On my way to church this morning, I realized how my childhood has truly shaped my spiritual life.
I am "cradle Catholic", born into a very large Catholic family, raised in a country where the majority of the people were of the same faith. It would be easy to assume I know no other form of worship.
By the time I was born, my father no longer attended the Catholic church. He was searching, looking for the "something" he felt was missing from our faith. Even though he no longer considered himself to be Catholic, we were enrolled in Catholic school and participated in all the activities and took all the Sacraments of the Church.
Dad kept searching, and with him, we would attend other denominations. I was five when I realized my dad didn't worship like we did. It was my first year in Catholic school. At night and during the weekends, Dorothy would come to our house and talk to my parents about her faith. She was a Jehovah's witness. She looked like a teacher, with her hair on a bun, her skirt and white blouse, and always so well mannered. She told all about her beliefs, and we listened and respected her faith.
Dad didn't find what he was looking for there either. Then came the Mormons, one couple in particular has remained on my mind. One of them was from Guatemala, the other one was American. They knew we were Catholic, and they respected that. They told us about their church, and even taught us hymns, one in particular I can still sing: "Blessings, count your blessings and you will see, how many more blessings you are yet to receive".
There were other denominations: Adventists, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Episcopalian, Lutheran... we probably covered most of the Christian denominations before Dad started to head down the Buddhist path where he is today.
I didn't realize until this morning, how lucky I was to have my childhood. I learned at a very early age about respecting other people's beliefs and ways of worship. I learned that although our services are different, we worship the same God, and we all want the same thing.
After I became an adult, it came time for me to also begin my search. I didn't want to worship like my mother and family did simply because that's what I was taught. I didn't want to follow my dad's path either. I had to find my own way. So my search began.
Mine brought me back to my beginning, it brought me to the faith of my grandmother, great grandmother, and my entire family. It is more than the faith of my ancestors, it is my faith now.
If I hadn't had a father who encouraged me to think outside my comfort zone, I probably wouldn't have been tolerant of others who didn't worship like me. I learn about tolerance and respect simply by allowing others to share their faith with me.
From time to time, someone will say something demeaning about Catholics in front of me without realizing I am "one of those people". Most of the time, my first reaction is to become defensive, but thankfully that passes very quickly. Most of the time, the person making the comment does not know anything about my faith. If only they would ask...
I look at my family now, and see the same opportunity for my kids to learn tolerance and respect towards others. My inlaws are Southern Baptists, my father is a Buddhist, we are Catholic. I hope one day they will realize how blessed they are to be surrounded and be a part of such a diverse family, just as I did this morning on my way to church.