A few weeks ago, on my wedding day, my mother pulled me aside and gave me her blessing, making the sign of the cross over my bowed head. It meant a lot to me – not because I’m religious, but because I haven’t considered myself a Catholic for over a decade. My mother was very disappointed that my partner and I didn’t want a religious Catholic ceremony and her blessing was a way of communicating her acceptance and, in some sense, support of my decision.
Growing up, religion was an organizing principle in my family. My parents, who had emigrated from Mexico, would take me and my three siblings to church every Sunday. It was a special time for our family and something I looked forward to every weekend. We got excited to dress up, we were each given $1 for alms, and then we went to lunch afterwards. Throughout the year we celebrated the major Catholic holidays. During Lent, we abstained from meat on Fridays. During the Christmas holidays, we spent more time setting up the manger and discussing where to hide the Baby Jesus until Christmas day than decorating the tree. As a kid, this is what I thought it meant to be Catholic, to have faith. (What happens next?)