Thoughts on an Afterlife

Thoughts on an Afterlife

I’ve been ruminating on this post for some time. I blame Stephen King.

Dan bought me King’s latest novel, Revival, for Christmas. I finished it some time ago, my first book of 2015 — and it’s good. I would recommend it if you are a King fan. Compelling story-telling, as always.

*Spoiler alert* (skip on down to the ++)

Toward the end of the book, we, of course, get what we came for: a good dose of nightmare imagery from the King of Horror. A peek into what lies on the other side of the earthly curtain.

Our protagonist is a boy when he first encounters charismatic minister Charles Daniel Jacobs. These two men are destined to encounter each other over and over again, and each is dealing with his own obsessions and demons. Finally, our protagonist, having been cured of his heroin addiction through the application of “special electricity” by our antagonist, finds himself witness to a breach into the afterlife.

And it’s horrible, a terrifying landscape of dead souls prodded through a barren valley by ant-like creatures. The sky is a void hiding “The Mother” an insectile being from the Null. This, according to King’s character, is what awaits us when we die.

No God, no peaceful afterlife, no heaven or nirvana — not even a blank void of nothingness. A version of hell awaits every person who is alive.

The depiction of this afterlife reminds me of other King novels, including Lisey’s Story and From a Cadillac 8 — neither of which I liked at all. I pretty much hated Lisey’s Story. Too fantastical for my tastes, I suppose.

And even as a work of fiction, the story fell apart for me right at the end. My suspension of disbelief couldn’t deal with this imaginary afterlife. As part of the story, it makes sense. It is crushing to Jacobs because instead of being reunited with his beloved wife and son — who have been dead for years — he has discovered that Hell awaits.

++

Sometimes Dan asks me if I think I will be reunited with loved ones when we die. He asks specifically if I think I will get to see Gabriel. In other words, what is heaven like? And I truly do not know; I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on it.

If I were more romantic, I would like the idea of seeing my first son. Something about that thought brings me peace.

But what I do believe is that after we die, we are reunited with God. That there is a heaven. And that regardless of how we conceive of it, we enter a world of love and light. Such that it doesn’t matter if our loved ones are there to greet us or not. That beyond this earthly plane there is no more longing, no more pain.

The infinite nature of God, or heaven, is completely beyond our comprehension. Since we can’t wrap our heads around the idea of the infinite, I think we try to give form to what may be waiting for us. We guess, we hope, maybe, we dread. King paints a picture of terror; books like Heaven Is Real paint pictures of a welcoming afterlife.

I prefer to believe in the welcoming version, the version where we are in God’s presence for the rest of eternity. Maybe that sounds glorious, or naive, or hopeful. It’s comforting to me.

Do you believe in Heaven?

Presque Isle
Probably not what Heaven looks like. But maybe!

ETA: It’s From a Buick 8, not a Cadillac. h/t Adam Music! (Who didn’t answer the question. Boo.)

The Persistence of Faith

Yesterday at Mass, a baby was baptized into the Catholic church. This was the first time I had seen a baptism at our parish, and I was oddly moved by it.

Flora was the only child to attend Mass with me yesterday. During the baptism, she leaned against me to watch the proceedings from our pew.

“Did I cry when I was baptized?” she whispered.

I told her I honestly didn’t remember.

The little baby kicked her feet during the christening and anointing. I was reminded of spending the day after each of my children was baptized leaning over to smell the chrism on their little heads.

I watched the parents, a young couple — “young” being a relative term; they are probably in their 30s, maybe late 20s. They beamed with pride and hope.

I, too, felt a measure of hope and pride. Hope because a church that is performing public baptisms is a church that can continue to grow and thrive. And pride because in the face of the challenges that the church faces, these parents decided to stand up and declare their dedication to said church.

I don’t think that Christians or Catholics in America are under siege the way some far right religious people might feel. There’s no “war on Christmas”.

At the same time, I do think it takes a certain amount of bravery to stand up and declare yourself among friends and family who may have different religious or spiritual beliefs.

