Catechism classes were part of the Catholic education I received. But regardless of how much we know about religion, isn't it the same truth that we all come to sooner or later? That suffering brings us to our knees and back to those questions once again? And isn't it only through our actions that true faith is enacted, because we believe?
My wake-up call and my questions were no different from my mother's. Near the end of her life, she asked God if she was doing something wrong that she wasn't aware of, when she saw others around her being served and put upon a pedestal. Why was this the case, she wondered, even though she had always lived a life of servitude to everyone, putting all their needs before her own? I have often asked myself the same question, wondering at times if I understand God's purpose. I'm sure those seeds of questioning came from my mother's early dependence on her Catechism lessons. Those lessons touch us to our core, to remind us and help move us forward. I often wonder why our lives push us away from the churches, synagogues, and mosques where most of us have our roots. How else can we expect to educate children whose parents aren't able to guide them?
Our personal crises leave their mark in the exact proportion that our separation from God makes us question our faith. What brings consolation is the prayer that recognizes human failings and the understanding that only forgiveness can open our eyes to our only real security, which is God's love and understanding, and the assurance that it will ignite in us.
As I read many of the popular inspirational and self-help books, I feel that we sometimes forget that scripture has previously led many of us to the same conclusions outlined in these books. This makes me wonder why we don't have a better understanding of the importance of our first knowledge of and belief in God. Could it be that there are too many of us who were taught religion but didn't actually understand the meaning of our dependence on God? Is it because we depend too much on our own understanding, or are only familiar with the pain of carrying our own cross? Or could it be that we had no formal religion, but rather parents or guardians who showed us examples of secure love and dependence on God, while others of us unfortunately weren't shown any love or given religious guidance at all. Whatever our experience, most of us find that the truths in scripture hold the same meaning as is found in most of the inspirational and self-help books we read today.
If we, as adults, have not realized our dependence on God until now, it's not too late. We can begin to understand the scripture's meaning no matter our age. It seems as though we are all suffering children, even as adults, believing that we missed out on what we needed, whether it was love or the security of knowing we could depend on others in our earliest years. When we grow up, we sometimes continue looking for the love we lacked as children to fill our emptiness, and seek it everywhere but from God. We wouldn't expect a child in the first grade to understand sixth-grade math. So why do we expect ourselves as adults to understand a complete dependence on God without some earlier teaching that the love that lives inside us can't be found anywhere else?
Regardless of whether we are taught about God's love through religious education or through our upbringing, we will end up asking the same questions later on in life, especially when we find that we can't go on with things as they are. Even as we educate ourselves with the hope of a most promising life, our faith in the word of God is the best way to help us find the love that lives inside us.
Our faith will bring light to every dark corner of our journey for all of our lives. From those who have inspired us by explaining our complete dependence on God, we learn that it is not just a theory, but a real dependence. These words bring the scriptures to life so we can understand and use them, and they come to us in the inspirational and self-help books that lead us back to God's word.
We all need such inspiration to grow. Our human limitations and fears separate us and keep us from fully opening our hearts and they prevent us from placing greater value on the mystery of sacred wisdom in religion and spirituality. Whether our truth is found on a path that makes us Christian, Pagan, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Taoist, or Hindu, we are, in truth, the same underneath it all. We are no different from one another, no matter what we are called. Through the ego's perception, we might be tempted to judge one religion as superior to another, but this only closes us off and separates us from the heart of God and the spirit in each of us that ties us all together.
Sometimes we consider those weak who walk in the way of God, serving others and humbling themselves. Yet their acts of kindness and compassion show love and consideration for others, regardless of how they are perceived. We may not always agree on the method, but through the hope of finding the greater good by valuing others with our soul's deepest longing for understanding, we may begin to find the threads of our own truth.
All the saints and all the greatest leaders speak about their own versions of The Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." We see the same fundamentals in every religion, and it's probably best to ignore the differences. Yet it's hard to ignore how a solid religious foundation helps answer our souls' calling us back to God, which eventually shows us that all roads lead us home to the one truth. We would be remiss not to give credit to the religion that nurtured us, served us, supported us, guided us, loved us, and gave us back our lives as God promised, along with a brighter future.
About Catherine Nagle: Catherine grew up in Philadelphia with 16 brothers and sisters, reared by loving, old school Italian parents. Catherine's artist father's
works graced locations from churches to public buildings; her mother was a full-time homemaker. A professional hairdresser, Catherine worked in various salons while studying the Bible and pursuing spiritual growth through courses, seminars, lectures and inspirational books, including A Course in Miracles and the works of Marianne Williamson among many others. The mother of two children and a grandmother, Catherine lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and son. She is the Author of Imprinted Wisdom.