Parents


#1

Hi all,

Though faith is very private in my family, I have always had a very good family life. My parents are extremely loving and kind and have raised me and my brother well (he's 18 and I'm 15). However, there are some things in relation to religion that bother me about my parents and in the last few weeks I've learned some things about them that I wish I could ignore forever.

We attend Mass just about every Sunday, but from Sunday to Sunday faith is scarcely mentioned in our house. My parents never go to Confession (and thus neither do I), I can't remember the last time I saw either of them reading the Bible, and often at church we don't use the hymnals or join in the singing. Once, when the congregation was saying Hail Mary's before the start of Mass, my mom wouldn't kneel and when I motioned for her to she told me that she could pray just as well sitting as kneeling. Last Sunday, our priest gave what I thought to be a good, inspiring homily, but after it, my mom leaned over and said something to my dad and was shaking her head and looked disapproving. Little incidents like these are really confusing me. I can't figure out my parents attitude towards the church. I feel so close to completely opening up to Jesus, but I keep catching myself. I respect my parents' opinions and value their reactions, yet I don't understand them.

Also, there have been several non-church related incidents in the past few weeks that have really hit me. My dad lied to me about not knowing something that I am nearly positive he knew, and both of my parents have been oddly cool towards a guy who I am really good friends with. He is a Baptist, and I spend a lot of time with Baptists, and sometimes I think my parents over-react and are judgemental towards the Baptists. But at the same time, their views are making me wonder if mine are being influenced by the Baptists I hang out with. I'm just really confused because I always thought I could trust my parents, and all of the sudden I'm not sure. It seems to me like the bottom is falling out, and I have really been hurt by this. I'm afraid, though, that maybe I'm over-reacting to it because it has really gotten me down the last few days and confused me in my relationship with Jesus. I've confided to an extent in a good friend, but I don't want to alter his opinion of my parents. I'm used to holding everything inside and pretending I'm okay when I'm not, and all of the sudden it feels great to be able to talk about it with someone. I don't want to be making too big a deal out of it, though, and am afraid I'm almost enjoying some sense of self-pity. My friend has been so wonderful about listening and helping me out with what he can, and I am so grateful, but at the same time I feel a little silly if I am making more of this than there is. My emotions feel suddenly kind of dull and dead, like they are so buried beneath this mask that I've forgotten how to let them out.

I guess my question is how big of a deal is this? When I let myself really think about it, it seems pretty big, especially about Confession, but when I'm not in such a serious mood, I can let it go. I know my parents would be offended that I'm not talking to them about it, but I feel like I've lost some of my trust in them through these incidents and I don't feel comfortable approaching them about it. And now that I think it is starting to affect my relationship with God it feels bigger to me, too. But sometimes it is hard to tell because so much of it is grounded in the more abstract concept of faith which can at times be easy to belittle.

What do you think of my situation? How serious is it? Should I suck it up and deal with it (which is what I'm telling myself right now)? Or do I have reason to be hurt and confused by what is going on? Is it okay for me to confide in someone? Am I breaking the fourth commandment and dishonoring my parents?

Thank you,
Lefty


#2

Perhaps I should add that I usually keep personal things like this to myself and this is really one of the first serious things I've told a friend. I don't want to weigh him down with it or give him details he doesn't need so I've been keeping it vague. He just knows that there are some things going on in my family and he can tell that they are really pulling me down because I'm distracted and not my usual self. He has been extremely caring and kind to me, but I'm afraid maybe he thinks it's more than it really is or else in telling him, it has become more to me than it really is. Thank you and God bless.

~Lefty


#3

I think you have to work on improving communication with your parents. Do you have problems understanding their actions and beliefs in other areas of life, such as local politics, or on marriage and family for that matter? That may mean they just aren't being clear in communicating their values to you. Or is it just in the area of religion where you are getting a mixed message. Is it possible, also, that part of your confusion is coming from a tendency, entirely common at your age, to judge your parents and hold them to a higher standard? You might begin by sharing with them that you are confused and have questions about many things and would like their guidance, then choose on of these issues. NOT, mom why don't you kneel for the rosary BUT, Mom I'd like to get more into personal prayer but I don't quite know how, can you give me some guidance from your experience?


#4

First off, I think you have been blessed with a thirst for a more intimate relationship with the Lord. This is very good!

It is unclear whether your parents are lukewarm in their faith or merely very private. My own dad, for instance, took the passage about not performing religious acts for people to see, like the hypocrites (Matthew 6), so seriously that he almost hid his prayer life from the family. He went to confession twice a year, during Advent and Lent, but never made a big deal about it. He could have gone once a month, for all I know!