I’m not a great Catholic, but I am a practicing Catholic, and I make no bones about it. I’d like see the Vatican change the policy about ordaining women; I miss Mass sometimes, usually on Holy days of obligation during the week; I don’t know my catechism by heart by any stretch of the imagination. I am a creed Catholic; that is, everything that is said during the Nicene creed, I believe, wholly. Although I do wish they would change that part about “for us men” and just say “for us.” I leave off the “men” when I pray the creed aloud in church.

And I also believe and try to practice Jesus’ first commandment, which is simply, “Love one another.”

I was excited to see that these parents and godparents were happy to participate in this child’s baptism. I wonder if they get questioning looks or snide comments from friends or acquaintances about their faith. Conversely, of course, I wonder if they married in the church and are baptizing their child in the church because of familial expectations. (I didn’t get that sense from them. They were *beaming* during the ceremony.)

I think Pope Francis has introduced a freshness into the public Catholic face, and I couldn’t be happier that he is the leader of the church in the world. But the things that he preaches are not new to us practitioners of the faith. It’s a relief that the focus is being taken off of sexual ideology, and the conversation is once more focused on loving *and serving* each other.

I know that sometimes people think we faithful are judgmental, or old fashioned, or stuck in the past, or irrational. (Granted, some religious people are any or all of these things.) But the church is a living breathing organization of real people as well. The people in the church, from the Holy See on down, are imperfect, thus the Catholic church is imperfect. But we’re trying. The best of us (and I don’t necessarily count myself among the best) are trying to live and serve God, and bring the message of Jesus to everyone.

++

On Christmas Eve, I tweeted:

https://twitter.com/redpenmamapgh/status/547850695475752961

One of my friends marveled that they make faith so hard. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant, unless she was speaking about faith as a set of rules to follow — which is not how I think of my faith. I find my faith very freeing. It’s not difficult for me to be a person of faith. Although, again, I am not a great Catholic.

Looking at those parents holding their child as the priest performed a baptism, I was heartened. For the Catholic church, as well as for my parish. They truly gave the sense that participating in the sacrament was a joy, not a chore. And I hope that more Catholics feel joyful when it comes to their faith than don’t.

Catholic Books for 2014
Two books my parents gave my family for Christmas. Can you say, “Mixed messages?”

Forty Days and Forever

It’s finally time for me to quit smoking. I’m using Lent as the stopping point. It feels natural to me. I have to give up something for Lent, and I have to quit my one-cigarette a day habit.

So. Here goes.

I know I can quit. It’s just a matter of getting through the physical addition. Mentally, I’m finally ready to stop making excuses (“It’s just one cigarette!” “I don’t smoke every night!” “I need something to help me relax!”)

I am a relatively intelligent person. Smoking cigarettes is not an intelligent thing to do.

With the extremely cold weather, I had already kicked the “end of every day” habit. I didn’t want to go outside in negative wind chills — or even temperatures under 30 degrees — to smoke. So I have been skipping one, two, three days. But then I would find myself looking ahead at the temperatures to see if it would be warm enough for me to smoke.

That was a big red flag. Like, I was planning it. “I can smoke again on Thursday because it’s going to be 25 degrees. That’s warm enough!”

Yeah. Problematic.

I also have to admit: Smoking doesn’t make my stress go away. The stress is there all the time. Smoking was a way to avoid it, say, “I’m not going to deal with today any more.” I can find something else to transition into the end of day, to bed. I don’t need a cigarette to read a book.

Speaking of reading, I am also going to try to read a little bit of the Bible each night. I think I’m going to start with the letters of John.


Are you doing anything for Lent? What’s your favorite fish fry?

Thinking Aloud: Young Faith

As I mentioned yesterday, Flora is going to be receiving her First Holy Communion this spring.

This is an exciting time is the evolution of her faith, although, let’s face it: She probably doesn’t know that yet.

Confession (ha!): I don’t remember my first reconciliation (commonly known as confession or penance) or my First Holy Communion. I do remember a set of children’s Bibles I got at the time (Old Testament and New Testament, naturally). I read the heck out of those Bibles. They were written to my level, and they were GREAT stories.

As most 7 and 8 years olds do, Flora has a pretty simple, straightforward view of God and religion. Her faith is absolute. God exists (probably because Mom and Dad and most of the other people she knows say God exists), and being bad gets you in trouble. Be good so you don’t get in trouble. (This probably goes for more than just spiritually.)

