Big C/Small C

How do you raise Catholic kids? More specifically, how do you raise good little liberal, feminist, openhearted, practicing-Catholic kids? My church is a good start: every week, they pray for a world in which no person is considered illegal, world peace, success in reaching out to “those alienated by the institution,” and a host of other good things; they last week asked for input from parishioners as to how they can be more involved in LGBT issues, because while they always march in the Pride parade, that simply isn’t enough; much of their resources are dedicated to helping those in poverty; there are little altar boys and altar girls. But I don’t really know how to have a Catholic home—no one in my family is Catholic. I converted in high school. I really like the idea of cultural Catholicism, but don’t really know enough to pull it off at the moment. This was all brought home when I was talking to Kate and Hank, Joey’s godparents, about his upcoming baptism; Hank is a lapsed Catholic, and was telling Kate that they’d need to get a candle and a cloth. She asked me about this, and I had to tell her that I have no earthly idea—my RCIA class didn’t cover anything to do with children.

I’m now reading a couple of books about having a Catholic home and raising Catholic children, and picking out what I’d like to do and what I’m not so much interested in. One of the books has an uncomfortable emphasis on being really loudly Catholic in order, apparently, to shame your neighbors into greater heights of Catholicism. Since all I know about our neighbors is that they have two dogs and smoke weed every day, this would probably be a wasted effort even if I was interested (I am not). I remember way back in the day, probably while I was pregnant with Cricket, talking to Mr. Book about future kids and religious practice. Mr. Book is agnostic, and while he says that he may very well end up Catholic at some point down the line, neither of us is too terribly bothered about that. I made sure that he was okay with my raising kids Catholic before we got engaged, and that more or less settled the issue for us.

What will my Catholic household look like? I don’t think I want a statue of Mary in the living room; I do like the idea of pancakes on the day before Ash Wednesday. I want to be visibly and joyfully Catholic without making my husband feel shut out or oppressed. He doesn’t seem worried at all, but it makes sense to me that it would be my job to worry about this. He found out yesterday that his job is changing (this is a good thing), and that he won’t be working Sundays anymore—“So I’ll be able to go to church with you!” he said.

I remember way back in the day when we had a conversation that started when I lamented having to field the “So you think I’m going to hell?” conversation with friends, which, sad irony, led to our having that conversation. I remember that my parents were very worried about my dating an “unbeliever,” and I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach that I realized that he was asking that question: my response went on and on and on, but highlights include “I have no idea whether or how people end up in hell, and I think that spending time making bets with myself about it is super inappropriate and unchristian” after the initial “What? No! No!” I’ve heard that bit about not yoking oneself to an unbeliever over and over again, and I’ve never been a fan of Paul, but I did wonder whether and how it could work out. Certainly we’ve had points of conflict in our relationship (my tendency to WIG OUT and get panicky and mean while trying to get ready for company being a big one), but religion hasn’t been one. There’s mutual respect, and when last year he said that he thought he would like to believe in God, I managed to remain cool and not grill him about it. This is big for me, a natural nagger. Now that I’m turning up the “green food on Maundy Thursday” aspect of the thing, I think we’ll still be good—he seems interested and unconcerned—but you get to watch me brood about it.

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4 thoughts on “Big C/Small C

  1. Hmm, I grew up in the pictures-of-saints kind of Catholic home (and when a Muslim refugee from a foreign war lived with us when we were both teens, her mother was delighted to hear this detail) and I know you’re not going for that. On that cross-religious note, I’ll add that your post really made me think of a Judaism-based list I just read, which had already been expanded to talk about transracial adoption.

    We’re having a hard time figuring out how to talk Christianity with Mara. I’m taking her to church twice a month but Lee needs to step up and figure out something better than my “some people believe” explanations. So yeah, I guess what I’m trying to say is that this one’s on you. I’ll think about it, though!

  2. Your church sounds awesome and that’s exciting that Mr. Book is expressing an interest in going with you guys. I can’t wait to hear about Joey’s baptism–what a wonderful day that will be. It’ll be really rewarding to find avenues for sharing your faith with Joey and Mr. Book–I especially like the church’s emphasis on social justice and charity.

  3. I struggle very much with how to be Jewish, how to live Jewish, how to raise pluralistic Jewish kids. Every time I think I can let go of it a little bit I realize that I can’t. I was thinking recently of taking Madison to what she calls “black church” (there is an AME church very near us) and of exploring the idea of maybe adding a predominantly African American church to our faith practice and I started crying every time I thought about it. Partly this is because we couldn’t afford to join the synagogue this year AND I MISS IT SO MUCH (we didn’t attend many services but we were involved with the synagogue — most families we know do the family stuff but don’t attend services). I don’t care if my kids choose to live out faith (or no faith) differently than I do but I can’t live out a different faith with them. I just can’t. I was surprised to learn this about myself. And oh boy do I miss the synagogue.

  4. Big C: we try to celebrate in small ways the literical calendar. We have a small, ie grocery store isle, present on the kids’ saint name’s feast day. We have special food for special days like Easter Christmas fat Tuesday good Friday. We go to outdoor stations during lent. We have an advent wreath and light candles and read a kids book about the nativity. We leave baby Jesus out if the nativity before Christmas day. We put up the tree Christmas eve and do Christmas stuff through the epiphany.

    More importan I try to pray for the kids and fast once in a while for vocations. We brig them to mass. I think consistency and incorporating them
    at an age appropriate level is important.

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