I was raised in a Roman Catholic family in Upstate NY the oldest of seven children. Even at an early age the Catholic rituals were all very confusing to me. For the first 10 years of my life all the masses were in Latin, which I didn’t understand at all. Our parish priest emigrated from Ireland and his sermons were all fire and brimstone warning us of the gates of hell that awaited us all if we didn’t follow the straight and narrow. I was molded with a pretty high level of Irish guilt that if you didn’t do certain things you would pay for it dearly.
I was taught Catechism by Nuns who never hesitated to pull out a yardstick to crack you across the knuckles for not falling in line. In elementary school on Wednesday afternoons all the Catholic kids would walk off the campus to the Grange hall next door for our weekly lessons with the Nuns. The rest of the school would go on recess while we were away. It was such a large Catholic community that there were only about 25% of the kids left behind. Can you imagine that happening today?
Some of the rituals I complied with without never totally embraced were no meat on Fridays, weekly confession in a booth to repent for all you sins over the past week (you had to be creative to come up with fresh new sins each week) and saying the full rosary every night before going to bed. I can say a Hail Mary faster than anyone on the planet. On Sunday there were masses every hour on the hour from 7:00 to 12:00 and there was never time for any social connections as you had to head for the parking lot to make room for the next mass.
My Mom’s Mom who was Catholic wanted to marry a Methodist from Illinois in the 1920’s but my church wouldn’t allow them to be married in the church and had to be married in the rectory next door. My Grandma also had to promise that she would raise the children Catholic. I loved my Grandpa dearly and to this day, I can’t totally wrap my head around why they were so “my way or the highway” with him.
All those experiences as a youth created significant cognitive dissonance for me and reading Sigmund Freud’s book The Future of an Illusion in college just added to the questioning about my spiritual foundation. I found myself staying away from church as I couldn’t come to grips with its relativity to my development.
Fortunately, as we began to have children we felt it was important to expose them to the spiritual side of their development. Andrea was raised in a Lutheran church, so we joined a Lutheran church and for 10 years in NY we were exposed to a whole new way of viewing Christianity. I my professional career I taught leadership and found a wonderful book called The Servant Leader which at its foundation is about modeling your leadership practices around the greatest leader ever, Jesus Christ. I really connected with Jesus as a role model and found myself often saying What Would Jesus Do (WWJD in my leadership practice).
When we moved to Richmond in 2002, we began to look around for a new church to join. We visited numerous churches in the Midlothian area and that’s how we found St. Matthias. Our experience at St. Matthias was the most welcoming, we loved the contemporary music service and the sermons really resonated for us. Sixteen years later, we are so grateful to have found this wonderful church family at St. Matthias. We are active in many areas using our time and talents to help St. Matthias fulfill its mission. In hindsight, I can now look back at my early formative years as helping guide me ultimately to our St. Matthias family.