Life Learning Essay October 01, 2004 My Religious Odyssey You can take the girl out of Catholic School… Most people grow up with some type of belief system. Judaism, Christianity, Islam and even Agnosticism are some examples. It wasn’t until I had a child that I realized that religion was just man’s way of explaining God. Even as a kid, however, I always believed in a higher being. Not just because of my very heavy-handed Catholic upbringing.
I questioned many things about my religion. Since I loved science, I was confused about how the “Big Bang” and Adam and Eve coexisted, but I always knew that God existed. I had no scientific irrefutable evidence – I just had faith. You know how they say everything you ever really need to know you learned by first grade? Well it wasn’t until I had both my faith and my life tested, that I fully came to realize that one’s spiritual journey in life doesn’t have so much to do with what religion one surrounds herself with, as much as the faith that one has in God. Faith is what defines a person’s spirituality as opposed to specific religions. I was raised in a Catholic upbringing.
I grew up in Chicago, which has the second largest archdiocese in the U. S. I was baptized as an infant at St. Sabina’s and attended high school at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts, run by the Sisters of Mercy nuns. Catholicism is a religion steeped in ritual and tradition and so I vividly remember my first holy communion in the first or second grade, and my Confirmation, when in the seventh grade I reaffirmed my decision to be both a Catholic and a Christian. I also remember the many hours of study, every year, in religion classes that were required in each grade level.
... act of faith can save a life. Through this, Pi is able to manipulate his imagination and religion to save his life, in which ... not saving. By allowing Richard Parker onto that life raft he showed his faith towards god, and also by him surviving and allowing ... to survive this tragedy. However one must wonder, was it god, or just a simple prayer and belief in fate? Pi ...
I had cousins who weren’t Catholic who spoke of religion classes taking place only in Sunday school. I did not have Sunday school. I had Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday school. Every class attended mass at least one other day during the week, in addition to Sunday. I remember learning how to pray the rosary beads and knowing certain holy days and saints, important to the Catholic religion. We also participated in confession, where we told a priest about our sins and transgressions, and he gave us a penance to absolve us from guilt.
If one is looking for a pomp and circumstance religion, then Catholicism is the one for you. Since about eighty-five percent of the school also attended the church, the parish was made up of many close knit families who all knew each other and were very involved with both church and school celebrations. Catholicism had a profound influence on my life. It’s almost hard to explain to someone who has not had the same experience. Since I attended both Catholic school and church, Catholicism had a total indoctrination in my life. My brother attended church with us, but went to a magnet public school, instead of St.
Margaret’s. There was a BIG difference. He attended classes outside of school to study for his first communion and confirmation, but the experience was much less intense. When you are both Black and Catholic, one’s religions and cultural identities are sometimes at odds.
God is viewed as a very strict paternal figure and seemed very distant and removed to me as a child. I heard about and talked about God every day, but I didn’t really have any real relationship with God. But because Catholicism has both a lot of structure and fit in well within the constraints and confines of order (I was good at following rules), I had few problems embracing the Catholic church and its rules and tenets. I also loved the beauty and ostentation of most Catholic churches. St. Margaret, still to this day, remains in my memory, one of the prettiest churches I’ve ever seen.
... our society”, as the Catholic Church professed in 2001, what does religion do in the modern day? Well, religion leaves a trail of false ... AIDS”, leaving thousands of people infected in Africa. Religion segregates children in faith schools; it halts scientific progress and all of this ... mugging, murdering and mutilating is that they are afraid of God; that the only reason they are good is because they ...
It wasn’t until I turned eleven that I started to question certain beliefs. I wondered why only Christians got into heaven, why I couldn’t be an altar girl, and why nuns didn’t have the same power as priests, even though they did the majority of work within the parish. The ethics of the Catholic Church definitely led me to question both my ethics and those of the church. I loved that Catholics valued education, but then I began to hear about priests mistreating students. I wondered how a religion that didn’t seem to hold its own leaders accountable, could hold me accountable.
The philosophy I pondered most, however, was the statement that every Christian seemed to rally around, the fact that you could only enter the kingdom of heaven through Christ. I couldn’t shake the feeling that Christians felt that heaven was just one big country club, where one could only enter if one were Christian. Since I knew that three quarters of the world was NOT Christian, I wondered how my God could be so discriminating. My God would let me into heaven, with all my absolved-in-confessional sins, but he wouldn’t let in anyone who was Jewish or Buddhist or Muslim? That just didn’t seem to make any sense.
My God was bigger than that. The Catholic church definitely instilled in me an appreciation for discipline and hard work. It also taught me what I liked and disliked about religions. Catholicism opened my eyes to the hypocrisy of church morality. I learned over time, that just because the Catholic church and the Pope says something is so, doesn’t necessarily make it gospel.
