Ash Wednesday

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Today is Ash Wednesday.

I was able to go on my lunch break to receive ashes. Lent has officially begun.

Don't worry--I'm not about to go off about religion. I'm the last person that would ever tell someone that they should believe what I believe or that I'm right and they're wrong. When it comes to religion, I am completely open minded.

But I'm also Catholic. I just happen to be a Catholic that thinks that a little skepticism about it all is a healthy way of thinking. I have a hard time throwing myself into religion without trying to rationally think through it all. Even though I know it's not how I'm "supposed" to think and feel, I don't think I will ever 100% agree with the Church and its teachings.

Does all of this make me a bad Catholic? Some would argue yes. I happen to think it just makes me human. *shrug*

Looking back on my life, I'd say I was taught to be spiritual, but not really religious. My mom was raised Catholic, and my dad was raised Baptist. My mom didn't like the strict Catholic Church she grew up in (it's quite a bit different now!), so she didn't really want to raise us Catholic. As you can imagine, my dad didn't want to either, so my brothers and I were all "dedicated" in a non-denominational church after we were born (as opposed to being baptized). I remember being taught numerous prayers and little Christian songs when I was a young child, and it was a nightly ritual to "say our prayers." I remember my mom or my dad would sit next to my bed and we'd go through the whole family--"God bless mommy, God bless daddy, God bless Tyler, God bless Trevor"--we'd even go on to include grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins!

After my parents divorced and we moved here to New York, we became involved with a church here, and I vaguely remember the little religion groups I was a part of. While visiting my dad in Virginia in the summers, we used to attend Bible Camp with my cousins (at a Baptist Church). So we kind of got a little bit of everything in our younger years.

My mom says that eventually, she didn't agree with the views of the church we were attending, so we just stopped going. And we never really went back. We would sometimes go to Catholic Church with my mom's family for holidays and special occasions (baptisms, weddings, etc.), but that was it. I always continued to believe in something, just nothing really organized.

I always said that someday, when I got married, I would most likely convert to whatever religion my husband practiced (if he practiced at all). Because in a lot of ways, I'm OK with all religions. I just think it's nice to believe in something, and be guided through life in a way. Since I grew up feeling like I didn't really "belong" to one religion or another, I kind of always wanted to do differently for my children.

So, well, I kept my promise. When Michael and I started talking like we were really going to get married, I looked into RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) programs so that I could become a part of the Catholic Church. Michael's family is Catholic on both sides, and I think it meant a lot to them for me to become Catholic.

For about six months, I attended all of the RCIA classes, and then, on the night before Easter in 2007, I was baptized, confirmed, and received my first communion as part of an Easter Vigil. It was a pretty cool experience. And I was officially a member of the Catholic Church.

Michael and I attended church really regularly for a while, but in the months leading up to the wedding, we got out of the habit, and then it fell off completely. Around Christmas time, we realized that we hadn't been to church since our wedding day. Oooops! So bad.

SO... this year, for Lent, instead of "giving up" something trivial such as soda, chocolate, or TV, we're going to add something good back into our lives.

We're going to go back to church on Sundays.

We know we're supposed to be doing it anyway, but the fact is, we're not. So this seems as good a commitment as any. And we have always been good about giving up meat on Fridays for the Lenten season.

Enough of my rambling for tonight. But I'm curious, if you observe Lent, what are you giving up (or adding) this year?


amybyrd February 25, 2009 at 8:41 PM  

Heather--thats a cool story. I grew up Catholic and was so happy to meet my Kevin and find out he was too--our marriage prep was awesome. I taught confirmation for a few years and it was so good for me to see people question their faith and be open enough to talk about it. I was the teacher who was probably most open to questions and admit my own struggles!
I am giving up chocolate--its a true daily battle for me:)

Michelleigh February 25, 2009 at 8:45 PM  

You and I must be sharing a boat. There are several aspects of the Church that I don't care for (and I could go on and on about it) - but at the end of the day I'm still a born and raised Catholic (my husband too). My husband and I had a full mass for our wedding and then didn't go to church again until the second week of Advent (oops!) I can go to the gym 4 days a week...but not church once? It's sad.

So for Lent, we are taking on attending church on Sundays as well. If I start to get slack - I hope that I can stay honest and keep it up!

Best of luck to you and Michael on your Lenten journey. I will be thinking of you both (and say a prayer for your dedication to attending!)

jenn February 25, 2009 at 9:02 PM  

My husband and I are the opposite I suppose. Both raised Catholic, but found that it wasn't for us. It doesn't satisfy my spiritual needs. (I came to that conclusion working on my Theology minor) We belong to a Unitarian Universalist church now. I love what they teach the children and youth and it is def. somewhere I could see us taking our children so they can decide what beliefs fit themselves.

Blablover5 February 26, 2009 at 10:03 AM  

My husband is catholic and probably the most religious one of his family but I was raised Methodist.

We also live in about the most conservative precinct of the catholic church as there was no way we could get married unless it was in a catholic church here and that just was not going to happen.

There was just no way I could join this church when women are not even allowed to read or have anything to do with service and I come from a background where women could be ministers.

It's just strange to me how even though the church is under one Pope there is still so much irregularity with what rules are enforced and truly the see is at the whim of the bishop.

Maybe if we move to another diocese that is a touch more relaxed I'd be more open to converting but here it's just not for me.

Kim,  February 26, 2009 at 11:54 AM  

Heather, I liked how you put it...that you're "a Catholic with a little skepticism." That's exactly how I would classify myself as well. I like being a part of the Catholic church (I was born and raised Catholic), and I can say now that I love that my husband and I were married in the church, although I originally only did that because my mom really wanted us to.

For Lent this year I'm giving up soda...I know I'll be craving a Coke by the weekend! One year in college my Lenten promise was to go to Mass every week, like you're doing this year, and I did well with it...the only reason I'm not doing that again is because the Lenten season is probably my least favorite part of the year when it comes to church (is that a horrible thing to say? haha). It's just so somber and there aren't any songs that I look forward to. In order to kick myself back into church-going mode I'm better off starting during Advent, which I love and will be more likely to stick to!

swedish fishie February 26, 2009 at 2:13 PM  

I've heard a lot of people this year adding something rather than giving up something. I think it's a great idea! I am giving up fast food though. It's a bad habit I've developed since being married and I really want to get away from ordering out so much.
I am catholic also; DH is not really anything. I think everyone needs something to believe in, regardless of what religion it is. I fell out of the habit after the wedding of going to church (my excuse: the cold weather) so maybe I can add going to church on Sundays for Lent.

Marta-Jane February 26, 2009 at 3:01 PM  

Hi Heather,

i was born and raised Catholic. This year, i moved to another city for medical studies. Since that time i fell out of going into church.

I thought that due to the Lent time, i have to change sth. And to my surprise, you have the same idea as mine :). I wish you and your husband all best.

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