Sunday, December 28, 2008

Raised 'Slightly Catholic'

When we were doing the introductions at the beginning of RCIA, we were asked to give a short biography, and our faith background. I was raised Missouri Synod Lutheran, and I said that, but I also followed it up by saying that I was beginning to suspect I'd been raised 'slightly Catholic'. And I just recently re-thought about that, and how I believe it's really true, however it happened. I'm going to explain, and some of it may not make sense, but I want to get it out here on 'paper'.

I am the first of five grandchildren, born to my grandparents' only daughter. My mother has two daughters, myself and Baby Sis. My UncleB has one son, and UncleK has two. My grandfather loved children, and was thrilled with the prospect of me. :) Going off of the first sonogram, I was supposed to be named after him, Joseph. On the second sonogram, the umbilical cord had shifted. I became Josephine. :) Somewhere between that point and my actual birth, my mother changed her mind, and I became Amber.

This is the passage that was on my baptismal cake: Ezekiel 1:4 - And I saw, and behold a whirlwind came out of the north: and a great cloud, and a fire infolding it, and brightness was about it: and out of the midst thereof, that is, out of the midst of the fire, as it were the resemblance of amber. And, clearly, not the whole quote, it wouldn't have fit on the cake, but the last half, starting at 'and out of the midst thereof'.

Mom claims this is where she got my name, and I'll just choose to believe her. However, my grandfather still would call me Amberina Josephina. Which is not, by the way, my middle name, just his nickname for me, which no one else is allowed to use. Moving on...

My mothers parents, who did a lot of work helping to raise me and my sister when she came along, were/are devout Lutherans. What do you do on Sundays? You go to church. There are no other options, barring illness. My adopted-father's mother was a devout Catholic. We didn't see her as much, because her health was not so good that it permitted her to keep two young girls for extended periods of time. She had severe asthma, but she did what she could with us.

So, I either attended the Lutheran church, or went to the Catholic church, depending on who I was with on Sunday. And here's the thing- at the time, the services weren't that different! I was raised old school MS Lutheran, so there were kneelers, an altar rail for communion/blessing, everything. And the same at the Catholic church. So I just grew up assuming that they were just two different physical churches, but the same thing, at the core. Catholic grandma died when I was ten or so, and I was given (though I can't recall why at this point), one of her statues, some medals she had, and a little picture of the Virgin Mary that she kept in her car. I have carried these things around in my possession for sixteen years since I inherited them.

At my grandparents' house, in 'my room', there was always a picture hanging on the wall, of a woman hair covered, cradling a cross and a spray of roses. I always just assumed it was Mary, and never bothered to ask anyone. I inherited that picture when my grandfather died, and my grandmother moved into a smaller condo. I've carried her around for the past eight or nine years.

As I said, growing up, I attended either the Lutheran church, or a Catholic one. I assumed that all the churches were just like that.

If you had asked me, at any point in my childhood, who was the physical head of Christianity at that moment, (not that anyone would ask a kid a question like that), I would have told you the Pope. Keep in mind that my main religious formation was going on in the Lutheran church. I mean, who else was there? He was the only one I ever saw standing up for the faith, so dignified, so calm, so confident of the Truth he was teaching! I just believed that he was in charge of *all* the churches. After all, we were all Christian, weren't we? To be perfectly honest, even after I learned that wasn't, actually, so, I still sort of looked to the Pope. Again, who else was there?

I abandoned faith for a good, long while. I fell into paganism, heresy, a lot of stuff. But I was lead back out again, for which I am thankful.