I eventually realized that just as I respected the differences in other people’s races and genders and social upbringing, I could also respect the differences in both mine, and other people’s religions. I was fiercely proud and secure in being a Christian, yet I could also be proud of having friends of different religious viewpoints. It would only help to make my faith stronger. Having attended Catholic school for twelve years, I looked forward to attending a public college with broader views on religion. I attended the University of Illinois and did indeed encounter many people of different faiths and religious beliefs. One such person was my husband whom I met a few months before he was to graduate.
... this first visit to a catholic church. Since I am from a different religion being a non-denominational Christian, I was used to my ... in God and Jesus Christ. I am of the Christian religion and the church I attend in The Bahamas is a non-denominational ... section. My catholic experience was a great and memorable one, I learnt a lot of new stuff about the religion and having an ...
We hit it off immediately and had a lot in common. I learned that he had been raised in the A. M. E. church; the oldest recognized African American faith in this country. I was pleased to learn that he and his parents were brought up in the church.
Phillip was also very afro-centric and conscious of what affected Black America. One day I asked him to attend church with me and he informed me that he did not believe in the same Jesus that I did. Now, for someone who could not wait to get away from the church after her strict religious childhood, I took great offense to his remark. I called Phillip a blasphemer and told him that I could never get serious with anyone who was not a Christian. I was fine with him not being Catholic, but not being a Christian just crossed a moral line within our relationship. Then Phillip told me something that changed my spiritual perspective for life.
He said that in order to defend my religion to the fullest, I would have to look outside at other religions. Phillip challenged me to look critically at not just Catholicism and Christianity, but at other religions that were much older than those concepts with which I had grown up. He stated that if I were so sure about my religion then discovery could only make my faith stronger and that if I chose not too examine anything, that I deserved to just settle down for whatever doctrine the church handed out. Phillip concluded by saying that he believed he was a Christian, but an informed and different one from myself. He didn’t think he or I were worse or better Christians; we just looked at Christianity from different perspectives. Phillip graduated and we broke up soon after, but I remembered his challenge and took it to heart.
I had just taken a Classical Civilizations class where we studied different types of mythology. I heard of many “Trinity” stories and was surprised to learn that these stories that sounded just like the “Trinity” stories of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, with which I grew up, had existed thousands of years prior to the birth of Christ. One day the professor suggested that possibly Christianity too was indeed a myth, and the room erupted. People stormed out, and some threatened to drop the class.
... view on God and the behavior of the Church. All throughout Martin Luthers life, even before his work with the Church, his faith God was limited ... break up the monopoly of knowledge and power that the Catholic Church held over the people. Through examination of Machiavellis The Prince ...
I could see some of the kids point, but now I wanted to learn more about Christianity and Catholicism, so that I could defend it. What I discovered really opened my eyes. I learned how one of the earlier Popes had used Christianity to sanction slavery. I learned about how Christians persecuted Jewish people in the inquisition.
I learned how slave masters used passages form the Bible to tell slaves that this was their true lot in life and how they should be obedient as referenced in the Good Book. I came to the conclusion that neither Catholicism nor Christianity was “wrong”; it was mankind’s misuse of religion and theology that was flawed. I began to really wonder if Catholicism was the right religion for me. I really didn’t attend church that often at college. Yet when it came time to get married, I insisted on having the ceremony at St.
Margaret of Scotland, my home church. Even though I had issues with a lot of the ideology of the Catholic Church, such as family planning, paternalism and bureaucracy, St. Margaret still represented many of the familial values that I held dear. My fianc’e Phillip had one stipulation: that we add an African component to the ceremony. What a dilemma.
I had to convince my pastor that we would not engage in any “pagan” rituals and convince my husband to please refrain from calling Catholicism a “European travesty against all people of color.” In order for a person not of the Catholic faith to marry in a Catholic church, the Catholic partner must agree to raise any children within the Catholic religion. Eventually we all agreed to compromise and we had an African/Catholic ceremony complete with an African elder co-officiate, the “symbols of life” ritual and a flower presentation to Mary. The entire ceremony lasted around ninety-five minutes, but was very moving, informative, and inspirational for everyone who attended. That experience taught me that symbolic rituals are important in both cultures and religions. However it didn’t reveal to me how any of these rituals or religions helped to establish an individual’s relationship with God, as opposed to the institution.
