Growing Up Catholic

Since birth, my parents have brought me to our local church, Sacred Heart Parish. I sat in a pew silently for an hour every Sunday, long before I could fathom what the man in the silly robe on the stage was preaching about. As long as my mom packed my Cheerios and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, I was content. 

My parents always ensured that I was hitting the proper Catholic “milestones.” As a baby I was baptized, around kindergarten I began Sunday school classes, in second grade I received my Holy Communion, in fourth grade I became an altar server and in seventh grade I was confirmed. Being that I was a young child, my parents made all of these decisions for me, as parents do. Due to my lack of full comprehension of the religion that I was practicing, I was not always the best Catholic. I can only hope that God does not judge me on the sporadic stomach aches I grew ill from so that I could sleep in, as opposed to attending mass.

On one occasion in seventh grade, I felt embarrassed to be an altar server. I had now grown a foot taller than the elderly priest and most likely did not want any of the boys my age who were sitting in the congregation to see my 5’8 self in the unflattering white robe that now hung a little too far above my ankles. I felt that I looked like I was preparing for God to flood the church and I was ready to hop on to Noah’s arc. 

“I’m too old to altar serve,” I opined. 

“What? Are you too cool for God?” my mom refuted. That clever, incontestable argument left me altar serving until High School began.

I was lucky enough to attend a private Catholic High School. However, like at home, mass was not optional. Every student would pile into the auditorium for Holy Days of Obligation and other celebrations, many trying to sneak in a nap before first period began. I would sing with the liturgical choir for those masses, as it was more enjoyable to praise God through singing on the top row of the risers next to some of my best friends. 

person standing wide toward mountains

When I arrived at Siena College, almost three years ago, it was the first time I got to choose whether I wanted to attend mass, live out my faith or practice Catholicism at all. No longer would my mother guilt me into altar serving, nor did I have to make it to mass before the bell rang. However, even in this moment of newfound freedom, I chose to keep practicing my faith. I still choose every morning to practice my faith. It may be one of the easiest decisions I have to make.

I find that being raised a Catholic has been one of the greatest blessings I have received. I cannot speak for anyone’s experience with Catholicism but my own, but the Catholic Church has taught me some of the most invaluable, foremost lessons that I have ever learned. It has taught me how to love, how to forgive, how to practice gratitude and that we are all equal children of God, among many more. 

Although my relationship with God and my faith are far from perfect, I have never questioned either. God has provided me with many gifts that leave His existence unquestionable in my mind. Over my lifetime, I have been fortunate enough to watch my family grow until we occupied an entire pew in church, as I am the oldest of eight children. These seven God-given best friends that I now have bring me such happiness and show me God’s love daily. Furthermore, God’s love is ubiquitous on Siena’s campus. I have made many friends with a shared faith whom I enjoy praying the rosary or attending praise and worship. Not to mention, Father Larry’s homilies are usually just what I need at the end of a long week. 

Sun shining from behind clouds

Years ago, I got to witness my father be ordained a deacon. It is certainly an inimitable experience to be able to listen to my dad preach the good news of the Lord to hundreds of others himself. I feel so lucky to have been raised a Catholic by him - a loving father, a strong role model and a disciple of Christ. Along with my mother, he has taught me of the love, the comfort and the joy that there is in the world when there is God. More importantly, now I know that the silly robe is actually an alb and the stage is actually an altar. I could not be more grateful for my parents' decision to raise me as a Catholic and I pray to better as a Catholic as I continue to grow in my learned faith.