Before she receives First Holy Communion, Flora will receive her first reconciliation. Right now, I’m pretty focused on making that anxiety-free for her. It’s tricky. She’s 8. It’s not as if she has a lot of major sins on her plate to confess. I don’t remember being anxious about it — but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t. (Mom, Dad, any memories of this?)

When they had the parents’ meeting about reconciliation, they had some tips about it. There was also a nifty historical lesson by our deacon that I enjoyed. My Catholic school days are far behind me, and if I knew some of the stuff he talked about, I had forgotten it.

I plan to talk to Flora about confession, and how it’s meant to make her closer to God. I’m not going to focus on the “everyone’s a sinner” aspect of religion at this point. One of the ideas I had was to run through the Ten Commandments with her, and have her base her confession on them.

The deacon talked about the Seven Deadlies, but I think those are too advanced for Flora. “Sins,” he said, “are the perversion of natural needs and desires.” (I’m paraphrasing, but it was an interesting way to look at sin.) Hence the Ten Commandments idea.

I don’t want these sacraments to provoke anxiety in Flora. I don’t want her to hear, “You are bad, and this is why you have to do this.” Being closer to God is an occasion of joy.

As part of her preparation for these sacraments, I have been working harder to take her to Mass each Sunday. (Confession: I don’t make Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. Confession: I need to go to confession.) For one, because it’s important for me to go to Mass. For two, because it’s important that I set a good example for Flora. And for three, because it’s important that Flora learn that it’s about more than sitting there being bored. Mass gives us a structure in which to offer ourselves to God (in thanks, in despair, in need, in hope).

At some point (well, I hope), Flora will realize why Mass is important, why religion and faith are important in general. And it’s not that we practice our faith or are good people because if we don’t we’re “bad” and we will be punished.

As faithful adults, we go to church, and obey the commandments, and are in general good, moral, and ethical people because we love God. We want to do what pleases and glorifies him — not for us, and not so we don’t go to Hell — but because we love him.

Please note, I am not saying you have to be religious to be a good, moral, and ethical person. There are plenty of crappy religious people (who are probably depending too much on the “But I believe in God!” strategy to get them through) and lots of very kind and good agnostic and atheist people. The absence of religion doesn’t make you a terrible person; the practice of religion by itself doesn’t make you a good person.

For me (and I’ve said it before), my Catholic faith and its practice is a source of peace and strength. I have my issues with the Catholic church. But the core message of love that I get from Jesus and God is worth the struggles with their representatives on Earth.

Do you remember your First Holy Communion or Reconciliation? How are you going to help your kids understand them (if you have kids)?

This Week's Hard Thing

Flora is receiving her First Holy Communion this year.

Dan and I attended a meeting regarding Reconciliation (the sacrament that comes before Holy Communion). Glancing over the page of dates, I felt a little drop seeing Saturday April 27 as the day of her event.

We usually go to Cook Forest the last weekend in April, and we had been scheduled to do it this year, too.

And now we’re not going to. I’m a little sad. My Twitter friend @SecretAgentL tweeted: “Remember, Jesus trumps vacation. :-)”

I KNOW.

I’ve been going to Cook Forest on and off since my mid-20s, with college-era friends. The last time I didn’t go, Kate was a newborn. Dan stayed home with M when he was a newborn, and I went up with the girls.

Ah, well, as my friend Jen says (not on Twitter, on the phone), “The great thing about Cook Forest is there’s always next year!”

I know it’s also a bummer for Jen, who is Flora’s godmother. But we can arrange for her to do something special to acknowledge the rite of passage at a different time. (Jen is the reason that Cook Forest happens at all; she cannot bail!) Dan and I haven’t told the kids yet. Michael doesn’t know what’s going on yet, anyway (last year was his first trip to CF); Flora will probably be sad but copacetic; Kate’s probably going to hate it. Maybe we won’t say anything until they ask.

What do you do when two big things in your life conflict?

Sex Talk

I was listening to a podcast, and the women on it started talking about a father who left a note for his son when he discovered the son’s Internet porn stash (as it were). Toward the end of the discussion, they started talking about how they were going to talk to their children about sex (and/or porn).