Nor at that time did I really feel any need to connect more personally with God. When I moved to Cincinnati, I went looking for a church, more so out of obligation, rather than any spiritual necessity. First I searched among Catholic churches, where the ceremonies certainly felt familiar, but I still felt something missing. I then visited some Methodist and Baptist churches. I had to adjust to the music, the demonstrative nature of the congregation and ritual differences in ceremony such as communion and First Sunday. I eventually found a temporary church home at Lincoln Heights Missionary Baptist Church.
... body and blood refer to the Holy Sacrament in the Catholic faith. Though these aspects may be clear-cut in van ... luxury which was previously exclusive to the aristocrats and the Church. And that gave birth to the open market system ... winterscapes, imaginary landscape, seascapes, Italianate and nocturnal landscapes”- to still-lives, genre painting and portraits (Janson). As expected, histories, according ...
I enjoyed the congregation, the music ministry, the pastor and most importantly the message. I attended off and on for about three years, yet never joined. I still felt guilty about abandoning my Catholic roots and so I went back home and spoke with Father Art Anderson, who officiated at my wedding. He listened intently as I revealed that I had a lot of misgivings with church doctrine and although I had searched I had not found a Catholic church where I felt a connection with God and I didn’t think I was going too.
Father Art told me that I was always going to be a child of God and that as long as Phillip and I would raise our children recognizing that God was foremost in our lives, that it didn’t really matter what religion I practiced. I thought this was very open-minded of him, and I really appreciated him not making me feel guilty for leaving Catholicism and pressuring me to continue in a religion I no longer practiced. My mom used to tell me that there came a time in her life where she stopped going to church because she was “supposed to” and started going because she wanted and needed to attend. She said that that point occurred at different times in people’s lives and that only I would know when I wanted to deepen my spirituality and further develop my relationship with God. After my son was born, I really began to feel a stronger connection toward God. I wasn’t as concerned about what religion my son would grow up to be, but I did want our family to grow closer together and grow closer to God.
Then my father died four months after Malik was born. My dad and I were really close and his death was unexpected. I felt despair and angry and alone and lost. I had family support but they were miles away. Phillip and I had an African naming ceremony for Malik in lieu of a christening since I hadn’t officially joined a church. I was angry at life and questioning God.
... amount of struggle possible. College life may be simplified having a time plan in which things should be ... and energy level. How can someone have a stress free life? Well, ... free college life. The other ideas that I mentioned earlier could assist with this like time management ... energy. Sleeping for the right amount of time always seems to help me stay refreshed and ...
The time had come in my life when I “needed” to go to church. Even though I really enjoyed the services at Lincoln Heights Missionary Baptist Church, I realized that though I loved the rituals at that church, I still didn’t feel any closer to God. I recognized that you got out of church what you put in, and Lincoln Heights did a lot of great things, but it still wasn’t helping me develop my relationship with the Lord. It was a large beautiful church, with a lot of nice people in the congregation but I still didn’t feel a spiritual connection.
Through all my indecision and pain, I kept talking with God. I would talk to Him at all times, anywhere at all. I kept asking for guidance and praying for direction. During the next two years both of my maternal grandparents died. In a three-year time span I lost three out of four people in my life whom had raised me. During the same time period I was dealing with becoming a new parent, re-entering the work force and adjusting to a floundering marriage.
I didn’t have a church, or even a standard religion, but I did continue to have faith. I needed faith more than I needed symbolic rituals. I needed faith and a relationship with God more than a pretty church and a swinging choir. You know what they say: “God works in mysterious ways.” My caregiver, whose nickname was the same as my grandmother’s and whose husband had the same name as my dad, invited me to visit her church. It was a small Presbyterian church with sixty percent of the congregation aged over sixty – or as I like to think, a room full of grandparents. The Presbyterian Church had originally broken off from the Catholic church, so many of their rituals were similar.
Because this was a mostly African American congregation, their music ministry featured both the gospel music I had come to love at Lincoln Heights in addition to the hymns I grew up with at St. Margaret. The pastor believed that he was a sinner just like me and spoke of the church in terms of God’s people, versus a building. Most importantly, I felt a strong connection between myself and God and the other worshippers. They seemed to sense that I needed assistance in my spiritual odyssey, and reached out to me. Most of the congregation had attended Carmel Presbyterian for generations and were looking for new people to help rejuvenate the church.
They openly embraced my family and we happily reciprocated. I had finally found a church home. Throughout my religious odyssey, from Catholicism to Baptist beliefs to Presbyterian creed, faith in God remained the one consistent sustaining value in my life. Faith helped me determine that religion by itself is not the most important qualifier in a person’s spiritual odyssey. Faith also helped me to develop a closer relationship with God and is what helped fortify my spiritual growth throughout difficult life struggles. Faith in God versus faith in religion is what most matters on life’s spiritual journey..