At Leila's request, I figured I'd do a post about my faith story (how I came to be living my faith so strongly, er, TRYING to live my faith so strongly), since I have nothing else of interest to post.
Though, this may be rather boring since it doesn't really involve any amazing conversion, change of heart, "coming back home," or anything like that.
I am a cradle Catholic, and I credit my upbringing not only to my mother but first and foremost to my grandmother. My grandmother was 1 of 5 children born to Italian immigrants. All were raised Catholic, attending Mass regularly, but the Catholicism was very much a part of their CULTURAL upbringing, so it was really up to the children to find the truth in what was being given to them. Of all the children, my grandmother wound up being the only devout, practicing Catholic in her later adulthood. She then raised 4 children, my mother being the oldest, and my mother is also the most devout of her siblings.
So then my mother goes on to have 4 children (yes, did I mention how fertile the women on my maternal side are??) and I just remember always being involved in my faith-life, from the time I was little. I was picked to crown Mary in the May crowning ceremony in 2nd grade, I sang with the church choir (youth and young adult) all the way through college and beyond, I fell in love with the Saints in junior high school, reading about them all the time, and I even defended our faith to friends who were doubtful in high school.
I did attend a public school from Kindergarten through 12th grade, so the way I learned my faith was primarily through "the basics" my mother taught me, along with many of the cultural aspects of the faith (Italian-Catholic) passed down from my great-grandparents, and then CCD classes - which we all know are often not up to par. Many of the "whys" were not always very clear to me aside from the fact that I knew them to be true, but then again, my life was not very complicated in high school and I didn't ever really need an answer to the "whys." I knew, intrinsically, what was right and what was wrong, and when in doubt I could always hear my mother's voice in the back of my head ;)
A funny part of this story is that the Italian culture mixed with the Catholic culture could get confusing for me as a kid. One prime example is how my mother would always say, "Oh, what a sin," whenever I didn't finish my dinner. (Ever hear of Catholic guilt? When it's Italian-Catholic guilt, it's multiplied.) I thought my not finishing my meal was literally a sin for YEARS. Until I got to college. I took my first Italian course in my 2nd semester, and learned some common Italian phrases, including, "Che peccato," which literally translates to "What a sin!" Italians use this phrase when it's raining, and it actually means "What a shame!" My great-grandparents would often translate things literally when they learned English, and therefore through the generations, the same phrases stuck.
Once I got to college, I was suddenly "on my own" in more ways than one. It was now up to me to get myself to Mass each Sunday, and keep up my faith. I will be honest and say I didn't always go to Mass on Sundays, but most Sundays I did. (And not that this makes it any better, but my reason for missing on certain Sundays was not because I fell away from the Church for a short period of time, but because I was usually very hungover on Sunday mornings.)
But in college is when some of those "whys" and their answers could have served me well, because suddenly life was getting more complicated- with boyfriends, career choices, etc.
It was probably right around the end of college when my faith journey took off in a new direction- it wasn't that I was more faithful or more religious, but I started to understand how important it was to who I was as a person, and who I wanted to be. I met with my college advisor (my Italian professor) in my senior year, and had a long discussion about potential jobs/careers. I was very firm on not wanting to work for a company, corporation, agency, etc. that in some way endorsed or supported something immoral. (That left a lot of options, right?) So, I wound up going into teaching. (I had emailed Priests for Life with my resume as a junior, but decided I didn't want to move to Staten Island. Now I kinda wish I had, just for a little while- I would have loved working there!)
So I taught at a school for autistic children for a year, and then moved to New Jersey, where I nannied my now niece while becoming a certified Elementary teacher here. It was during that time when the roughest, toughest years of my life would begin, and I would be tested in more ways than one.
My faith journey only became stronger, as I completed my first Consecration to Mary on August 15th, 2005, 1 year to the day of a HUGE turning point in my relationship with DH (my boyfriend at the time). I then began working at a Catholic School, got engaged, attended Pre-Cana classes, and learned the Creighton Model, which would wind up being one of the single most important parts of my adult life.
So, my faith story is pretty boring, but when I reflect on it, it really is a journey that grows and continues to grow through the years, but at its root are some crucial fundamentals for which I am so very grateful. Without those strong roots, I could easily have slipped off the track.