I didn’t launch Peace Garden Mama with the thought that faith would be such an integral part of it. Little by little, however, my zeal for my faith began to spill into my posts. Then, during Lent last year, I divulged more of my faith life here. Doing so surprised me. I felt my writing come alive. It felt more authentic, like I was no longer holding back this very important part of myself.
The blogging world is generous in that it comes with few restrictions regarding content. Even so, we always take a risk by infusing our faith into our writing, especially within the context of a largely secular world. We also risk alienating readers who might feel we are trying to be didactic, trying to force our beliefs onto them. Because I value all of my readers, both Protestant and Catholic, full-fledged believers as well as those with a million questions and hesitations regarding any faith life, I think it’s important to be clear about my intentions: all are welcomed here. In fact, I love that we’re not all in exactly the same place. I hope to grow from you and perhaps I can reciprocate, whether the subject is parenting, writing and/or faith matters.
I thought it might be helpful to share a little of my faith background so you’d have a better sense of where I’m coming from, especially regarding the “Catholic stuff.” I’ve interviewed a lot of people through the years, and have found that knowing someone’s history is largely the key to better understanding and appreciating them. Like most believers, my faith journey has been an evolving one with many twists and turns. I won’t share everything right off, but here’s a little of my “testimony” (Can I get a witness?) to perhaps prompt a dialogue and help you understand what drives me.
I grew up in a Catholic home, but my father quit practicing his faith visibly when I was quite young. (Thankfully, he came back to his faith some 35 years after letting it go, praise God!) It was largely my mother and her quiet example of persistent faith that offered the richest spiritual soil for my earliest years. My father contributed in another, less visible way. Despite his resistance to living out his faith, this former seminarian still insisted my sister and I go to church with our mother. Though slightly confused by this at the time, I later came to realize that even though he may not have felt worthy of a vital relationship with God at that point, he still wanted that for us. That spoke volumes to me later, because even though he wasn’t able to be the example he would have liked, his unspoken sentiments seemed to be that there was something about this faith, this Catholic faith, that shouldn’t be discounted. As I prepared to leave for college, he encouraged me to become part of the Newman Center for Catholic students. It was some of the best advice he could have given me. That experience was crucial for my well-being and gave me a “home base” for my faith during a time when so many of my peers were discounting faith altogether.
But challenges came my way as well. I was confronted by lots of questions about my faith that I couldn’t adequately answer. For a while, I even strayed from Catholicism and became involved in some non-Catholic Christian groups. These groups were energizing and I loved the zeal for Christ I found within them. But in time, I began to sense the loss of something I couldn’t quite define. As for the questions I couldn’t answer, instead of just shrugging my shoulders, I began desiring to learn more about the faith of my upbringing; one, so I could answer the questions with confidence; and two, so I could determine whether the answers were adequate for me. I was opened to whatever God wanted for me, even if it meant leaving the Catholic Church.
Many things came into play in my ultimate decision, and I hope to talk about some of them in future posts, but the end result is that my fervent study, far from pushing me further from the Church, slowly began to lure me back in. The depth that seemed to be missing earlier became apparent in my search. At the point at which my non-Catholic husband was confirmed in the Church (the same evening our firstborn was baptized), I realized that the faith I had “discovered,” while the same one of my youth, was also a new faith entirely. Not because the Church had changed, but because I had. I had grown and learned there were answers to the questions that had been raised; answers that were not only adequate but life-changing. To be honest, I was delightedly shocked at the Church I was coming to know, which was so different than the one being purported from the outside. I also felt profoundly grateful I hadn’t jumped ship when it would have been the easier thing to do.
Recently, I was invited to write an account of my faith journey for a friend working on an article about why people leave (and in some cases, return to) the Catholic faith. By the end of reading the finished piece, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Everyone interviewed for the article had left the Catholic faith at one time or another. Some returned, some didn’t. Realizing I, too, could have permanently walked away from this Church I have come to adore filled me with a deep sense of gratitude that only quiet tears could express.
Like other sinners, I have made mistakes, plenty of them, and I’m sure I’ll make a few more by the time my earthly end has come. But I can honestly say that despite suffering and the imperfections of this life, I live with a deep-seated joy and peace because of my faith, which is deeply rooted in Catholicism and its abundant riches. And I’ve come to a point in my life at which I can not ignore this and pretend it’s not a big deal. It’s a huge deal. It’s the difference, for me, between living vibrantly and simply just living or even dying a slow death. I speak with conviction about the latter because I’ve been in that place, too.
So, I will continue to bring my faith life into my world of mothering and writing, and as I do, it’s important to me that my readers know division is far from my purpose in this. Each of us has our own unique journey with much more in common than not. I choose to focus on those commonalities, while still sharing what it is about my particular beliefs that make me feel so intensely alive.
Have you ever had questions about your particular faith? And if so, did the answers draw you in further or propel you onto a different path?