The tone of the commentary was one of fear. One of the women even said, “I’m terrified about talking to my children about this stuff.” There was also some discussion about *who* would talk to kids about sex — mom, dad, both, school — and when? One of the moms said that she had already started, even when her kids were young (pre-school age), and just kept talking about it even though it felt so awkward. I admired her for that.

I was kind of curious about this among my peers. I posed the question on Twitter: “Who’s going to talk to your kids about sex? And when are you going to start?”

Now, in the interest of full disclosure: I’ve already started talking to my kids about sex (kind of). Really, it’s more about their bodies. Genitals are like any other part of the body at this point. They have no sexual context for the children yet — even though touching them feels good, that good feeling doesn’t mean “SEX”; it means something more like COMFORT. Even knowing where babies come from (and how they are made) is more about functionality at this point than sexuality.

Is it easy to talk to my kids about this? No, not really. I am (to my husband’s chagrin) much too forthcoming with basic information. My semi-coherent idea about this is that if I can answer my kids’ questions about their bodies now, and be open and honest (and refrain from giggling like a 12-year-old), as they grow in understanding and in sexuality, then they will come to trust me to deal with these issues matter-of-factly.

Responses on Twitter echoed those of the podcast. A lot of “GAH!” and “La la la, I can’t hear you.” It made me smile, because I totally understand that instinct. It’s terrifying to think about our children discovering porn and having sex (maybe this stops once they get married?). Dan has no intention of talking about sex with the girls — he’s the one who coined the term “lady business” (we also use “boy business” for M, obviously). When Flora asked him what being romantic meant, he answered, “Sitting alone and reading books.” To which I responded: *facepalm*.

I think part of the other reason I answer these questions (like I answer all my children’s questions to the best of my ability) is because I don’t want to sit down some day with my children when they are on the edge of puberty and try to give them the whole spiel at once. I don’t want to have a big, long “birds and bees” talk. I think that can be overwhelming — even when they’re on the verge of puberty. I’d rather give them discrete and age-appropriate bits of information.

I think it will become tricky when the moral component needs to be included in these discussions. The beginning and end of sex and sexuality talk in my home growing up was, “Don’t have sex until you get married.” This was radically unsatisfying to me (and I imagine it will be unsatisfying to my children as well). My Catholic school was pretty comprehensive when it came to sex education, but boiled down the message was: “Don’t have sex until you get married because you will ruin your life and/or die a horrible and awful death.” Even religion class didn’t address the WHY of the question. WHY was virginity so important to God? WHY should I wait until I get married to “do it”?

And honestly I’m still not 100 percent clear on how I’m going to express this to my own children. What I’m going to tell them is that our bodies, our sexuality, and sex are gifts from God. And like any gifts from God, we need to use them wisely and carefully — not to pleasure ourselves only, but to give glory to God. Sex is special, not something to be shared with a lot of people. Sex is to be part of the intimate bond of a committed couple, to bring them and keep them close.

Will this work? Will it keep my children virgins until they are married? I have no idea. Will I be called out for my own hypocrisy (I was not a virgin when I got married, not even close)? Possibly. I’m still working on that part of the discussion. Will I forbid discussion of birth control medication, condoms and other barrier methods, Planned Parenthood, and/or abortion? No, I will not. That seems futile. But to talk about those issues and still be able to say (without terrifying them), but this is why you still should wait until marriage — that’s what I’m aiming for. And also to do it in such a way that if they decide differently, I can deal with that with them too.

What’s your plan for teaching your kids (or the children in your life) about their bodies and sex? And what are you waiting for?

Thinking Aloud: Preaching Politics

At church this Sunday, the priest used his homily to talk about voting pro-life. I’m not comfortable when politicking comes from the pulpit, but it happens regularly (and not just every four years). I’m not really crazy about singing “God Bless America” in church, but that happens regularly too. Heck, not two weeks ago, there was a voter registration drive outside the church I attended!

I’m not sure the priest would’ve summed up his homily the way I just did, and I can’t give you a run down of every thing he said, because I was in a very crowded cry room that was, as per advertised, very loud with teh cries.

But what I gleaned from what I did manage to hear was this: Voting pro-life (i.e. against abortion and euthanasia) was the single most important thing that you should do as a Catholic.

