"I hope our faith isn't just a bunch of bologna," said my nine year old daughter.
Heavy thoughts for a fifty-two pounder.
What do I say to that? I had the same concerns and doubts at her age. My conclusion was formed incrementally over the next forty years, after trying on different religions, after struggling against my suspicions, praying then refusing to pray, after reading and re-reading the Bible, quizzing priests and pastors, asking questions until my lips turned blue.
My conclusion? That Catholicism and the Bible are, for me, bologna. All deities are the adult version of Santa, a kind higher power, a force for good. Something pseudo-sacred.
This was never what I wanted. I fought so hard to hold on to faith, but the truth beat me down.
As I type there's a prickly heat in my belly, an angry fire tinged with anxiety. It's the result of stuffing sadness and grief for the past several years. I'm grieving the loss of God, only rather than acknowledge my sadness and grief, I've squeezed them into a tight fist of anger, a fitful response to the loss of psychic comfort.
I never wanted to be the one to take that comfort away from my children. My plan was to show them the Catholic bag of tricks, then let them find out for themselves that it was all bogus. At least that way they'd have a comfortable childhood, a safe passage toward adulthood.
But my nine year old is too smart. She smells that funny odor of falsehood, the not-quite-right stench of a lie -- well-intended or not. It's her intuition nudging her common sense, and she's too self-aware to ignore it.
There's another emotion at work here: fear. I'm flying solo as a parent when it comes to losing my religion. My husband is 100% Catholic, EWTN solid, Bible study strict, a proponent of transubstantiation, the saints and sacraments. So you see, I'm in a precarious place, a situation I must ultimately confront.
Love is definitely putting others' needs before your own. Which is why I've signed up to assistant-teach catechism to my youngest son who has special needs. He wants to receive the Eucharist. He needs my help to make it through the education process. I will do whatever it takes to help him achieve this goal. I will encourage what brings him peace of mind, encourage prayer and belief in all Catholicism has to offer. And I will continue to attend mass every Sunday with my family, genuflecting, kneeling, reciting prayers, bowing my head when the Nicene Creed refers to Mary's virginity.
Because it's my duty to make my children feel safe, even if it means promoting an impossible world in which humans beat death and miracles happen, biting my tongue as my child begins to see the less appealing truth. Until my daughter is ready to embrace what she already knows, I can only hold her, tell her how much I love her.
Despite everything, I still tear up when I hear Amazing Grace.