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Moving On And Putting Away Childish Things

I've got some pretty strong ties to my family and, for this reason, I tend to go home on the weekend whenever I can even though I live half a state away and have had my own apartment for several years. I also enjoy going to mass with my family when I go to South Jersey and even though I've spent more time going to mass in other places for the past 8 years...I have never registered with a church. Technically, I guess you can say that I am registered as a member of my dad's family. I got away with not registering or really planting myself anywhere for 6 years because I just kept going to mass at school (MSU has a great Newman Center). Even though I lived up in North Jersey for 7 summers out of the 8 since I first left home for college and even though Newman didn't really do mass during the summer...I found a way around that by just going to mass at any one of the many churches around here. (I am extremely spoiled living near so many wonderful churches.)

I have gone to mass at St. Philip's, St. Cassian's, Columbia University, MSU, Immaculate Conception, the Holy Face Monastery...and others ever since I started living on my own. However, one thing I haven't done in all this time...is call any of these churches home. A little part of me just didn't want to sever ties with St. Peter's, the church of my childhood....the church where my family went virtually ever Sunday for my entire live (I say virtually, because sometimes we did go to St. Casimir's).

During my 8 year absence, a lot has happened. St. Peter's was merged with St. Joseph's to become Jesus the Good Shepherd. Father Thomas and Deacon Joe passed away (may God grant them eternal rest). Several other priests I had grown to love were transferred or ended up retiring. They started celebrating mass in Spanish. Several acquaintances and old school friends got married there. My uncle's funeral mass was celebrated there. A new mass translation was introduced. The list goes on.

As many of these changes were occuring, I remained in North Jersey...jumping from church to church without really settling down. I loved Holy Face's latin mass. However, Holy Face closed down for repairs some time ago...and I am still unsure about when it will be reopened. I fell in love with Immaculate Conception's stained glass and pretty cool homilies, but even so I still venture off to St. Cassian's...which has simpler stained glass mosaics, but one of the most beautiful choirs I've ever heard. My goodness, it sounds like a choir of angels whenever I close my eyes and simply listen to them sing. My time as a wandering church hobo has allowed me to see, hear, and experience a wonderful assortment of all things that the Catholic Church has to offer. These eight years have certainly been a feast for the senses...and they have been some 8 of the most important years of my life in terms of faith formation.

During this time, I suppose you can say that I also started growing in faith. I got confirmed while a student in MSU. Why? Well, part of the reason was that my mom had always wanted her children to get confirmed. Another reason was this quiet guy at the end of the hall I met during my stint as the Honors Floor resident director. That quiet young man became my fiancé 6.5 years later. Though he is exploring Catholicism now, he was agnostic when we first met. I guess you can say that compared to where I am now, I was a pretty crappy "Cafeteria Catholic" bordering on "Catholic In Name Only." My saving grace was the fact that I kept going to weekly mass even if I did turn into one of those wishy-washy Catholics. I probably spent more time trying to create my own form of Catholicism based on my "worldly wisdom" and severely distorted ideas of what it meant to be a follower of Christ....than I attempted to truly live the faith. Basically, I loved Jesus...but still wanted to do and believe as I pleased.

Though agnostic at the start of our relationship, The Fiancé (whether he knew it or not), challenged me to explore my faith. I didn't know the "why" behind a lot of what I claimed to follow...and this guy made me look into things a bit more deeply. We talked a lot about faith and, over time, I started taking mine a lot more seriously. Just being in a relationship with him helped me see how selfish I was. Yes, I tended to do good for others...but I did not do the best that I could do for my neighbor. At times, I even put myself first...before neighbor, before family, and before God. Over time, The Fiancé helped me work on my pride, my stubbornness, and my need to always be right (even when I was not). Over time, I became a better Catholic. I may not be anywhere near perfect yet...but The Fiancé certainly helped me get to where I am today. In the process, he also started exploring his own faith.

Today, we found ourselves sitting in front of a padre...talking about our future wedding and the pre-Cana classes we wanted to start. One issue that came up was the fact that I wasn't really permanently registered or based in any particular church. I explained my "wandering Church hobo" ways and the priest suggested that I find a church home to base myself as I prepare for marriage. This whole idea, as trivial as it may be, seemed like a BIG step for me in terms of transitioning from child to adult. This was far more significant than paying my first apartment deposit, getting my license, or even starting a PhD program. This, to me, was like cutting the cord on one of the final (and most significant) ties I had with my childhood home, my parents, and the church I had went to for my entire childhood. I made a comment about how hard it would be for me to cut the cord and do the grown-up thing by registering in a church on my own. The priest kindly reminded me (with a laugh or two) that marriage was an even more grown-up thing for me to do.

This realization was sobering, in a sense, because he was right. Marriage is a BIG THING. In my mind, however, I also think registering in my first church is also a big thing (even if it isn't as BIG as marriage). The thing is, registering myself is one of the first big breaks between me and my church days at home...the days where my entire family filed into one pew together to pray and worship together. This is a big transition from childhood to adulthood because even if I go to St. Pete's again...it won't be as my registered dad's kid. It will be as a visitor that is registered to another church upstate. This is a tough thing for me to embrace.

The road goes ever on...
Marriage, on the other hand, doesn't come across as tough...at least in my book. You see marriage involves having someone else there with me...just as going to church in South Jersey involved having my entire family there with me. Marriage is a continuation of the family I am currently a part of...it will be the creation of another generation within my family. I wasn't alone when I went to mass as a kid...and I won't be alone when I get married. I will, however, have to register for a church on my own...at least while The Fiancé gets his own RCIA class and mass attendance thing figured out. We live an hour and a half away from each other and even though both of us work or go to school in NYC...we are at least a 30 minute subway ride from each other. Our crazy schedules may not allow us to go to mass together every week...or allow me to join him in his RCIA classes. Therefore, we can assume that it may not be possible for him to join me as I register for and settle myself into one particular church.

Perhaps I may take some comfort in accepting the fact that regardless of where I go to mass and who accompanies me to mass...I am still a part of a bigger family of sorts. I am part of a 2000 year-old family created by Christ to bring glory to God from generation to generation. I do find some comfort in this thought...so I guess I AM starting to accept the fact that is is time for me to pull a Corinthians 13:11 and "put away childish things."

In any event, it looks like my wandering church hobo days are coming to an end...


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