The priest did not specifically mention any candidate by name, nor did he explicitly endorse any candidate (which is something that is apparently happening in some Protestant churches this Sunday).

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a single-issue voter, hence I don’t vote on abortion. If you were to put my vote in one of two piles (pro-choice or pro-life), it would end up in the pro-choice pile. And I’m resigned to that, if not wholly comfortable with it.

I think it’s easy for the Catholic church to take a pro-life stance that is consistent. The church has a variety of programs and initiatives in place that (in my opinion) make it a very pro-life organization. The church encourages and participates in social services, social justice, ministry to the poor, and stands against war, the death penalty, euthanasia, and abortion.

On the other hand, it’s hard for me to take the GOP seriously on the pro-life/family values platform they want to put forth. The Romney/Ryan budget is not, in my view, very friendly to anyone who is not rich, white, and/or male. Which, if those are your economic issues, that’s cool. Or if you do vote on abortion, gay marriage, or other social issues that are based on your religion, well have at it. The GOP may be more to your liking.

My economic interests include more than just me. I think the Democrat’s platform is more inclusive, and does more to help lift people up.

Additionally, most of the hatred that I see spewed regarding social issues seems to come from the right. I’m not saying that everyone who is conservative is hateful, and I don’t hate conservatives or Republicans. But, when the language turns negative — hateful, misogynist, racist, and so on — I’ve seen that more from the right than from liberals or Democrats. (If I’m off-base here, you can correct me.)

As a Catholic, I believe that God is love. I believe that our purpose here is to love one another — from the richest to the poorest, to a man, to a woman, to a child. Even if you don’t agree with me, I should show you love.

That’s what Jesus would do. That’s the answer to the question. Love one another.

I’ve gotten far afield here, but I think the message the priest was preaching was simplistic. My conscience leads me to vote like Catholics for Obama. If that’s not the type of pro-life Catholic my priest wants me to be, then I guess I’m doing it wrong. But it doesn’t feel like it to me.

Fortitude

Another paraphrased anecdote, this from a friend of mine. This is the story of six weeks in his life.

“First, my mother fell and broke her arm, so she couldn’t work. Then my brother went off his meds [for bipolar disorder] and freaked out. He started destroying things. He kicked in Mom’s front door, cut the cable line, cut the freon line in her refrigerator, put a giant nail in my truck tire.

“My mom moved out, went to go stay with a friend. She was scared of my brother. When he called to find out when she was coming home, she told him that. He apologized, packed a bag, and went on a 65-mile hike.

“Now, in the meantime, I was smelling something bad in my apartment (M lives in one of five row houses in McKees Rocks). Plus I was starting to have really bad back pain. I was cleaning obsessively trying to find the smell and get rid of it. This went on for nearly two weeks. Finally, I was lying on my living room floor, writhing in pain, and screaming about this smell in my apartment.

“So I went to the hospital. They diagnosed me with kidney stones, sent me home with pain killers, and I waited for them to pass. After sleeping for 24 hours, and then passing the stone, I felt a lot better.

“But the smell was still there. Now I kept asking my neighbors if everything was all right. They are two [mentally challenged]* women who live with their crazy mother. (She really was crazy — 91, with dementia.) Was their refrigerator working? Did they need help taking out the garbage? They kept saying everything was fine.”

[*My friend is probably the least politically correct person I know. He used a different word here.]

You see where this is going don’t you?

“Finally, I’m cutting So-and-So’s hair (my friend is a stylist who works out of his home), and asking her if she can smell it — because by now I’m sure it’s in my head — and she like, yeah, and then the flies started. So-and-so is a social worker, and she’s just like, ‘That’s bad, M. That’s really bad. Call the cops.'”

So he did.

The woman had been dead nearly five weeks. Three weeks later, and the house is still being cleaned out (although, thankfully, the smell is gone.) Oh, and his brother finally called.

“Frere,” he said. “I’ve got blisters the size of which you wouldn’t even believe.” My friend went to pick him up.

I have friends going through hard, hard things. Divorces, foreclosures, a mother with breast cancer (caught early), miscarriages, unemployment, children with autism. I have a friend who struggled for years with infertility, finally had a daughter, moved to BFE for her husband’s job, and is now divorced and single-momming it.

