me. Fr. P being the younger of the two priests at the time, was the one that I was the most comfortable with anyway. But he offered to sit with me and just talk if I needed it. He offered to be a friend first and foremost,
and a priest second, if I needed his "priest" side to come out (his words).

Fr. J was the pastor of the church at the time, and the "older" of the two. Not that he was old by any means, but he had been ordained longer or something I guess. I never felt comfortable per say with him, but never felt he was wrong either.

The one session I arrived before the counselor, and as I sat waiting for her Fr. J came up to me. Fr. J proceeded to read me the riot act for my irresponsible behavior at getting pregnant and not being married. There was no temperament to the conversation at all. I was basically called a whore, by this man of god, and he told me that I was setting a poor example for the younger girls in the church.
I was not the first unwed mother in our church, nor was I the last. I know that I stood there dumbfounded, and I did not say a word to him the entire time.

It was on that day that I "gave up" my faith.

In my mind, he was a man of the "cloth" and very hypocritical, and how dare he talk to me like that. I don't know exactly how to explain what happened to me, or what made me stop, I just know that it did.

The deacon's daughter has a son a year older than K, and she wasn't married, and her dad was a man of the "cloth". I remember gathering my courage one Sunday after church and asking her if Fr. J had told her that she was a poor example for the younger girls. She said no.

I asked a couple of the other girls that had been in my shoes the same question, the answer was always no.
These were girls that I was friends with through youth group, they would have told me.

I still attended church every Sunday with my mom, K was baptized on my Grandmother's birthday, and the day my Grandparents renewed their vows for their 50th wedding anniversary. But I had given up on my faith.

J and I were married in the Catholic church, and we did the marriage classes required to be married in the church, for my mom. And yes Fr. J was the one who married us, but I tried my darnedest to get either Fr. T or Fr. P to return from Notre Dame and perform the ceremony, because I did not want Fr. J to marry me. And I had given up on my faith.

J, K and I moved to Florida, and K and I attended a total of 2 Sunday Masses in the 2 years we were there, both times my mom was visiting.

J, K, N and I moved to England, and I can count on 2 hands the total number of times I was in the chapel for church services, including baccalaureates and memorial services. On visits home, we attended with my mom, for my mom.

I would not necessarily say that I have ever been a non-believer, I have just given up on my faith. I still prayed for people suffering, or if someone specifically asked for a prayer for strength, I still said a little prayer when I needed to be strong (my emergency surgery in England, and D's birth when he wasn't breathing right away are two times that come to mind.)

But I do not attend services, and I for the most part do not read bible quotes or really really stop to pray.

Until this past week or so when I found Nathan's blog.

There is something about his blog, his dad's blog, his uncle Andy's blog, and his BIL Terry's blog that has made me stop and think. Stop to take time to pray for Trisha, and Gwyneth. Consciously pray about them.
I don't do it as an "Our Father who art in heaven" type of prayer, it is more of a I hope the continue to do well, or please let them have a better day, type of prayer.
It is more that I stop and think about someone who is suffering and needs all of the positive vibes that they can get.

I don't see myself ever becoming as faithful as I was before that "chat" with Fr. J. even though the grown up me, knows that he was not a typical pastor.

But part of my faith has been restored, because I can "see" what the power or prayer, or positive thought has done for this family.

So people can think what they want to think about my prayers for others, they can call me a hypocrite, they can think what ever they think. I am not asking for the reader to come out of lurkdom and acknowledge the email, as a matter of fact it would complete shock me if they did.

I know why I am asking for my readers to say a prayer, or think positive thoughts, its because while I don't attend a set church, I still believe in something.
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