For those of you who know me, have been in my house...or for those who have simply checked me out on facebook.....you know that I am a Catholic. Am I the worlds best Catholic? Hardly, but I do stand as close to my faith as I possibly can.
Growing up, apparently I was very blessed....because I was brought up with a great sense of self in reference to my religion. My mother always told me that I came from the Doughtery/Etier bloodline and I was fortunate enough to have been born Roman Catholic. The two she felt....gave me something extraordinary in life that others simply did not have. Apparently I was born a double threat and therefore somehow special. Hmmmm
The Catholic faith was always very important in my life growing up and Baptisms, First Communions and Confirmations were huge milestones in our lives. From the beginning I remember my mother teaching us in detail about God, Jesus, the Blessed Mother and all the angels and saints. By the time I was actually of school age, my religious ed teachers were amazed at what I knew. We were a praying family and we said morning prayers, bedtime prayers, prayers before eating, prayers after eating and we said a daily rosary as a family. Prayers were huge in our life and no prayer or set of prayers was more important than the rosary.
I have to say here.....that I have been very surprised over the years at the misconception of Catholics both inside and outside the faith. As a kid I was fortunate enough to be brought up in a small town where religion (all religion) was respected and celebrated. There were even school clubs for the different faiths. There was a club for the Methodist kids, the Baptist kids and of course the Catholic kids. I think there were more than that....but those were the three main ones and the ones that claimed the largest number of active members in both the school clubs and in actual church membership. As I recall...we were all very accepting of each other and it was nothing for a Baptist kid to bring his Catholic or Methodist friends to church and vise versa. As I grew up though....acceptance in the real world was not quite as easily obtained. I learned that after living in a close knit Catholic home and community for years that the outside world held hostility and resentment towards Catholics. Most of this was brought on by misconceptions and the media. However.....it wasn't until I was an adult that I was told by a very nice protestant lady that her belief was that Catholics were a)not Christians and b)a mindless cult. I was shocked, but upon investigation...I was amazed to find that her views were not unlike many protestant and even non-religious people. It took many conversations between us before finally...she did some research of her own and learned that all her feelings about Catholics were not justified.
Why such misconceptions? Lets face it....Catholics have not always been looked on favorably. There have been times throughout history that were not our finest hour and there have been Popes, Cardinals, Bishops and Priests throughout history who have seemed both cruel and hypocritical to what the Catholic Church openly teaches. In modern day....the Catholic Church has been a media blitz of Priests being accused of molesting children with a perception that the church turns a blind eye....and then there have been the Churches unpopular stances on birth control, abortion, women as clergy and gay marriage. As for the modern day issues....the Catholics are not the only religious sect that takes these stands but they are often the most vocal....thus making them a religious target.
As I indicated before.....my religious education started from the womb. My mother was always very open about her beliefs and we learned about our faith not only through religious ed classes but also through long philosophical conversations with her. Her education came from her parents. She was the product of a Catholic father and a Protestant mother. At a time when it was believed that you married within your own faith....my grandfather fell in love with a little Baptist school teacher. At the time her Baptist family had a harder time dealing with them marrying than his Catholic family did. They were married in the Catholic Church and this was my grandmothers first taste of Catholicism. She watched daily as my grandfather reverently said the rosary, as prayer filled every decision he made and as weekly Mass was never missed. It wasn't long before she wanted the peace and faith that her new husband seemed to get from his religion...so she converted. Family history states that the Baptist side of her family was less than thrilled and some even turned their backs on her. She took it in stride though....for once she was Baptized into the faith....she never looked back.
My grandmothers faith set the standard for the family. Unlike most cradle Catholics....my grandmothers conversion made her appreciate every nuance of the Catholic faith.....a faith she herself chose because of an example my grandfather set. She loved learning about how Catholics viewed and worshiped God and His holy Son. She loved learning that God held Mary in such high esteem as to make her the mother of His only Son and how much regard Jesus had for His mother.....therefore the Church too held Mary in special regard. She also loved finding out about the saints and the way God used these special ones to spread his message and help the world to see that miracles were not just biblical...but that they happened each and every day. My grandmother took her faith and she bestowed it on each of her children and the love she had found for her church she shared with them. My mother in turn passed it on to us.
One lesson my mother taught me about my church and my faith was that the Catholic Church was the first Christian Church decreed by Jesus Himself and He chose the Apostle Paul as His churches first Pope. All other Christian religions have branched off from the Catholic Church....meaning that most were started by Catholics who left the church throughout history thus starting their own religions. She also taught me that since the beginning...there have been those who wished to destroy the Catholic Church and the best way to destroy it would be from within. Thus....not all Popes, Cardinals, Bishops and Priests have been men of good character and they have done their darndest to cast an evil shadow upon the church. Blessedly...there are more good men who have chosen these vocations than there are bad and the church soldiers on.
Another lesson that my mother taught us was to pray. We learned early on that prayer was the most powerful gift God had given us. The Catholic Church is full of truly beautiful prayers. This is another area where the church takes a hit in the eyes of other religions. Most all Christian religions recognize and also recite The Lords Prayer, but no other prayer is as universal. The Catholic Church has many prayers. We have the Hail Mary which is in honor of the Blessed Mother. Many outside the faith view recitation of this prayer as us worshiping Mary....we do not. It is our way of honoring her. We do have many prayers such as the blessing before meals, a Morning Offering to begin the day, evening prayers and prayers to say on someones death bed. We have the rosary which is a group of prayers and even the Mass. What many don't realize is that the Mass itself is a prayer to God. I am of the belief that it doesn't matter how you pray....as long as you do in fact pray. Yes....I say prayers that I have said my whole life....but I also pray my own prayers from time to time. I have no doubt though....that no matter whether I am reciting a rosary or just speaking with God as if in conversation....He is listening and He hears.
So why all of this talk about Catholicism? Well...of late for some reason....people have been asking me questions. I have been asked about the rosary, what Mass is like and my take on priests in the media limelight. Then the other day I had a friend tell me that he really missed my daily blogs with themes and he suggested I do some blogs on the Catholic faith from my point of view. His exact words were: "Catholicism is the first Christian religion and yet it seems to be one of the most misunderstood religions out there. Why don't you clear up some of those misconceptions in your blog? How about doing a Sunday blog on Catholicism." I have to say the idea intrigued me. Now don't get me wrong. I am not an expert in any religion...not even my own. That being said though....I can definitely blog about my religion through my own eyes. I can also answer questions (to the best of my ability) about my faith. So I have decided to give it a try. Now remember....these are my thoughts, my views and my opinions. Not everyone will agree with what I have to say....not even all Catholics and I am sure that as usual....I will ruffle some feathers. I seem to be really good at that.
Okay....so here you have it. This is my first Sunday of Catholicism through my own eyes. If you have questions about Catholicism or you would like to add anything....please feel free to do so in the comments or just email or fb me. My knowledge may not be vast, but who knows....between us.....we might all just learn a little something.