Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season. Those who don't observe Lent usually know it as the time that Catholics and certain other Christian denominations give up something like a vice for 40 days. This year, I asked my dad if he wanted to go to mass with me to get our ashes in church, and I was surprised when he said yes. Although, part of me wonders if it's because now that I'm a few weeks away from our due date he'll take up any chance to drive me somewhere since he thinks I shouldn't drive myself anymore. Then when I thanked my dad for joining me and told him I really enjoyed it, I was further delighted when he also expressed a genuine enjoyment for attending mass today. He refused to get ashes or communion though, because he's worried about coronavirus. (I don't blame him, because one woman in South Korea spread the virus to 37 people at her church after twice refusing to be tested for the virus, and it spread from there to cause a large outbreak.) Still, I was just happy he came along with me, because keeping faith in the family these days can prove challenging; but today gave me some visible hope. Not to mention, it was a nice father-daughter outing. So how do we keep faith in the family in a time when many have or are straying from their faith?
My dad was raised strictly Catholic, and always talks about how he used to have dinner with the priest three times a week, so that's why he doesn't need to go to mass anymore. I, on the other hand, was baptized into the Roman Catholic faith when I was five and a half months old, but was not raised very strictly religiously. Still, it is for some reason one part of my identity that I have always felt very clear about and sure of. I don't know why, but I've always felt a close connection to my faith and as an adult, keeping faith in the family is all the more important to me, but like I said, not very easy.
When my husband and I were dating, he was great about attending mass with me. Of course, once we got hitched, that all changed. And I don't even go every Sunday! Now he commits only to Easter, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Christmas. Then every once in a blue moon I can convince him to come with me to another mass. On Ash Wednesday I just get my ashes and then stick my forehead on his to give him his and bless him myself.
With our little babe on the way, it's important to me to keep faith a constant presence in our lives, but without forcing it. I find that many Catholics who have strayed grew up in very rigidly religious homes, and often in very negative ways. But the bigger problem is the hypocrisy and abuses of power that have pushed people away--not just in the Catholic church, but all religions. The Catholic church has made many mistakes throughout history, but the mistakes aren't with what our faith teaches. Instead it lies usually with old, greedy, abusive men who refuse to listen to others. And it's important to recognize this and own it.
So, my approach to keeping faith in the family is to do my best to live in God's love every day, making it a positive part of our lives. While things take time to change at the top, sometimes its up to the people to lead the way. For me, keeping faith in our family means more than just turning up to church. It means showing gratitude each day, and not just praying to God when we are in need. It means making positive impacts on our community in different ways and furthering social justice. It means forgiving those who wrong us, including ourselves, and apologizing when we have wronged. It means showing more compassion towards others. And because I'm a sinner like everyone else, I have to remind myself of all these things every day, because I assure you that every day I mess up in one way or another. Maybe I lose my patience with someone, maybe I could have done something better or said something nicer. Having faith doesn't make you a good person, but it makes you want to and try to be as a good a person as possible. And I hope to set this example for my son. Some people, especially those in older generations, didn't always have such positive Catholic upbringings, but faith should add positivity and strength to our lives, not fear and heavy weight.
Today when my dad came to church with me and actually enjoyed it, it also showed me it's important to put out the invitation and leave the door open. You never know when someone may want to walk in the light with you, when someone may need the light, or even when someone may just be curious about the light.
How does faith fit into your life? Does it? And what does it mean to you?