I have ENORMOUS respect and love for my parents, and how they raised me in the Faith is one of the reasons for my love, respect, and appreciation.
My mom is a cradle Catholic of German-Irish descent. My dad is the oldest of five kids of an Irish-Catholic mother and non-denom, non-practicing WASP father. All the kids went through Catholic school, but only two or three of the five still practice today, not even his mom anymore. My parents met attending Catholic colleges, married after, bounced around the country with the Army, then around the world with an international relief and development agency. Wherever we lived or visited, going to Mass was NON-NEGOTIABLE. There was a time when I was ten or eleven or so when I was too lazy or too self-conscious (only Americans in the neighborhood, got stared at) to want to go to Mass, but my parents insisted saying, “We hope you’ll want to go for yourself someday, but go for our (parents’) sake now.” And I went, and I passed through that stage. I never had a “falling away” stage during college or young adulthood, for example, I was there every Sunday, singing in the Choir. I even tried to remember (and not feel self-conscious or self-righteous) to say grace at meals in the college cafeteria, thinking maybe I could be a good witness to others.
We kids attended Catholic schools when available (my younger siblings were homeschooled in a non-Catholic country), made all our sacraments at the appropriate times, said the rosary together as a family occasionally, and my mom – a religious ed. master’s student – experimented with different family religious observances over the years. We said different graces before meals, complete with hand and arm gestures (like fingerplays for kids); we read the Sunday readings and told the stories with felt pictures on a board; we read the Jesse tree Old Testament scriptures prophesying the Messiah’s coming and lit Advent wreaths during Advent; we had a little doll-size crib we could put straws in when we did a good deed to make a soft bed for baby Jesus’ coming at Christmas; we borrowed from Jewish custom to welcome the Lord’s Day on Saturday evening (think of welcoming the Sabbath in Fiddler on the Roof); we held Passover Seder meals on Holy Thursday remembering the Last Supper; we discussed how the Easter Bunny represents the early Christians bringing Jesus (new life from the tomb Easter eggs) but defenseless in the face of Roman persecution, hiding in the catacombs; costumes and trick-or-treating at Halloween came from medieval morality plays and “souling:” poor people going door-to-door offering to pray for the dead in exchange for food or money; Santa Claus came from St. Nicholas (favorite Christmas decoration is a statue of Santa Claus kneeling in adoration of baby Jesus); my mom organized youth groups or sacramental preparation when they weren’t already available in a new location, etc. etc. When I was a teenager, my mom discussed artificial birth control and church teaching and how she and my dad came to use NFP.
The point is, it was a stable, loving family life – maybe not perfect, but pretty darn close considering the troubled lives many others lead – with our Catholic Faith permeating everything and NO HYPOCRISY – no dropping us kids off for Mass while the parents go do something else, HA! – and no subtle, or not-so-subtle, suggestions that the Church was all wrong on the hot-button issues (celibate priesthood, women priests, homosexual lifestyles, artificial birth control, abortion, etc.) and therefore, could be ignored on those topics.
And so now I’m all grown-up and still practicing the Faith and passing it on to my children. I married a non-practicing Jew, which is odd, perhaps. Maybe one drawback to my upbringing was not discussing how to choose a spouse: if you want to marry a Catholic, you have to date a Catholic. And what you’re losing when you marry someone who is not Catholic. I was only thinking “dinner and a movie,” but we got emotionally attached. I remember a Jewish girl in college who would only date Jewish men, and I remember thinking, “How extreme,” but she was clear-seeing of consequences, and I wasn’t. But my husband agrees and supports my raising the kids as Catholics, getting their sacraments, homeschooling, etc. and so, so far, so good. But it’s sad when he doesn’t come to Mass with us, and he doesn’t feel the same awe and wonder and gratitude to our Creator that I do and that I want our children to feel, and birth control may become an issue in the future.
But back to my parents…didn’t they do a great job?!