I consider myself kind of an a la carte Catholic.
It’s not always regarded as a warm and fuzzy kind of faith, but the foundation I was given as a child has helped shape me into the person I am today.
As an adult, I pick and choose what I want to pass down to my own kiddos (hence the a la carte reference, though to be honest, now I’m sort of hungry).
I’m far less “you shall be banned to the depths of hell forever while your sinning heart rots and spews forth an infinite halo of hate” and far more “God loves you and knows you screw up so say you’re sorry, give mommy a big kiss, and let’s go get some lunch” (k. it’s official. Now I’m starving.)
Maybe it’s unfair or convenient of me to pass down what I think is relevant and leave out what I think may scare the crap out of my kids, but for now, I’m the boss of them and it’s much more important to me that they learn to love and trust the Lord rather than obey him out of fear.
Had I been raised in my homeland and had my own family there, I would have most likely followed in the buttoned-up-blouse-ankle-length-skirt-wooden-rosary-gripping-black-closed-toed-shoe-wearing footsteps of my ancestors and spent nine out of every 12 hours reciting memorized prayers and condemning myself for my sins in between copious amounts of vodka and tending to my flock of goats, cows, and toothless, inebriated relatives.
Instead, I was raised in America, where the Catholic churches are a bit less dramatic and the Sunday masses don’t last until mid-Tuesday. This would not do for my parents, who spent the majority of their childhoods sitting upright in wooden pews, and so they were quick to find Polish Catholic churches where they knew my sister and I would be served hearty helpings of guilt and fear and the kind of Sunday masses that would make us want to gouge out our eyeballs and throw them at the alter.
So naturally, when I had my babies, I couldn’t wait to do the same thing.
Which meant there was no question that when it came time for our boys to receive the Holy Sacrament of their First Communion, they would follow in my white patent leather footsteps and experience this Catholic milestone at John Paul II Polish Center, our local Catholic church (complete with disco ball).
So last Sunday, on May 15th, 2011, my heart swelled as I witnessed my sons receiving their First Holy Communion with all the pomp and circumstance I remembered from my own special day so many years ago, including the seemingly never-ending mass, the heart-pounding stress of having to go up in front of the church and recite a memorized poem in another language in front of hundreds of people, and the unbearable boredom and discomfort of having to pose for pictures with every relative and family member on the planet while your tummy rumbled from hunger and your white suit made you want to climb out of your sweaty skin.
Because what good are traditions if you can’t
torture your kids with them pass them down.
The after-party was awesome, complete with too much food, super thick envelopes, obnoxiously loud conversations and lots of bossy Polish women telling me what to do all day.
In other words, it was perfect.