My dad wasn’t perfect and I don’t idealize him or his memory. Lord knows, he wasn’t a great father. In fact, he could be a pretty lousy father and he even admitted it later on. But I loved my dad. Deeply. He was my rock, even though he could erupt at any moment like a volcano. And I still love him, no matter what kind of “baggage” we had together.
My dad wasn’t crazy about Catholics, even though he married a lapsed Catholic woman (my mother). I was sent to a Catholic school starting in 5th grade, for two reasons–the first one being that the public schools in my area weren’t very good and I’d get a better education at a Catholic school (Catholic schools are notorious for providing an excellent education and they do value a well-rounded worldview). The second reason was because I was being bullied in the local public school.
In my Catholic school, I found a refuge away from the dysfunction at home. I loved my school, and I loved the Friday masses, even though I was not allowed to participate in Communion. It sometimes felt like my real home. The nuns there took me under their wing. I thought they were angels and (except for one of two of them who could be mean) I was always in awe of their kindness and compassion. I loved the quiet and peaceful way they moved. I loved their softness. I loved the way they seemed not quite of this world. These were the qualities I was starving for, coming from a home full of anger, chaos and sharp edges.
Because of my positive introduction to Catholicism, I was always attracted to it, in spite of not agreeing with all of its doctrine. The Church has changed a lot over the years, since Vatican II, and embraces science rather than denies it. Science, too, is about the truth. I feel that the Catholic church is the “thinking person’s Christianity.” Of course, I know it’s not the only one. I know denomination doesn’t matter; it’s a matter of personal preference. I love the liturgy and the history and the mystery of Catholicism. But that’s just me.
I do have issues with their stance on abortion, birth control, women in the priesthood, and homosexuality. But these things don’t affect me directly. I believe with all my heart that the Communion wafer is not just symbolic. Every time I partake of the communion wafer, I feel filled with the Holy Spirit and know this is Jesus’ gift to his people.
In April of 2015, after nearly a year of preparatory classes (RCIA), I became a Catholic during the Easter vigil mass. My father, in spite of his misgivings about the Catholic church, gave me this Benedictine Crucifix, which hangs in my room across from my bed, so Jesus is always the first thing I see when I wake up.
Thank you, God, for giving me my new faith, and please help strengthen me in that faith, especially now when I’m in so much turmoil. And thank you for my Dad, who although we had our issues, was able to put aside his prejudices and give me such a beautiful gift from the heart.