A Shade of Ash # 3 – (Altared Youth)
I hope you’re all doing well.
Next up… I delve into uncharted territory with the below prompt with special guest, God. So, without further adieu, let’s see what we got.
Do you still have the same religious beliefs that you had as a child? If so, why? If not, how and why did they change?
I could take that question in a couple directions, but I think I might just go with the general topic of ‘religion and faith and me’. Though, I may end up answering the questions above anyway, we’ll see. Let me stretch my fingers and see where it takes me. I’ve played with the idea of making a post with faith as the main topic before, looks as if my new prompt category will finally get it out me. Actually, there’s been a few situations in my life recently that have also made me think about religion more than I have ever have in years. Another reason I felt this prompt was interesting enough to explore.
I grew up in a somewhat religious family. We all went to church and our school was heavily influenced by the church which was Roman Catholic. That’s not the case today, but for many years the church ran the school system. We even had nuns as teachers. Some of them were sweet and nice, some could stop stop a clock with one scowl. Though, they all had my respect, and the respect of my classmates. A level of respect that doesn’t exist in schools anymore if you ask me. There was some who thought they were too strict, I thought it was a good balance of strict. One Sister was a favorite teacher of mine, Sister Rita. Anyway, when it came to religion, it wasn’t because of the nuns and it wasn’t because the school was governed by the church, no it all started with my dear grandmother. It was her who taught me the beliefs and values that were the building blocks to making up the person I am today, she gets all the credit for that. There’s a saying “What would Jesus do?” Well, for me it was “What would Theresa do?” Not only was she the nucleus of our family, but she was also the nucleus of family’s faith.
My grandmother went to church all the time, no matter what. Rain, snow, whatever, for her entire life. Sure, before I was even thought of, she could be seen rowing across the harbour in a punt dory on her way to mass and you’d be damned if you tried to stop her. My mother and uncles would share stories of how they would all pile into the boat, the whole crew of Douglas’s taking turns rowing their way to church. Think about that for a second. When the community was finally connected by a bridge from both sides, there was no more need for the dory. Now, she could walk the whole way, which she did almost every Saturday and Sunday of her life. She would even attend special sermons throughout the week. If there was church, she was there. Faith was very important to her. She really did have an unique relationship with God, they both made it through some tough times together.
My grandmother had a hard life as a child, her mother died at child birth and her father left only to return when she was in her early forties. They barely had a relationship. As a child, she was taken in and raised by an extended family member, an aunt I believe. When she was of age she then basically became a live-in nanny. It was there where she spent her days raising a horde of kids for her aunt before settling down with my grandfather to start her own family. She had seven children herself, raised them all on one income in the most modest sense. Then, I came along…trouble. Lol. With my mom being very young when I was born, my grandmother felt it was best if she took care of me. My upbringing was quite unique and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. But, you see that’s the type of woman she was, no questions, no complaints, just a big heart. She never turned a soul away from the door and if you had the pleasure of meeting her, well, you made yourself a friend for life. God himself was blessed to have her apart of his flock, on earth and especially now with her passing away some years ago from Alzheimer’s. I miss the spirit she had about her, she was always solid as a rock and tough as nails. A lot of that surely due to her unfaltering faith.
As mentioned above, I’m Roman Catholic. However, today my faith has taken a huge backseat to everything else that exists in my life. I no longer feel like me and God are as tight as we once were. I say that because there was a point in my life where I actually served the altar, I was an altar boy for I think close to three years. Won a couple awards for my service too. Yeah, thinking back on it, I could probably recite every variation of mass there was, verbatim, and I bet I could have done it blindfolded. I got to meet a lot of different people during that time and I even got the chance to visit other communities spread throughout the south coast of the island on account they didn’t have a resident priest of their own. Some of those places by small ferry, an opportunity I’ve would never had gotten if not for my time as an altar boy. The travelling part really stood out, but there’s something else that trumps it all which was seeing how proud my grandmother was of me. Nothing could top seeing her in the church crowd with that trademark wink and smile as I stood before the congregation front and center right next to the priest.
Speaking of the priest, at the time, he too was a key factor in my enthusiasm for the church. And, consequently the reason I gave up serving. He was a great guy, and a friend. I recall the first day he came to our school to be introduced. When he walked into our classroom, he was wearing tight jeans, some shirt with a faded logo on it, and his hair was long and black. He took about three big strides across the front of the classroom without bending his knees as if he was some World War II dictator. Once he was across, he stopped, scoured the ledge of the chalkboard for a piece of chalk. Picked up a small chunk and wrote a huge “B-O-B” on the board. Then, he turned around to all of us and said, ‘Hi, I’m Father Bob, the BOB can be spelled both ways.’ (Crickets) The whole class fell silent. Everybody just stared at each other with the exact same thought. Did we just get a new priest who looks like he could be a member of the Ramones?
Well, we definitely learned that day that you shouldn’t judge a book. Father Bob turned out to be a huge influence in my life, in the lives of a lot of kids my age back then. He was the only person in that role that ever gave me the time of day. He was just what the community needed in my opinion, because he was focused on helping the kids connect with the church. Something that at the time didn’t exist. It was only a short while after becoming our priest that he formed a Youth Group. I became the treasurer of that group, it gave me purpose and responsibly that helped me tremendously later on in life. For the first time in a very long time our community had something for the kids to really be a part of. We got to go on field trips, hold fundraisers, and our group even gave back to the community through volunteering. I took a lot away from those experiences. I owe that to Father Bob, and I owe that to the church. Oh, and the reason I left the altar was because the older folk in the town weren’t too keen on him investing so much time in the kids and practically drove him away. I guess not looking like your typical priest really bothered them so much that they had to find a way to replace him. I was so hurt that he had to leave, I too gave up on church and stopped serving the altar. My grandmother took it hard as well. It never made any sense, why does what someone looks like or how they act have anything to do with how they preached the word of the Lord? It was their lost.
I want to finish my long-winded prompt post with a comment that a fellow blogger left on one of my past entries. We had exchanged some comments about hope and about having faith in something. I replied and mentioned that I felt like a few things were happening to me that some may interpret as a calling back to the church. What came next really got me thinking. They said, it’s not about going to church and feeling like you need to be in the house of God to prove that you have faith or that you accept faith in your life. No, it’s about having a healthy relationship with God. No matter where, when, or why, just have a little faith. And, you know what? Since that exchange, I’ve kind of looked at my relationship with God a little differently. I’ve taken that advice and embraced it. I have to say, it’s made me a little closer to not only God, but more importantly, my grandmother. Life can be crazy and get the best of you sometimes. We get so consumed that we forget the tools that once helped us through the dark and trying times. When it does for me, I just think of my grandmother and where she is right now and that she’s got my back with God ready to tag in.
In closing, I like to ask you. And, I appreciate the fact that religion not something people openly talk about. But, I’ll go ahead anyway and ask that you to read the prompt question and respond anyway you would like. Whether it be some element of the question, or something just pops in, leave it up to your thoughts. That’s it for this one which I know was a little longer than most, so my apologies.
Please come back soon for more Shades of Ash and I hope you’re digging the category. Thanks for dropping by.