I wrote in a previous post about being Catholic and having two Baptist Grandmothers keeping a close eye on me. Someone thought it was hilarious and thought I should expound on that concept. So, here goes….
My Catholic roots started on my Dad’s side even though very few of them own up to it. As the story goes, his side of the family was Catholic up to and until shortly after WWII. They left Texas for a short time and went to California to work in the war effort, made their money, and then headed back to Texas sometime after the war. They went to the Catholic Church in Cali but upon their return to Texas, I’m guessing at the start of Jim Crow, they weren’t allowed to attend their former Catholic Church in the small town they previously resided in. I won’t name the town as to protect those who may still be living in said town. So, as my Grandmother tells it, they decided to become American Baptist. But my Grandmother went a step further and declared her complete disdain for all things Catholic and Catholicism related! She decided on American Baptist because she also made the decision to move to Kansas and wanted nothing to do with the South! Southern Baptist in her eyes, were no better than the Southern Catholics! On my Mom’s side of the family, there were a few church-goers but mostly their walk with God consisted of listening to preachers on the radio and subsequently on television. But my Grandmother attended church regularly and would take us with her during the week and sometimes on Sunday. Even though she toggled between Baptist and Methodist, she made the decision to send my Mom to Catholic school because she wanted her to have a solid educational foundation and built-in sitters (the Nuns) because she worked several jobs to make ends meet (single mother abandoned by her husband). While my Mom was under the care of the Sisters of the Holy Ghost, she was asked the question of what she believed in. She had been baptized in the Baptist church but spent all of her time in the Catholic church. My Mom didn’t know how to answer. Then they asked her if she would want to become Catholic. She said I have to ask my Mother. As my Mom tells it, she didn’t give it much thought before she decided where she wanted to be and so she asked my Grandmother and she said yes but you have to wait a couple of more years just to be sure. Well it took less time than that because my Grandmother saw my Mom really wanted to be Catholic. My Grandmother even figured she might become a nun. So, fast-forward to 1964-65 and my Mom is on a date with one of my Dad’s friends at a dance. They used to have community dances way back when and everyone gathered on the weekends to boogie. According to my Mom she didn’t even like my Dad and my Dad says she did. Obviously she did because they got married in November 1965 and are still going. But I digress. When my parents decided to get married, my Mom had been Catholic for a while. They went to mandatory pre-marriage classes and during this time is when my Dad’s religious heritage came up. My Mom says it was providence that she became Catholic because it brought my Dad back to his religious roots. During these pre-marriage classes my Dad decided to return to his Catholic roots and went through all the preparation to have his Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation all at once prior to the wedding. His Mother didn’t like this AT ALL! It wasn’t until 2008 that my Grandmother FINALLY gave in and realized my Dad was staying Catholic and my Mom wasn’t going away! In the middle, lots of fights and hilarious moments ensued as my Grandmother would try to embarrass us in front of her friends because she thought we Catholics didn’t know scripture like she did. My other Grandmother (Mom’s Mom), the wise woman she was, NEVER made such assumptions and always welcomed frank discussions about faith. She felt everyone’s walk was different and no pursuit of God was wrong on whatever path you took. Little did my paternal Grandmother know God had another trick up his sleeve in regard to our religious upbringing. My family was welcomed into the Charismatic movement that swept the Catholic church in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Pentecost had fully arrived in our lives. We praised and worshipped and Mass for weddings and funerals were sometimes three hours long. We had Bible studies and share groups and people had hands laid on the for spiritual healing. All of the Mass components were matched and taught to us scripture by scripture. So, when it came time to match wits with my paternal Grandmother, I was well armed and could shut down her judgmental and condescending attacks about our faith. After a long while she acknowledged that Catholicism wasn’t based on idol worship and we weren’t going to meet the devil with hot coals in our britches! My maternal Grandmother attended Mass with us on special occasions and always enjoyed the sermons. She acknowledged that we weren’t that much different except we spent less time in church. That is actually my favorite part about being Catholic. We don’t have to spend ALL DAY in church to get closer to Heaven! But she would ask me to explain what was going on in the Mass not because she wanted to tear it down, but because she genuinely wanted to understand our faith better. What does all of this have to do with the above title? Well here it is in a nutshell: Having non-Catholic family members actually strengthened my faith and brought me a closer understanding of my religion. I had to be able to defend and answer questions about my faith and in doing so, it brought me closer to Jesus and God. Non-Catholics have always asked me a lot of questions but the same one always comes up consistently and I always have the same answer that remains unchanged and solid:
Why do you worship Mary and so-called Saints? I DON’T worship Mary. I revere and honor her as the Mother of Jesus. She brought us the vessel of our salvation. Praying to Mary to intercede on our behalf is like asking Mom when Dad says NO! She pleads our case for us. For the Saints it’s the same thing. They are added insurance that our prayers will be heard and answered. The results of our prayers may not always turn out as we think but all things are done to and for God’s glory.
I wouldn’t have been able to answer in that manner if it wasn’t for my Grandmothers challenging me in their own unique ways. My paternal Grandmother was constantly picking at my faith and my maternal Grandmother quietly nurtured my faith by asking me simple yet information seeking questions. Which way was better? I have no idea. Either way made my faith walk richer. It made me explore the history of my faith and subsequent off-shoots of Catholicism during the “Reformation”. It made me the person who I am today: Able to take a stand and not back down on my faith. It also made me seek out the history in all things I encounter. Not just religion. After all, a faith that can’t be tested, can’t be trusted!
- ‘Catholic guilt’ is a myth – but puritanism is alive and well, says study (telegraph.co.uk)
- Argentina’s Bergoglio elected head of Catholic church to be known as Pope Francis (video) (vancouversun.com)
- Unecumenical dialogue (jessicahof.wordpress.com)
- Catholic Church May Have a Path Back To Its Roots With A New Pope, According To The Debut Mystery Novel By Ronald Bruce Gies (prweb.com)
- 40 Myths About the Catholic Church – Catholics can pick and choose what they want to believe (deaconcast.com)
- Catholic in a Protestant community (gregoriusanima.wordpress.com)
- Even as a Baptist, I was struck by the peace I found in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (patheos.com)