I posted my April Life Lines column on my main Web site today. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read my latest reflection on family life and faith, which will run not only in Catholic New York, as it does each month, but also in the upcoming issue of Living Waters, the newsletter of ENDOW.
Here’s a little bit to get you started:
I brought my two daughters to church one recent weekday afternoon because I needed to pick up some information. As I talked to someone in the vestibule and gathered what I needed, Olivia, 7, and Chiara, 2, skipped up and down the aisles of the darkened church, pointing at stained glass windows and talking about which candles they would light. I finally caught up with them, shushing them as we walked down separate but parallel aisles toward the altar.
Chiara reached the front and marched up onto the altar as if she was walking into our family room. Although I half-heartedly reprimanded her for going up onto the altar without permission, it made my heart sing to know that church is not a place where she feels unwelcome or afraid. This is the same girl who takes her plastic car keys out of her plastic purse and gets into her plastic car to pretend to go to church like mommy. For my three children, church is a natural extension of the life we live at home.
That’s how it was for me as well when I was growing up. My mother was often at church – teaching religion, attending Ladies’ Guild meetings, visiting nursing homes, baking for various functions, and, of course, going to daily Mass whenever she could. As soon as I was old enough to join her, I started teaching religion classes, singing in the folk group, heading up the Catholic Youth Organization, and attending every Church-related event that was appropriate. It was an obvious and natural choice, then, when my volunteer work segued into a 24-year (and counting) career in the Catholic press. I will forever be grateful to my mother for building such a strong foundation for me, a foundation that shook a little when she died, a foundation that bears its share of battle scars, but a foundation that is still as sturdy today as it was when my mother set about laying it down teaching by teaching like a master bricklayer.
I can only hope to do the same for my two daughters – and my son as well. As I try to peer into the future, I worry about how the secular world will influence them. Already I can see society wooing my Olivia with its offer of glamour and fashion and fun. Will they succumb to the superficial sparkle of the things our world holds up as examples of success, or will they stand their ground and build lives based on a not-so-easy-to-live Gospel that promises them eternal happiness if not worldly glory?
Make no mistake about it. I struggle with that Gospel challenge every day. It can be difficult to hear the message of service and compassion above the pop culture din. It is a daily choice but not an easy choice. I hope my children get that message not only through the words they hear but by the examples they see at home, at church, at Catholic school.
Sometimes I feel like Chiara when I walk into church at an “off” time, the darkness and silence filling the emptiness and making me wish that I, too, could skip down the aisle toward God. But it is not just the building that gives me a sense of peace; it is this family of faith that, despite occasional squabbles over this issue or that crisis, continues to call me home, beckoning me to lay my worries down. I pray that my children will discover that same truth for themselves and that their familiarity and comfort with church now will grow