And all these friends of mine, they keep moving forward. Sometimes they let me see the struggle, they let me help if I can. I think they are so strong. I mentioned this to M, my friend from the story above.

“They are thankful,” he said simply. “They have something that keeps them grounded, something they are grateful for. Look at you and Dan.”

He was referring to our loss of Gabriel. I’ve known M longer than I’ve known my husband; he was the first person at the hospital when I discovered Gabriel was dead.

“You are the bravest woman I know,” he said.

I hear this sometimes, that Dan and I are brave, and inspirational, and strong. And it’s not that I’m not saying it’s not true — it’s just that I don’t remember feeling that way at the time, or, even, much now. At the time, I was utterly devastated. As time has passed, I just feel blessed, rather than brave.

I think about visiting my girlfriend in BFE — and laughing with her, enjoying our time together. Even though she is going through one of the hardest times I have witnessed. I was thinking, “What gets us through that, or this, or these times?”

I think M may have hit on the answer. And I’m not writing this to tell you to count your blessings. I just came through a pretty tough depression, and I could barely see my blessings let alone count them.

Just keep going, I guess I’m trying to say. I mentioned this in a comment yesterday, and I feel it’s true: Coping is overrated. Sometimes, it feels like the universe is piling on. I wasn’t coping a few weeks ago. Going on, I suppose, moving forward, but hardly coping.

Don’t cope, I guess I’m saying. But don’t quit either.

Faith-Based, Part 2

I’ve alluded, in past blog posts that dealt with religion, to the fact that my faith saved my life. Maybe that sounds like an exaggeration, maybe it *is* an exaggeration. But I would not be *here*, where I am, without the power of prayer in my life. And I can’t ever forget that.

My faith has never been perfect, and in my 20s I was a seriously lapsed Catholic. (I started making noise about going to church in my teens — I didn’t want to, I “didn’t get anything out of it”. But going to church wasn’t up for debate. I lived with my parents; I played by their rules. Simple as that.) I stopped going to church, I didn’t follow the commandments; my life was not God-centered. It was me-centered. (Ironically, I attended a Catholic university, from which I graduated when I was 22.)

(Look, I’m not preaching that you have to be religious to be a good, ethical person. I’m just talking about my own experience here.)

I look back on that time feeling extremely grateful that I emerged relatively unscathed. I didn’t become a homeless drug addict; I didn’t end up in prison. I didn’t get in physically abusive relationships — although the relationships I was in were hardly fantastical.

And it was one of these less-than-ideal relationships that finally lead me back to the church for good.

I had made a couple of stabs at returning before my final straw, so to speak. One time, after being away a good two years, I attended church and the gospel story was that of The Prodigal Son. And I still strayed, again, for an even longer time.

It’s safe to say I was being willfully obtuse.

In 1998, I found myself in a dead-end relationship. I was struggling on several fronts, but my own biggest obstacle was *me*. I wasn’t happy; I wasn’t fulfilled; I didn’t feel loved or valued. I didn’t know where to turn.

So I walked into a church.

I don’t even remember if there was a Mass going on at the time or not. I just know that I knelt down and bowed my head.

“Hi, God,” I remember thinking. “I’m sure you know me. I need your help.”

I prayed for two things that day: courage and patience. I needed the strength and the courage to face the man I had been with for four years and say goodbye. Say, “Look, this isn’t working for me, and I have to go.”

I will reiterate here that The Guy was a perfectly nice person. He didn’t abuse me in any way; he wasn’t a freeloader, he didn’t cheat on me. But we were painfully unhappy, and we didn’t share values or plans for a future together. I thought that we would get there, but, after four years (with “a break” in the middle), we weren’t moving forward at all. I had to go, and I knew it, but I was afraid. He wasn’t great, but he wasn’t awful, and it’s scary to be alone.

I also prayed for patience. The patience to listen. The patience to be open to the next thing. The patience to hear the “small, still voice”. I was directionless in my life, and I needed to be awake and aware to find my path.

