A Letter to Father R
In the Catholic faith, a child typically receives their First Penance and First Communion in (or around) second grade. Birdie is in second grade and we have started that process. One of the [many] requirements is that the parents have to write a letter to the head priest of the parish stating how they practice their faith as a family and how they will prepare their child for their first communion. Me being, well, me....
October 24, 2016
How do we practice our faith? It’s funny to think that we, as a family, have been practicing our faith for 10 years and this is the first time sitting down and putting it into words how we both practice our faith and will help our first born prepare to receive her First Communion.
Perhaps I should start with how we got here.
Will and I were married in the Presbyterian church back in 2007 as no Catholic church in Hometown would marry us because, while I was Catholic, I was not a Confirmed Catholic. For reasons I have forgotten, I was not Confirmed as a teenager. At the time of our engagement, I was hurt and mostly sad. This was the church that saved my grandfather’s life, supported my family in times of hardship and celebrated successes. It gave us strength and was truly a home… and it did not want to embrace my love for this man I am fortunate enough to call my husband.
After our marriage and my first pregnancy, I started to seek a home for my faith and found myself back at the steps of Catholicism. As I kneeled and prayed before that altar, I welled up with tears knowing that I needed to find a way to return to Catholicism. This baby I was carrying needed to know about the saints, the Virgin Mary, and all the ways we can both pray and be prayed for. She needed to know that the door is always open; that life is a journey, but it is a journey in Christ first.
Will and I discussed our faith and how we would raise our children. We agreed that we wanted a united front. But, with this change in my heart― there was no compromise. It’s not like you can raise a child in a Baptist church and expect them to appreciate Saint Jude in a way that only a Catholic who was full of lost causes can. My husband, a devout Presbyterian, was not interested in converting, nor was he interested in baptizing our first born in the Catholic church.
We continued to discuss. We talked. We prayed. We discussed some more. As both of us were hard headed, young, and mostly stubborn- it was the most civil conversation between two people. We treaded trepidatiously, knowing that this subject of faith was one we were both passionate about and had ramifications beyond the two of us.
Our baby was born in the wee hours of the morning after an emergent c-section and a brutal delivery. To this day, I do not talk about the fires of hell I went through to bring her into this world. Only on very rare occasions, do I speak about it with Will in the stillness of the night.
Those first days of parenthood turned into first weeks and those those first weeks turned into first months.
One night, I held my precious Birdie, kissed her forehead and said our Hail Mary before bed.
This was a child of God. This was our child. What we wanted was to have this child raised as a child of God- knowing she is loved by God, and we faithfully serve Him.
How we believed in Him were just details. The bottom line in my heart was I did not want to wait one more second and leave her soul to chance. I did not want to be alone with my children at church every Sunday because two stubborn parents could not find a place to call home.
We both believed in Him and that’s all we needed.
My husband is a smart man. My husband does the Lord’s work. My husband would make the final decision and I would fully and whole heartedly support him. The Lord brought Will into my life and we had brought this child into the world. Our life was just beginning.
The next morning, I prepared myself to tell my husband that we could baptize Birdie in whatever faith he wanted- I just wanted my child baptized and to know and love The Lord as we both do.
Will came home from the hospital that morning, having worked all night in the NICU. Still in his scrubs, he said, “I need to talk to you about Birdie.” I responded with the same.
“I love you and I love our family. I watched some parents lose their twins last night and they were able to baptize them right before their death.* I will go wherever you go. I want our child baptized wherever you see fit. Their spiritual education will always come from you because you will always spend more time with them than I can. I know you were sad when we could not get married in the Catholic church. You’ve been searching and it seems that this is where you really want us, as a family, to be. I want to be there with you.”
It was one of those moments where you know there are no coincidences.
Seven years later, almost to the day- here I sit and type this letter to you, wondering if you actually read every single one of these, but not worrying, because I am enjoying reliving the memories.
Birdie was baptized by Fr. L downtown about three weeks later and I love him for telling me that I could join the church without being Confirmed; I could Baptize my child without being Confirmed and that I could be an active Catholic and a parent to a Catholic child.
After all I, too, was a child of God.
My little family moved to Washington DC, where I was finally Confirmed with Saint Jude as my patron saint; the Confirmation being a decision I came to as an adult by my own fruition. We had our marriage blessed in the Catholic church with just our best friends and children standing as witness. It was one of those instances that reminds me how beautiful life is.
In these 10 years, but really― in these 8 years― we have gone to Mass, not as often as we would like, but we make it more often than not now. We actively tithe and are involved in the church where we can be in facets that are mutually beneficial. We get to be a part of something bigger than our family, and the church and school are the recipient of our time and talents.
We pray the Rosary, we remember those that came before us, and our daily prayers of thanks are as routine as brushing our teeth. We read Bible stories and set our children up to ask questions about faith. As parents, we are the original teachers of these souls we are lucky enough to lead.
The question we had to answer has not been directly addressed, but I think it gives you a pretty good idea about us. We are not perfect but we are raising our children in a house that both loves and believes in God. Our journey of getting to Catholicism was not one that we have known since birth. It is not one that we have always known. Rather, getting here has been a journey of self-discovery, love, and faithfulness. Faithfulness to God, faithfulness to my husband, and faithfulness to my family.
And that Presbyterian husband of mine? He started coming to Mass with me and the children. He leads the children in prayers he did not grow up with and I am unsure as to how he learned them. That Presbyterian husband of mine had the opportunity to join the Catholic church on a “fast path” a few years ago and turned it down. When he decides to join, he said, he wanted to go through the whole series of classes to learn about this faith we are blessed to raise our children in. That husband of mine decided two years ago that he wanted to do RCIA* when his first born would go through her First Communion so that they could do this together.
After all, she’s the reason we are here.
Thank you for giving me the time to think about how we got here. From it, hopefully we will see better where we are going.
Faithfully, I remain―
Mother of Birdie
A little long? Totally
* Catholics believe that in situations where a baby will likely perish, anyone can Baptize the child. Furthermore, we rely on the Lord's love of children that those babies that are not baptized will still be at His feet.
* RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults] is the process an adult has to go through in converting to Catholicism