Faith

My First Communion
My First Communion

I haven’t yet directly discussed my religious faith, but I think it’s about time I did.  After all, if this blog is about my deepest influences, well, this is the deepest.  The thing is, my story isn’t all that exciting.  I don’t have an interesting conversion story.  I was raised Catholic, and I have never wandered away from the Church.  As a teenager, I transferred to a Catholic high school and loved it.  I went to Mass every Sunday when I was away at college.  I even taught the 5th grade Sunday school class during my senior year.  When I was starting my first teaching job and suffering from social anxiety disorder, attending Mass was about the only thing I did that got me out of my apartment and into my new community.

Maybe if I have not questioned my faith deeply or struggled with serious doubts, it means that my faith is shallow or childish, but I don’t think so.  Whenever I stop and ask myself, what if I’m wrong?  what if there is no God?  or what if the Muslims have it right, or the Jews have it right?  then nothing makes sense to me.  The only thing that makes sense of the universe for me is my belief that God loves His creatures so much that His Son chose to become one of us, to show us how to live and to submit humbly to torture and death before rising again so that all of our sins can be forgiven if we ask.  I realize that to a non-believer that must sound crazy, but it’s all about love.  If you’re a parent, you might be able to relate to this.  Wouldn’t you face torture and death in this life in order to have your children with you forever in the next?

Of course, there’s a lot more to practicing a religion than just attending services at a house of worship.  My Catholic faith influences everything I do, or at least it’s supposed to.  I certainly fall short on a daily basis, but I keep trying.  I try to treat every person with love and respect.  I try to help those in need and comfort those who are suffering or grieving.  I try to live with integrity.  I try to honor my calling as a wife and mother.  I try to make time for silent reflection so that I can hear God talking to me.  I try.

I have read about two similar spiritual visions concerning the final judgment of souls at the moment of death.  They were strikingly similar to each other, and they both struck a chord with me.  In each of these separate visions, God asked the soul, “Do you love Me?  Do you want to be with Me?”  That might sound amazingly easy.  Who would choose to go to Hell?  Yet, in each of these visions, someone did.  One was a young, married woman, and the other was actually Stalin.  Both of them had made a habit of turning away from God during this life.  They had conditioned their souls to reject Him.  Whether or not these visions are true, they have taught me how important it is to build the habit of turning to God always.

I practice turning my heart to Him in every little thing, not just when I want something.  A few nights ago, I turned off the light over the kitchen sink just as the stars were coming out, and I turned to Him in praise and wonder at His creation.  When I am rocking Rose at bedtime and she is getting relaxed and sleepy in my arms, I turn to Him in thanks for my precious baby.  I will keep practicing.

 

Star Wars

After some of the more difficult topics I have addressed, I decided to write about something much more fun:  my love of Star Wars.  If you haven’t seen the movies, there are a few spoilers ahead.

I can’t remember a time in my life when Star Wars wasn’t part of my consciousness.  I remember R2D2 and C3PO on Sesame Street.  I remember my Princess Leia Underoos.  I can’t remember the first time I saw A New Hope because it seems as if it’s always been familiar to me.  I do know that I saw the original trilogy out of order.  When I finally saw The Empire Strikes Back, the mystery of how Han Solo ended up frozen in carbonite was answered for me.  I clearly remember the first time I saw Return of the Jedi.  I was eight years old during the summer between second and third grade when my dad took my sister Heather and me to the movie theater to see what is still my favorite Star Wars movie.  I know that Empire is considered the best, but Jedi is Luke’s movie, and as a child I wanted to be Luke Skywalker.  Oh, the cool Luke moments in Jedi:  his confidence in Jabba’s palace, his courage in facing Vader, his faith in his father’s goodness, his moral triumph as he throws down his weapon and stands before the Emperor as a Jedi Knight who cannot be turned to the dark side.

I should also mention my love for Leia, whom I contend is one of the greatest female characters of all time.  We meet her as a very young woman who can stand up to Vader and Tarkin and withstand torture.  She does not betray the Rebels even when her home planet is threatened.  By Jedi she is a woman whose strength and confidence are not diminished by the famous “gold bikini” slave girl outfit.  She is wearing that outfit when she wraps her chains around Jabba’s neck and strangles him.  I also appreciate the fact that she can fall in love and show a human heart.  She is not a hard person.

I spent my childhood playing Star Wars.  I always played the part of either Princess Leia or Luke Skywalker, but I never had any of the toys.  I don’t know for sure why that is, but it’s possible that Heather and I overwhelmed our parents with our long lists of action figures, ships, and playsets at Christmastime, and they just didn’t know where to start.  Oh, how I longed for a Millenium Falcon.  When Heather and I got to be teenagers with our own spending money, we started buying each other Star Wars toys and collectibles for birthday and Christmas gifts.  I had quite a collection, but now I have winnowed it down to just a few of my favorites after being inspired to declutter my home.

As for the other movies in the saga, I don’t wish to discuss the prequels, and I have too much that I want to say about The Force Awakens.  I’ll just mention that I love the new characters of Finn, Poe, and Rey.

In this blog, I am supposed to focus on how my topic has influenced me.  Well, Star Wars helped bring me together with my husband.  Dan and I met at work.  When I started a new job, Dan was assigned to be my mentor, and our classrooms were directly across that hall from each other.  I already had seven years of experience teaching high school English, so I didn’t need a lot of mentoring, but I did need a friend.  Dan and I are just about the same age, and we had both grown up on Star Wars.  The first time we got together socially outside of school he came over to my house to play Star Wars Trivial Pursuit.  (I won!)  We didn’t go on an official date until four months after that, but it was only a year and a half later that we were married.  To have a little fun at our wedding reception and to recognize the role Star Wars played in bringing us together we made our entrance to the Star Wars “Main Theme”, and we had Star Wars figures on our cake, Leia and Han on the top as the bride and groom, and some of their friends and family to represent our wedding party.

Photo by Jeff Bach
Photo by Jeff Bach

We are passing on our love of Star Wars to our children.  They’re a little scared of Darth Vader, so they’ve watched only select scenes from the movies, but they have Dan’s old toys to play with (Santa brought him lots of Star Wars figures!) and they have lightsabers made out of pool noodles thanks to their Aunt Heather.  I hope that Star Wars will help to teach them lessons about how to be brave, how to listen to their intuition, how to stand up for right, and how to see the good in almost anyone.