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I am what my friend E calls a “cafeteria Catholic.” I pick and choose what bits and pieces of Catholicism I can agree with and toss the rest.

This drives my mother crazy as she is an old-school Catholic. We’re talking novenas and stations of the cross and ashes on certain Wednesdays.

Growing up, we went to church every Sunday. My father, having been raised Jewish but who has not, to my knowledge, seen the inside of a synagogue in over 30 years, got to stay home. My sister and I were not so lucky. We had to attend even if I feel asleep (which I did often), raised a ruckus beforehand (ditto), or spent the mass doing math (counting how many people I could see, subtracting how many of those people wore hats and so on).

When I was three or four years old, I once crawled forward under the pews while my mother was praying on her knees with her eyes closed, a rosary clasped in her hands. She was not at all pleased when I popped up six rows in front of her and waved. There’s a look that I give the kids when they are misbehaving and I am too far from them to grab hold. It could peel paint from walls – it’s that intense. I learned it from her.

In my mother’s opinion, I have not given my children enough of a religious foundation. And maybe I haven’t. To wit:

An After Dinner Conversation with My Daughter

Nora: Does God have a father?

Me: No. He IS the father. He doesn’t have a father. He has a son, though.

Nora: Only a son? How come not a daughter?

Me: Uh…

Nora: I bet He wanted a daughter, too. Is He married? Who’s His wife?

I start thinking about how to explain virgins, immaculate conception and the progenitor to shot-gun weddings – a visit by an avenging angel on the bridegroom.

Me: Uh…

Nora: You know how Henry and me and Liam were in your body? And then we came out?

Me (cautiously):  Yeah?

Nora: Well, I thought you and Daddy made us.

Me: We did. Technically though, God made everyone. He is everywhere.

Nora: If God is everywhere, is he in outer space too?

Me: Yes.

Nora: The earth is in outer space. Does that mean that God is in outer space?

Me: Mmm-hmm.

Nora: How did the earth get into space? Was God there before space?

Brendan (calling from upstairs): Nora, it’s your turn in the shower!

Me: Go ahead honey. It’s time for bed.

Nora (amiably): Ok.

She hopped off the kitchen stool and presented the top of her head to me. I kissed it, as I have done a thousand times over. Raising her eyes to mine she grinned. “I’ll have lots more questions for you in the morning, Mom.”

You keep asking those tough questions, Nora. Even if Mommy doesn’t have all the answers!


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