First and foremost, I identify as a Roman Catholic, I am no longer a practicing Catholic (as in I no longer go to mass every Sunday) but I am still very much a believer in God and faith is something that has always been a part of my life.
My relationship with my religion has been on and off; then off and on again. It’s been challenging and comforting. It’s been there whenever I needed it and I’ll always be thankful for that.
My Gran McElhinney was a passionate devout Catholic, she never missed mass on a Sunday, every day she would say her 3 o’clock prayer. You would be talking to her, her sofa-side clock would chime a nursery rhyme, and she would stop whatever she was doing (no matter where she was or who she was with) and she would recite her prayer. Finished with ‘Jesus, I trust in Thee’.
I was always in awe of my Gran’s faith. I always wished I was closer to God the way my Gran was. My generation is different, yeah I attended a Catholic school, but we were not taught religion the way they were in my Gran’s day. It wasn’t something we all lived by.
I was Baptised, I made my Confirmation, I went to Confession, I made my first Holy Communion – I did everything ‘by the book’ so to speak. I was, and still am, a Catholic.
When I was 16(ish) my friend came to me, she had always wanted to be a Catholic, growing up she was always in awe of my faith and would ask questions all of the time. She was brought up without having a faith set in stone for her and once she became an adolescent she decided she wanted to become a Catholic. And I was to be her Sponsor.
I was honoured, thrilled and most importantly blessed. I remember chapping my priest’s door for the first time with her, worrying about not having practiced in a while, I’m sure I was probably more nervous than my friend. Little did I know we would go on a journey together that would teach me more than I had ever been taught at school, at home or through religious education.
For roughly 1-2 years, my friend and I would meet at the Priest’s house every Monday evening, with a few friendly ladies from our local Parish who were very knowledgable and eager to get involved with everything we were doing. We went to various events through the church, and got to meet some pretty important people, it was such a remarkable journey and I was so pleased to be my friend’s sponsor.
My passion for my faith was at an all time high and I believed wholeheartedly. I wanted to get involved with everything. At school, I petitioned for religious education to be taken and taught more seriously, and at the age of 16 I even went and got a tattoo of a cross with ‘faith’ written above it on my inner wrist (not my finest moment). I was just so mezmorised that there was this whole community, waiting for me, that I had never had the courage to step foot into.
To cut a long story short, my friend finally became a Catholic, and it was such an emotional and proud day for me. I remembered that 9-year-old girl being so inquisitive and eager to know about my religion and as I watched her being welcomed in to my local Parish at the age of 17 after years of passion and dedication – I felt closer to God than ever.
Then I lost my Gran a couple of years later. I’ve wrote about this before in much more detail so I won’t say too much on it, as it breaks my heart, but you can imagine how much of a gap this left between God and I. I didn’t want to step foot in a church after my Gran’s funeral. I didn’t want to confide in God; I felt I had been robbed of the most special person in my life and I had nobody else to blame. I felt he had taken her away from me.
I know my Gran would never have wanted me to turn my back on my religion but every time I tried to pray at night or speak to God it hurt my heart. The pain from missing my Gran was too much and it definitely separated me from my religion. I guess there were other factors too, but I took a step back from it all, and that’s when I stopped practicing.
But I never fully stopped believing. I still believe in heaven. I still value my religion and identify as a Roman Catholic. I will always respect my faith and do my very best to bring my children up with the values that I was fortunate enough to have. The world is safer when you believe. If you don’t believe in God, or faith, believe in something.
My relationship with my religion has been a bumpy road, there is so much more I could write about this, but I’m afraid this post is become a bit lengthy and preachy for a blog post so I shall wrap this up here.