Here I am, 13 years later, on the path that God put before me, the one that I found after those few moments of prayer. I became a regular church-goer again, a daily pray-er, a woman open to where God was going to send me. I was willing, I AM willing, to do His will, not to impose my own desires, my own childish wants.

My life is not perfect. I am human and I struggle, at times mightily, to continue to do God’s will.

God gave me the patience to wait until Dan came into my life.
He (or She if you prefer; God is Spirit, and gender-neutral) gave me the courage to be loved the way I deserved to be loved.
He gave me the strength to survive the death of my first son, and the courage to have other babies.
And when I wanted to “try one more time”, I prayed for another son, one to raise, and God said Yes.

Very often, my prayers are for much the same things: courage and patience. I also find great joy and deep peace in my faith. I know that my life is so much better with God at the center of it. My faith sustains me, and I hope that I can be an example to my children — an example to anyone, really — of what faith can do, what it can be.

This, too, is part of why I want my children to continue to receive a Catholic education. So that they have a foundation of stone, not sand. So that even if, like me, they stray and struggle, they will know deep in their hearts, as I always knew deep in mine, that God would always be there.

I know some day, it is possible one of my children will say, “I don’t believe in God.” And I know I will say, “Well, God believes in you.” Not to be flippant, but because I know it’s true, because it is God’s belief in me that has put me here. And I’m good with that, and I… I just wanted to tell you.

I don’t know how to invite you to comment on this one. I think we all have our reasons for being faithful or for struggling. All I ask is that you be respectful if you want to comment, and treat others with respect. Our journeys are all different. God be with you — even if you don’t believe in her, she believes in you.

Faith-Based, Part 1

We got the official word last week that the Catholic grade school where we send Flora and Kate is closing this spring.

It’s heartbreaking, especially to my husband, who is an alumnus of the school. The girls love their teachers and classmates, and I’m sure it’s going to be difficult for them in the short run.

That being said, Catholic schools all over Pittsburgh — all over the United States, I suppose — have been struggling. St. J has been on the block for three years now, and with the inability to bring enrollment up past 90 students, the diocese and the church decided to close the school.

When Dan told me, I wasn’t sure what we were going to do. Or, rather, I wasn’t sure what other Catholic school we were going to send our children too. I don’t know anything about the other schools, and I am going to have to do some serious homework, with Dan, to see the best fit for us. And right quick, too.

When asked about switching the girls to a public school, I thought to myself, “Oh, I don’t think so.”

It’s hard to put into words why I think it’s important that my children get a Catholic education.

But, being a writer and all, I’m sure going to try.

1. I will admit, some of why I want my kids to go to Catholic schools is as elementary as the fact that *I* went to Catholic schools. It’s what I know; it’s what I am comfortable with. I had a Catholic education from pre-k through college graduation. And I benefitted from it, academically as well as spiritually.

2. While it’s important that I participate with my children in their education, it’s also important that they get the most in-depth education they can get. I could no more teach higher level mathematics than I could guide my children in an informative Bible study. While I might know more about my Catholic faith than the average Joe, I think my kids would do better to get formally educated in it.

3. This is probably an arguable point: The quality of a Catholic education is often superior to a public education. This is kind of inevitable, and I don’t think public education should be written off. However, from my POV, Catholic (and private schools, in general) attract very dedicated teachers. In my experience, teaching wasn’t just a job for the men and women (some of them nuns) from whom I learned; it was a vocation, a calling. Lord knows (pun intended) they don’t get paid a lot of money — this probably varies from school to school, and some hoity toity private schools can probably attract the talent with a high paycheck. (Which isn’t to write off hoity toity schools, either. Each system has its place.)

4. School uniforms. You have no idea how simplifying having school uniforms is. It really levels the playing field in some respects, socially. And I expect it to make my life as a mom much easier during the week. Once they start wearing uniforms (Flora, still in kindergarten, isn’t subject to the uniform rule yet), my mornings will be that much easier.

5. Finally, and this is where I get religion-y on you: I believe our lives should be God-centered. What we do and the way we do it should give glory to our creator. This is at the very heart of Catholic education. No, that doesn’t mean talking about God in every class. But that means that learning about one’s faith is as vital as learning math, English, science, computer, etc.

What are your thoughts about education? Public, private, Christian-based? Why?