I was thinking in the shower this morning — as I often find this the best place to reflect — about the fascinating process that will have millions on the edge of their seats over the next who knows how long?
As the world awaits which colour of smoke may emerge from the conclave room of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican (set to begin tomorrow), arguably soon-to-become the most famous chimney in the world, 115 cardinals will gather to elect a new Pope for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
It brings up the question of faith, children and parenting. A most intriguing topic, indeed.
My husband and I happen to be Catholic, and we are trying to raise our three children in their faith. It has not always been easy. We lived, for many years, in a city with some of the most stunning churches in the world — churches which are being closed with alarming speed, where mass was attended by a handful of people, where priests struggled to keep the faith about their faith in the face of declining interest and ‘enrollment’ — the product of both history and shifting perspectives.
We now attend church in a different city. The parish is most vibrant and engaged and our family tries to be involved in different ways in the church community.
Whether you are devoutly religious, a person seeking or questioning their faith, an atheist or someone in between, I think parents, regardless of religious background, should expose their children to the idea of faith, the concept of a higher being, something more important than ourselves. Exposure is everything. It may be positive and meaningful, or it may be negative but at the very least it will likely be thought-provoking, as it should for a child.
It is also something intensely personal that should not be influenced by someone else. How can anyone else know how I feel about my faith. The same should apply to parents and their children.
I have, many times over the years, questioned my faith. The most famous example being a childhood memory that I remember vividly. I remember asking my parents, ‘why are people so holy for one hour during mass on Sunday mornings, and then lose patience and almost try to run each other over in the parking lot, as soon as they exit mass’? Talk about a tricky one for any parent to answer without sweating first 🙂
What I realized is that worrying about what everyone is doing is really not important. We are ultimately responsible for our own behaviour. Church parking lot impatience included.
Over time, I have had the privilege of meeting people from many different faiths, families with dual faiths who have chosen to raise their children in both religions. I always come away thinking — what a richly rewarding experience for these families and children. They are being given such a precious gift of exposure, of opening their mind to something bigger than themselves. Of course it is not always easy, but neither should it be dismissed as too daunting, not worth the effort or something children won’t miss (cause they never knew about it).
If you want to talk daunting, think about the task the cardinals have before them.
Who knows, the eyes of the world may open the minds of many parents who seek clarity when it comes to faith in their families and for their children.