He had real difficulty around people who talked about the faith, as he was a partisan of St. John--Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth (1 John 3:18)--and St. James--So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, "You have faith and I have works." Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? (James 2:17-20)--and of course, "when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you." (Matt. 6:3-4)

The good thing for you, regarding your parents level of devotion to the Lord is this, then: It doesn't matter. You are free to assume the best of your parents, and to hope for God to be merciful where you are being too charitable. It isn't your business to instruct and admonish them. For instance, you don't know whether you correctly read your mother's expression, or if she was disapproving, exactly who or what she disapproved of. It isn't your worry. Let that go. I think you will find the Lord's command to avoid judgment very freeing. That is OK. It is meant to be.

What you can do, however, is to ask them to help you. If you can't drive yet, you can ask them to take you to confession once a month....more often, if your confessor advises it. You can ask them to drive you to meetings of your parish youth group. You can ask them to help you work at the food bank or to help out the altar society or whatever way you can see to give of yourself. You can tell them you'd like to pray the rosary, and ask if they would pray it with you. In all of this, remember to be respectful, holding on to the assumption that they already do these things in private. If they say they don't do these things, you can say, "How should I know? You are good Catholics. There isn't any reason I wouldn't think you do this stuff without making a big deal of it to me. And anyway, what you do is none of my business. It is just that I would like to do it, and I would like your help."

If they do not seem to want to help out, you could play "the Baptist card"....as in, "Mom, if I wanted to go to Bible study at the Baptist church or any other church in town, they'd have someone drive here to pick me up. You raised me to be Catholic. I want to be Catholic. Would you help me? Because I don't want to tell the youth minister down at our church that I can't get you to drive me without having asked you first." Then you'll see how important it is to her that you remain a Catholic.

If she won't help you, by all means do tell the youth minister at your church. Someone at your parish is going to take the trouble to help you live your faith more deeply. But give your parents their chance first. They deserve that. Never ever judge them. They deserve that, too. You won't go wrong in the eyes of God by having given your parents too much respect, too much of the benefit of the doubt, or too much patience and love. That is what God desires that you do. That is why "Honor your father and mother" is the first of the Ten Commandments having to do with how we treat others.

After all, as Steven Covey put it: the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!

On the topic of your feelings feeling buried...do you take these problems to the Lord? Many things that we need to keep hidden to spare the feelings of others are things that we need to share with the Lord. That relationship is where our heart is meant to bloom. You will find that confiding in Jesus is what your heart longs for. Having done that, the Holy Spirit will guide you in finding other guidance.

May God bless you!


#5

I think EasterJoy’s post is very insightful… re-read it a few times. :slight_smile:


#6

[quote="lefty22, post:1, topic:202027"]
Once, when the congregation was saying Hail Mary's before the start of Mass, my mom wouldn't kneel and when I motioned for her to she told me that she could pray just as well sitting as kneeling.

[/quote]

As you get a bit older (and based on your ages I'm probably younger than your mom) kneelers can become somewhat painful. I don't mind kneeling on the floor to pray at home, but kneelers hit my shins the wrong way unless I kneel basically on my kneecaps which is also not so comfortable. Anyway, the reason your mom didn't want to kneel might be physical rather than spiritual, and she's unlikely to want to talk about it if so. :) Aside from that, she probably felt (not without reason) that it wasn't too appropriate for you to be motioning her to kneel, since she's still the mom. Was there reason to think she couldn't see that people were kneeling? Because otherwise she had all the information you had, and is capable of making her own decisions about her own behavior.

Other than that, as long as you assume the best (which you should) which is that your parents are faithful, faith-filled Catholics, you can't go wrong talking to them. For example, I have heard really moving homilies that nonetheless contain theological or even factual errors. It's not enough to be inspiring, it has to also be True.

Also, having been a person who left the Church through good and faith-filled Protestants in college, I can say for sure that it is a danger. I sincerely regret leaving the Church for all that time, but that doesn't mean that there was anything bad about the people I was with, just that I should have been careful to have faith-filled Catholic friends as well. That could have something to do with your parents' coolness toward your friend.

Anyway, parents are just like anyone else--they should be considered innocent until proven guilty. :D But certainly you can ask them to take you to Confession if you need a ride. You could even set up an appointment with them, that they always take you the second Saturday in the month or whatever. (Sometimes the first Saturday is a bit busy because of the First Saturday devotion.)

I'm not denying the possibility that your parents are lukewarm in their faith, just saying that you don't know, and given that, it's probably a good idea to put the best interpretation on things you can.

--Jen


#7

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