"Being Catholic" is one of the biggest parts of my childhood/memories/adulthood. I was born & raised a Catholic in a very strong, rural Catholic community. I always saw my parents participating in/helping out at church. Receiving our sacraments was a big deal that called for celebration. Many of my childhood friends were not only people whom I went to school with but also whom I went to church with as well (plus we all lived within a country mile or two of each other, which was a convenient bike riding distance :) I have great memories of being able to "explore" church while mom & other ladies were cleaning or while mom was doing things in the office. When we could get the chance to be the "reader" at the real microphone in church while they were doing those things-it was awesome! We loved "playing church" at home with smarties/vanilla wafers & having "mass" with real (the old ones or leftovers) missalettes from church. I remember attending Catholic youth activities once I hit junior high, attempting to be an organist because mom wanted me to try it, being a reader for a short time, trying to sing in the choir & bringing up gifts with my family. We always attended every Holy Day mass & even "had" to go on First Fridays occasionally (even though us kids could never understand why there was church on a Friday! :) sometimes we even had to go TWICE on the same weekend! One of my mom's most famous lines was always "It never hurts you to go twice!"-I ask you-how in the world do you argue with that! Needless to say, being catholic became a huge part of my identity-not just a group that I belonged to for the sake of belonging.
For a long time, being Catholic to me meant that things were either "black or white." I left very little room for "gray" areas & admittedly, was very quick to judge people/things as either right or wrong-no maybe's here! This worked wonderfully until people I knew started falling into the "wrong" category come high school/college/adulthood-then what? Drop the friendships? Worry about their lives "doomed to hell"? Miss out on terrific memories because they might 'mess' me up? Well now, that doesn't sound very nice...
I can definitely say that my religious nature has been tested again & again over the past several years, especially this past year-partially due to a few books that I read (that unexpectedly caused me to start asking myself lots of questions about what is right or wrong) & partially due to the losses we have faced over the last year. I have asked myself lots of questions about my faith & what I believe/don't believe (poor Scott has been on the receiving end of several of these discussions. :) I have questioned my viewpoints on many different topics as well. And I have come out the other end (although not completely unscathed) a bit different than I did going into it. Gone is the "blind" faith in whatever my church says is right or wrong & in its place is a more questioning nature-not so much of whether it is right or wrong, but whether or not it makes me a better person & whether it seems like the "loving" decision. I truly believe "God is Love" and that is what He wants us all to be as well.
So going into the next 30 years, "Being Catholic" is still one of my most important identities, but it will probably be from a little bit different viewpoint than that of most of the first 30 years. One thing that hasn't changed though is my belief in the importance of my child(ren) seeing me/us participating in the Mass & with Church activities (the "fun" stuff as well as those that can cause many a headache :) so that, hopefully, they will grow to see that it doesn't just have to be something that we "do on Sundays", but that being Catholic is a way of life & a way of living. And attending Sunday/Holy Day Masses regularly is just the cornerstone of that for me (& yes, that means sometimes even having to go twice on the same weekend because "it never hurt anyone!" :)