Generally when someone asks me what faith I follow I poke my chest out and say proudly that I'm a devout Catholic. In my mid-thirties my faith took a very interesting turn. Being raised in the Holiness Church I still had questions even at the ripe old age of 34. I had more questions than I had faith or answers. Before my conversion I would say I was more spiritual than religious, but ever the thinker and as curious as I am, I set out to find the strengths and weaknesses in people's faith traditions. After thirty something years at my home church I needed to find out why I never really felt at ease.
The first thing I figured out on my journey is that in the black church there seems to be a lot of damnation. You know if you dont act and think like us, Hell here you come. As a child that made me afraid of everything. It made God into a scary monster looking to find anything and everything wrong with me. Fear of punishment wasn't working for me and I figured it wasn't working for a lot of members of my church, but they were probably just too afraid to disagree. So armed with all my childhood fears, thirty something years of hard earned wisdom, and a first rate education I set out to find where I could be most comfortable practicing my faith. Having admittedly never read The Bible that's where I started. (great read by the way) After diving in I realized it wasn't as scary as I thought. It started to dawn on me that most of my fear was because of my mother.
The next question I had was, what did I expect from the church? I came to the conclusion that I needed that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from being a child of God. I needed a sense of hope and to be uplifted. My father wasn't big on going to church, but being Cuban, Catholicism played a huge part of his day to day life. He never pressed the issue of his faith on others. He always said God was in your heart and he goes with you through your days. I remember the few times I went to church with my father. During those long hot summers I was allowed to be more of a man. I was given responsibilities like cooking my own pancakes for breakfast. Outside the watchful eye of my mother I was allowed to pray in a different way. It almost felt like cheating on my home church. When I was a child seeing all those statues and crosses I was In awe. Everything seemed so huge from a child's perspective and there were plenty of hugs and love to go around. Another thing I noticed is that it was a very short service. I always thought it took a lot longer before God heard your prayers.
I visited a few Baptist churches and a non-denominational church. After some trial and error I started remembering those experiences at mass with my dad. I attended a mass in my neighborhood and I was greeted at the door with open arms. No one knew me there, but everyone greeted me with a "good morning brother" or at least a wave. I sat down and exhaled. I felt like I had arrived where I belonged. Two years after that day my conversion was complete. I took my first communion and became an official member of the Catholic church. I'm sure the politics of the church turn some people off and God knows all the scandals do as well, but as my father said God is in your heart and he is where you are. Going to church was never about the positions on issues or what the church hierarchy does or doesn't do. its about going to a place that renews your connection to that greater power in all of us that defies understanding.
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