It happened about four months ago.
We were driving past our local church, and my eldest – now in junior kindergarten – piped up from the back to inform me that:
“Maman! C’est la maison de Jésus!” Mommy! That’s Jesus’ house!
My husband and I were both raised Roman Catholic. And there’s a great French Catholic school right around the corner from our house (that our eldest now attends). Honestly? We bought the house in part for the school zone.
It’s a really good school.
And my husband is Franco-Ontarian, which means our kids have the right to French-language education.
Which – not gonna lie – while it wasn’t what first attracted me to him at the bar 11 years ago … it certainly didn’t hurt as I started considering what our longer term life would look like together.
I went through French Immersion and am functionally bilingual. Which is a huge selling point professionally in Ottawa, where we live. The national capital of a bilingual country.
But I still struggle with grammar. I have a vision of children that operate with equal ease in both official languages. Public Service Testing scores notwithstanding, I know I don’t. I appreciate daily the gift we will give our children if we give them that.
But I have to admit, I didn’t give a whole lot of thought to the Catholic part of the equation.
I have … mixed … feelings about my faith.
I went to Catholic school.
Until Grade 8.
When my father decided the public school board was better funded, and the local public high school was better than the Catholic one, so I should go there.
For the record? He was the hard-core Catholic in the family. But also, apparently, pragmatic.
And we still went to church every Sunday, after all.
Where, in my teens and early 20s, I spent time reflecting weekly on my resentment that I had to go to church; where I made mental lists of everything about my faith and every reading, that I disagreed with. Rather than focus on the core messages that I did agree with.
Where, in my less engaged moments, I mastered forcing my fingers into the Vulcan “Live Long and Prosper!” sign, rather than listen to the priest.
When the time came to leave home, barring weddings, funerals and the odd Christmas or Easter mass, I didn’t return to church, or give it much thought, until I got married.
And then, it suddenly felt right to get married in the Catholic church. In that same church I’d sat in every Sunday for 23 years. Where my parents still went. Where I’d been baptised.
We’ve since baptised both our children there. And this past weekend, my husband and I stood as Godparents to our nephew as he was baptised there.
I’m still not okay with everything about my faith.
There are many examples I could provide as to why, but I’ll give you this one annoyance as a sample:
Whenever I’m asked to invite that any one person – fictional, historical, whoever – to my fantasy dinner party, Martha (from the tale of Martha and Mary in the Bible) still pops first into my mind. In my life, I’ve gone from general annoyance at the tale (quick synopsis here for those unfamiliar and a more detailed consideration – that I still disagree with – here), to a feeling of sisterhood in the “Martha” moments I’ve experienced as I’ve gotten older. I’d like Martha to join me for a spa day, followed by a gourmet meal. Where she is waited on hand and foot. Where she can revel in “choosing” the better role of letting others have the honour of serving the VIPs that – naturally – include herself. Because she is so obviously accomplished and generally awesome.
I go back and forth on whether we invite her sister to join us. And if we do, if we make her do the dishes after. I suspect that latter thought is unchristian as well as unkind. I feel odd mixes of guilt and … righteousness … and then feelings that Mary just needs to understand how she’s betraying her sisters by banking on her “cute young female” status to get out of doing work and how all us women lose in this scenario … and then I think that maybe I’m projecting way too many modern thoughts on a historical parable .. but really, people are people, and she should have stepped up … yes. But then, seriously? Let’s not make this about women fighting women. We should focus on the real culprit. Because, if I was Martha, I’d be telling Lazarus that we’re not inviting Jesus and his party back to our house again. I was hospitable and did everything right and my reward was to slave in the kitchen while my sister got to make eyes at the VIP? By this stage, I really don’t care how close we all were. It doesn’t excuse treating me like the help, rather than the host. I get that we were all trying to impress this local important figure, but notwithstanding who is father is, he acted like a jerk and treated me and everything I was trying to do for him and his party dismissively. So if I was Martha (possibly we’re all lucky I wasn’t and I’m suspecting my reaction would likely be categorized as sin-laden in … I’m gonna bet on vanity), I think Lazarus, if he’d like a happy home life, would have needed to step up and represent.
That said? That church? Resurrection of our Lord Church? And the Catholic faith? Are part of my family. There’s so much good despite the questions, that I know I want faith to play a role in my kids’ upbringing.
I know when they’re a bit older, that we’ll return to church so they can do Sunday school and maybe sing in the choir.
So they can learn about our faith, with enough depth and understanding so as to be able to choose it or not when they are older.
So they can also understand that part of our heritage and our family; of how it ties them to a larger community; and, yes, of how it ties them to God.
Because I have faith.
I only need to look at my children to know there is something bigger than us that guides us.
I’m not convinced any faith, be it mine or another, is the one faith.
But I believe in a higher power. I believe in the moral grounding and tenets that being raised in a faith – any faith in good faith – can provide. And I want to pass that belief and faith onto my children.
When my four-year-old insists we say grace before meals, my heart smiles.
It’s her way of contributing to the family meal.
And religious teaching at school taught her how to do that in a respectful and meaningful way. Her pride in this role is evident. That confidence will transfer to other areas of life.
At her cousin’s baptism this Sunday, both the detail in her questions and her obvious curiosity in her surroundings were evident.
She needed to visit every statue in the church.
We walked in order past the stations of the cross and I told her the story (or the parts I remembered. We probably should have taken my mother – the converted Anglican – on that pilgrimage with us. Educated by Catholic nuns in Africa, she’s solid on the details of that tale).
We had to explore all parts of the church. And light a candle.
Meanwhile my youngest spent most of the ceremony trying to climb up the stairs to the altar, while the Deacon smiled permissively at her. There’s something about happy kids in a church.
I know it’s curiosity about everything at this stage. But the obvious interest at the church, about the church, was moving.
And that church? The one where I was baptised; where I was married; where both my children were baptised; and where now my Godson was baptised? I find I can have mixed feelings about my Catholic faith, and still feel no confusion about the comfort I feel there.
That’s my maison de Jésus. It feels holy in an altogether personal way that I want to share with my children, when I figure out ways to do it that feel genuine for me and good for them.
I don’t know that we’re going to start attending church weekly yet, but I find myself trying to figure out the role of faith in our life in a more active way than I have in years.
It’s Monday. So I’m linking this up with Meredith’s Manic Monday’s – where others also ponder and post on deep thoughts about parenting. Do check them out.