Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why I am raising my kids Catholic: Part II

     I have always been generally a big fan of ceremonies and traditions.  This is largely because -regardless of the situation- I never know what I am supposed to be doing.  I really feel like there should be a manual out there for people like me that give hints onto how to behave when running into an acquaintance at the grocery store, or attending a party when you only know the host.  (Protip: Find a deli tray and shove your mouth full of food as fast and grotesquely as possible to ward off any potential social interaction.)

     Now that I have a little one, my whole life is centered around little ceremonies and routines.  Kids- well, actually probably adults too- need the little rituals and celebrations that mark the passage of time and remind us that there are patterns that guide our daily lives.  We sing a song at bedtime; We wave goodbye to the water at the end of the bath; We hug when daddy comes home from work; these are necessary predictabilities in an overwhelming world, and deviation from the pattern can prove pretty perilous for everyone involved.
     While Catholicism does not necessarily address interaction to quite that level of detail, I have found religion to be a comfort in marking both important and trivial life events.  When I decided on a life partner, I really wanted to celebrate the occasion with my family and community, in a way that was both solemn, but joyful.  There is a ceremony for that.  When Amani was born I wanted to present her to the world in a way that both cherished her as a precious entity, and initiated her as a member of the human family.  There's  a ceremony for that too. There's  a ceremony for just about everything.  If you need event planning ideas, the Catholics can definitely get you started.
     Recently, my friend's husband died.  It was sudden, and left my friend to care for her baby girl without a partner.  We were all shocked and frightened.  What do we say?  What do we do?  How can we help?  There were no words true enough to express our feelings.  There were no actions that will bring peace.  So we did the only thing we knew: we had a ceremony.  The ceremony that our ancestors had prescribed and shared for millenniums   We sat together and mourned.  We read words from the wise and listened to songs that might lift our spirits.  We reflected on our own lives, our children, and our spouses.  We were grateful for another day.  We remembered that his was not the first death, nor will it be the last.
     In her book To Dance with God, Gertrud Mueller Nelson points out how ceremony and tradition make an event both special and ordinary.  They create a space that both allows for the sacred and the commonplace. They create point through which we celebrate the individual, but also join with the whole of human experience.
     Now there has been this terrible atrocity in Newtown, right at the time when the Catholic Church reflects on God's presence during a time of darkness, cold and desolation.  What do we do? How do we go on when it seems like everything is pretty much just...terrible...forever?  We light a lot of candles, and sing a lot of songs.  We reflect on what happened and where we are headed.  (The Catholics are really big on reflection.)  We try to be extra nice to people, and eat a lot of chocolate.  We remember that under the barren, cold, joyless surface, there is promise- within the world and within each person.  Somehow, by singing songs, and making cards, and making an effort to bring a smile to loved ones, I reminded that there is a sacredness to life, and I am comforted that I am not alone.
     I want Amani to know that this world is not just meaningless wasteland.  I want her to be able to have markers throughout her life that remind her to reflect on who she is, where she is going, and the role she is playing within the Body of Christ.  I want her to know that she is not alone, and that there is a path that she can follow, both when things are happy and sad.  

I mean- how could anyone possibly navigate on their own.

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