When I first started dating a Catholic boy, I wasn’t 100 percent sure what I was getting myself into. But when it became clear that the relationship was going to be more than the typical short-time fling, I found myself fighting against one question:
“What are you going to do about your faith?”
To give some context, I went to a parochial school until I was in eighth grade. My family had taken me to church until the responsibilities of everyday life made wrangling the family and getting them all to Sunday worship nearly impossible.
But I had never been to a Catholic mass, and I never thought that I would ever go to a Catholic mass.
I had heard that the mass was long and that the people who attended the mass were rigid and extremely devout. In other words, they were diehard fans of the Lord, and they were willing to waste hours of their weekend praising His name. Sounds fun right?
One can imagine my apprehension at the thought of going to mass, but I decided that I was going to swallow my pride and do it. Then, the next question came.
“Aren’t you afraid that you’re going to change, aren’t you afraid of losing yourself?”
The short answer was yes. I was afraid at first. Before I considered attending mass, I spent a significant amount of time crying because I was afraid that becoming religious would change me. Admittedly, those were not my proudest moments.
Then, I started attending mass. It was difficult at first. For those who have never been to a Catholic mass, there is a lot of standing, kneeling and chanting various phrases.
I was extremely lost and felt that everyone knew I was an outsider. I didn’t know the words to every phrase, I was late to make the sign of the cross nearly every time and I had to mumble through a lot of the prayers.
But I kept going.
And I learned that there is a lot more to Catholic mass than the stigmatized rumors I had heard. I learned that at the core, mass is about being able to love everyone unconditionally. Whether I believe in a higher power or not, I found that love for humanity was an easy philosophy to get behind.
I also found that Catholics are not the staunch and emotionless figures I once thought they were. In fact, they take time out of their mass to recognize one another, shake each other’s hands and offer one another peace.
Since attending mass, I have shaken the hands of many strangers, and each one has greeted me with a smile and warm regards.
My emotional responses to different aspects of the mass have been the most surprising part of this journey. At times, I will listen in awe as the congregation sings a hymn, and I have been moved to tears by priests’ homilies.
But that’s not to say that my religious revival has been a complete cakewalk.
I still feel alienated in mass when I can’t go up and receive communion and instead have to sit alone in the pew. The worst part is trying to contort my legs to let everyone shuffle around me as they line up to receive their blessings. I even had an elderly woman shoot me the death glare once because I hadn’t moved
out of her way enough – good times.
I still get some flak outside of mass, too. My friends ask me how mass is going with a smirk and a wink, implying that it must be pure torture. I have had others mock me for converting because of a boy.
I am ashamed to admit that I have even poked fun at the religion myself to save face in front of my peers.
Changing your religious views is a very scary and personal journey. Not everyone will respect your decisions. Some may try to change your mind, while others will make fun of you for it.
These harsh comments on top of my own personal fears almost brought my religious bandwagon to a grinding halt. I fear that many individuals in the process of changing their religious beliefs face the same adversities and often become dissuaded.
No one should feel ashamed about their religious decisions whether they are an atheist, a convert or a devout worshiper. Everyone’s religious journey, or lack thereof, is their own.
So let’s make an agreement. I won’t make fun of you for what you do or don’t believe in, and you won’t make fun of me for becoming Catholic. Do we have a deal?
Opinion from Taylor Stockton, Vanguard News Editor