I went to my mothers church, which is now Mennonite. She converted to marry step-dad, who is a wonderful man. I had, of course, by this point, learned the differences in Protestantism, Catholicism, etc. but I needed to figure it out for myself, and there was still something, in the back of my head, that told me that while the style of worship might be different, the theology would still be the same. Pft. That lasted until their second communion service. They hold communion once a month, they do not believe in the Real Presence, just like so many other Protestant denominations. I sat through a lecture about how it was the center of their worship, what brought them together, nothing more important, yadda. Then, the next month, they 'bumped' communion for a kids play. Yes, by all means, encourage the kids, but make the service a little longer and hold communion! If it's that important, people will hang in there for another ten freaking minutes! I know it's just bread and grape juice to them, but still, come on...

So I went back to the Lutheran church. Ah...well...I'm not really sure what happened in the intervening years, but they'd lost so much of what I remembered, it wasn't like the same church at all. And, and, so, transubstantiaion, consubstantiation. I was not raised to believe that the host went back to being bread! Once the Body of God, always the Body of God! So I went to the Catholic church. And there it was. Just the same, and it clicked. It still took me months to work around to the point where I knew I needed to convert, but get there I did. And after I'd made that decision, and told my family, I learned some things.

My grandfather had been raised Catholic. He left the Church because a priest that he went to for help told him that it was his fault his father was abusive. For this, though I know he died outside of full communion with the Church, I know that God's Mercy will prevail. He was a child, and he didn't know, and so much as I can, though it might be wrong, I blame that priest.

'Mary', from my childhood was St. Therese of Lisieux, and this icon had belong to my great-grandmother, who died when my grandfather was a child. She now hangs over my bed.

The statue I inherited? Who I, (very sorry for this), called 'Saint Whosit' for a number of years, because I assumed he was a saint and had no way of figuring out which the Infant of Prague. The medals, are also both of the Infant of Prague. I wear one of them now at all times.

The picture of Mary from my grandmothers car? A green scapular. From - The (green) scapular is reputed to have special efficacy in bringing people back to the Church and to the sacrament of penance even after many years of estrangement from their faith.

I keep the scapular at home, but I do carry a piece of blessed palm from last Easter Sunday in my car's visor.


  1. What an amazing testimony of God's power and glory!!As for your grandfather. That priest was the sheperd of God's flock. God's Word states that if you make one of His little ones stumble, you might as well put a rope around your neck, attach it to a rock and jump into the water!! Yes, your grandfather could have come back, as an adult, but I believe God is in control of all things, and we don't understand His ways, but He did see clearly to guide you girl.!!~ He has guided your family,,,step by step. Your an amazing witness of God's love. ((hugs)) I'm so glad He had me 'find' you

  2. It really is all Him. Left to my own devices, I don't believe I'd ever have gone looking for faith again.

    My grandfather, I do the only thing that I can. I pray for his soul. He was a good, faithful man, all his life. He was young when the incident with the priest occured, from my understanding, and who knows what else happened in the intervening years? We're an old school family in a lot of ways, and he never spoke of his childhood, or a great many things. I only know what I do now from my grandmother. All I know is that he loved and feared God, and worshiped Him as best he knew how. I have to trust that God knows and will have Mercy for any faults that he or any of us have.

    The priest...again, who knows. I have a third hand story. Do I believe in the truth of it? Yes. But perhaps, later in his life, this priest realized that my grandfather truly was in danger, and he didn't help. I hope, for his sake, that he did, and sought forgiveness. And I realized, thinking about this a little earlier, that I need to pray for this priest too. Much as it irritates me to come to that conclusion, he was just a man. And this sounds a lot nicer and easier than the realization actually came.

    I pray that God continues to guide me, and the rest of my family. And that I have the brains to stay out of the way and allow Him to do so.

    Thank you. (hugs back) I'm glad you found me too. :)

  3. Hi Amber - just wanted to say that I think you did an amazing job over at Umm Adam's site.

    You are very welcomed to join in any conversation! You have a good ability to explain complex things.



  4. *waves to Holly*

    Well, thank you. I'm glad the other Christians over there weren't emabarrassed by my poor attempts to explain myself. :)

    I may take you up on the invitation, in fact I already sort of have, but I really do just enjoy reading and learning from all of you.


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