MomDay Monday – When Religion Gets in the Way of Faith


We’re Catholic. And The Kids are being raised Catholic. And sometimes, it’s really hard.

The Catholic Church is steeped in centuries of tradition. And I love the traditions. Give me a three-hour Easter Vigil Mass that takes us through the history of our salvation & ends with new members of the church being brought it – the old & the new meeting – and I’m in. It’s like celebrating not just what God has done in the past but what He’s still doing today.

But the rules. Oh, the rules.

As a kid, I was a rule follower. The Cat in the Hat pissed me off. How dare he come into Sally & Conrad’s house & mess things up like that?! Don’t even get me started on Curious George. A monkey performs brain surgery & everyone just thinks it’s cute?!?

But apparently my rule following has its limits.

This past weekend The Girl started Confirmation classes. As Catholics, we are baptized as babies. Our parents make that choice. When we’re old enough to decide, we are faced with Confirmation. Apparently, the age of 15 is supposed to be mature enough to decide if this is the faith they want to follow for life. Even though they’ve never experienced any other faith.

I was confirmed when I was 12. There was really no formal “Confirmation Classes” like The Girl is facing & there were certainly no community service hours that had to happen to be eligible. It was more like they had an extra robe that happened to fit me & KK, who is two years older than me, was already doing it so why not get it done & save the expense of having two family parties. So I don’t know that I really learned all the rules of the church. I don’t know that anyone would be able to learn all the rules. There are just so many of them. And faced with a life that often leans toward crazy, I won’t be learning them any time soon.

Case in point – Last Christmas, “Oh Holy Night” came on the radio as I was tucking The Girl into bed. I mentioned that is was my favorite Christmas song. The Girl then said, and I quote: “My religious ed teacher said that we shouldn’t listen to this until after Christmas because we’re in Advent now & Jesus hasn’t been born yet.”

I think I stared at her like Patrick Starfish for a solid minute, slack-jawed, I was so dumbfounded. The only reply I could come up with was: “Technically, yes. But we still have to live in the real world. You try to find a radio station that’s playing “Oh Holy Night” on December 26th. You’re not going to. So if we want to hear it, we listen to it now.”

The Girl, in all her infinite wisdom: “Oh I know, Mom. I just tried not to say back to her, ‘Hey, wasn’t Jesus actually born 2014 years ago? I’m gonna listen to the song’.”

Oh the rules. And Oh… the people who know them all.

Part of The Girl’s Confirmation requirement includes 20 hours of service to the church or to the community this year & next year. The Girl has been an altar server for more than 5 years. It’s a service to our church that she actually enjoys. Those three-hour Easter Vigils? She volunteers to serve them. She also swims competitively – a sport that has her in the pool five nights a week. And therein lies our dilemma. Add to that her first year of high school – new building, new teachers, new everything! She has very little time and she already serves her church waaaay more than 20 hours by serving on the altar.

So when we were told that her service on the altar didn’t count toward her Confirmation requirement… well… cue Patrick Starfish again.

“If they’ve been doing it all along, it doesn’t count. We want them to branch out & find a new service.”

“How is that fair?” I asked. “Someone who is just starting as an altar server will have it count toward their service hours. But someone who has been faithful to this service since 4th grade….. Not so much?”

It’s a case where the rules and the “religion” are getting in the way of the faith. I want The Girl to branch out. There’s a soup kitchen near us that we are both planning on serving at. That will count toward her hours. I’m not asking for her to only get credit for serving on the altar. There is more she can do. But she’s feeling discouraged hearing that her faith that has grown on the altar with this service isn’t worthy of being counted.

I talked to my 85-year-old Auntie Jo last night. This is a woman who regularly lunches with nuns. She is a paragon of faith & loves her church. As I explained what was happening & how The Girl wasn’t getting credit for her altar serving, she said, “You fight. You fight for your kids & you stand up for what’s right. I’ll be praying for you.” Did I mention she lunches with nuns? That’s heavy artillery right there.

So I fight. Because it’s the right thing to do for my daughter. I want her to love her faith & to not be discouraged by the rules. Because despite not knowing all the rules, I still love my faith. And as we go along, I want The Kids to know that, too. That you don’t have to know all the rules to be a person of faith.

And know, too, that your mom will always fight for you.




4 responses »

  1. The Catholic faith is tough sometimes, I live it every day with my soon to be husband and daughter, however I commend you for fighting for what’s right and raising children that will understand that there is a God and a savior and that sometimes you have to look at the rules and make your own conclusions, loved the post!

    • Thank you so much. I try to remember that our church, like any organization, is run by humans. Beautiful, flawed humans who come with their own backgrounds, personalities & frames of reference. Sometimes we have to dig through all of that to get to the good stuff.

  2. Talk to whoever supervises your altar servers. Seriously. I ran into something similarly absurd when I was confirmed 55 years ago. I had been singing in church choirs since I was 3 years old, so choir didn’t count toward the service requirement. I tearfully told the choir director that I had to drop out to make time for some other confirmation service activity. Within 48 hours, I got a call from the rector to tell me the confirmation committee had reconsidered the requirement, and I could go back in the choir.

    • That is a great idea & I’m glad you were able to keep singing. My too-smart-for-his-own-good son has decided that since he’s only in 6th grade, he’ll quit serving altar now & restart in 9th grade so it will count toward his service hours. I should really stop talking about this in front of him! Thank you, Katherine!

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