I'm a Cradle Catholic. Immersed in the faith from the day of my baptism. Twelve years of Catholic School reinforced the beliefs my parents worked so hard to instill in me. Until I went to college, I truly believed that everyone wanted to be Catholic. That they envied us. Don't ask me why then, that I didn't question that they didn't all just convert.
My Western Civilization classes knocked some wind out of my faith filled sails. The classes exposed bits of history that were glossed over in 12 years of Catholic School. History that reflected very poorly on the institution of the Church. On top of that, going to Mass every Sunday was decidedly not fun and indeed boring. So like many young people, I floundered with my faith a bit in my college years.
Oddly enough, my brother got me back on track before graduation. He asked me to be his oldest daughter's Godmother - but only if I started going to church again. That was all it took.
Years of work and dating - miserable dating followed. Relationships don't last long when you're abstinent. I often had to defend my beliefs. More often than not - others dismissed my faith and following of commandments to be silly and pointless.
I never understood the perspective of people without faith until I heard one of them refer to faith and religion as 'a fairy tale'.
Well, now I knew just how far fetched they found it. I felt so sad for them.
They see it all as a waste of time. We're oppressing and denying our physical needs and urges for a fairy tale. Hmm. Now I see why they are so confused.
One of the only ways I have been able to describe the importance of faith, and that it is indeed a choice... not brain washing is to compare it to health.
Most of us know that to take the best care of our bodies, we should eat healthy food. We should get off the couch and exercise. Those who are really dedicated to their bodies cut out carbs and lift weights or run 10 miles a day. They do what it takes to be fit and stay healthy. They don't even see it as a sacrifice.
It's the same for your soul.
Bad out. Good in.
It's not some regimented denial of pleasure... it is instead... doing what is best for - not your body - but your soul.
I go to Mass because it nourishes my soul. I abstain from sex because it keeps me pure. I follow the commandments - because - following my analogy - it keeps me from getting fat, ruining my cholesterol, or clogging my arteries.
I know many people who go to great lengths to follow their healthy diet, train for a marathon, chisel their abs - yet mock me for maintaining my soul.
Meanwhile, I wonder how they can put so much effort into their earthly shell while ignoring the one part of their earthly presence that will actually make it to an after-life.
And I'm the one who is silly?