Being Catholic for seven months has certainly exposed me to various Catholics who all have unique identifiers. I’ve met really lax “Catholics” who don’t seem very engaged, met many converts, the “trads” and even met some from other nations. Surprisingly, the branch that I’m most intrigued by are cradle Catholics, the ones that had the faith passed down from birth by their parents.
Be it interviews, coworkers, or seeing them on social media, I enjoy interacting with cradle Catholics. Perhaps it has to do with my own lack of formal religion growing up that captures my interest. Not that I’m jealous of their upbringing, but I can’t help but wonder what my life would’ve been like if my parents would’ve exposed me to religion.
Growing up, I can remember going to church sporadically. My mom is the youngest of seven, so by the time she was born, most of her siblings were teenagers or almost eighteen years old. As a result, when I attended church with them, her sisters and brother in laws were pretty much in their mid to late 40s which made them the type of members who fully embraced the Black Baptist tradition of floating around the church before and after service for a long time. Some of my mother’s sisters have titles such as a deacon wife, and even one of them is a First Lady, but a majority of them are your average devout Missionary Baptist.
At an early age, my very first exposure to religion was associated with boredom. When I stayed over their house during the summer or a weekend, I can remember dreading going to church. Waking up early was the absolute worst! Sitting in church waiting for the service to end seemed like forever. Also, accompanying the pastor, my uncle, and his wife was utterly tiring. Waking up to attend children Sunday school, 2.5hr service, plus post-service rounds was a dry experience.
One thing was for certain: I knew when I stayed at one of my aunt’s house during any weekend or extended period of time, I was going to church on Sunday morning. To them, going to church was automatic. It wasn’t a second guess option.
Then something changed!
Something that attracted me to religion was the closeness of believers. My friend’s stepdad held Bible studies in his home and I accidentally interrupted one on a Sunday. He invited me in, I sat at the table, then he preached. This was my first genuine exposure to religion. I attended a few times more than stooped. I was really fascinated by the image of the domestic church in my friend’s home. Probably, the first time I saw a family positively interacting with a Bible and seeming very interested.
Ater fifteen when I stayed with my aunt, I gradually started looking forward to attending Sunday services. Sometimes I even felt like I “missed out” if my aunt didn’t attend that particular day. But I still was far from an occasional or weekly churchgoer.
For the most part, when I wasn’t in church, I enjoyed the luxury of not going. I enjoyed waking up and doing what I wanted on Sundays and avoiding the occasional vacation Bible school recruitment from my family. Most importantly, I lavished in having a parent that didn’t enforce church attendance or being religious. Even in my teenage years, my parent never urged any religious inclining.
My mother, who was born in the early 1960s, grew up with so many different social movements impacting her. She lived during Civil Rights, Black Power, and Feminists Movement, post-Vietnam, Equal Rights Amendment era, and ultimately post-integration phase in Texas. By the time I came into the picture, my mother had her own unique views on religion. On the other hand, my father, a native of Ghana, didn’t or hasn’t expressed much attention or concern about religion at all. In fact, all the years I’ve known him, I’ve never heard him mention anything about religion, God, or African spirituality.
Later in life, which was just a few years ago, my mother mentioned to me that she purposely raised us without religion so we could “find it myself.” Upon hearing this, I thought it was extremely depriving. Then I had a light bulb moment. The big “aha” had arrived. In my mind, the layout of my entire childhood was on full display and I saw how my parents had zero religion in my life.
I had always thought that parents were supposed to teach their children the truth and good moral character, so why not transmit religion to me? If what I know now about religion is amazing, why would she withhold such a life-giving gift away from me? I’m sure in her mind, like plenty of parents that approach parenting with this style, she thought more good would come.
Perhaps, my teenage years would’ve turned out different with less anguish from mortal sin if I had a firm foundation of faith. Maybe I would’ve been more prone to seek after wise counsel. Definitely would’ve avoided countless mistakes. After a while of thinking about “maybe,” I found myself with more questions than answers. I had to realize just how far grace extended to a poor soul like me, so I suspended my questions. Inevitably, I had to be thankful.
This isn’t a post on regret or anger toward my parents. I’m actually very proud of the bits and pieces of grace God displayed in my teenage years that attracted me further to what Christianity is. God helped me find light in the darkness.
I could continue to express my chronology on my irreligious upbringing, but I’m just thankful I came to the faith when I came.
God’s timing triumphed.
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