Over the weekend, our newspaper gave the story of an 11 year old boy as a vignette on modern parenting. His mother was Jewish by birth, she had married a “Christian-in-name-only”, in effect both parents were agnostic/atheist in their beliefs. His maternal grandparents were also non-practicing Jews. I found the story quite sad. The boy wanted to become more Jewish, he felt a connection with his past that had not been given him by his relatives. He wanted to wear a kippah and he wanted to have his bah mitzvah. Then all the problems started. Firstly they had to find him a synagogue liberal enough to allow him to go through instruction for his bah mitzvah even though he was uncircumcised. Then they found out that really his Mum should help him with his instruction. She really struggled with this as she couldn’t believe in any of it. Eventually, the strain of not having his mother’s support and having to go alone for instruction surrounded by boys whose families supported their sons proved too much and he gave up his idea of being Jewish. He gave the resigned and gentlemanly sigh “Oh well, may be I can give it all a go when I’m older”.
I was deeply touched by the boy’s story mainly because it had parallels with my own life. My parents had no interest in their Catholic faith (in fact we had quite a bit of anti-Catholic invective off them) and my grandparents were all hundreds of miles away and not seen often enough to make a difference to my upbringing. So when I decided I wanted to look deeper into my faith and become more Catholic, my request was greeted with astonishment. I couldn’t possibly go to the local Church, no reasons given, but I think it was because Mum didn’t want the locals knowing she was a Left-footer. So I was sent to see a priest from some parishes away. I found the whole experience bewildering and I really didn’t like having to fit my instruction around times that were both convenient to my parents and the priest. There was no sense of belonging to a church, let alone the Church. It was like going to see a tutor for extra maths lessons, devoid of context and eventually the whole experiment floundered.
It would be another 13 years before I fully embraced my faith. In the intervening years I’d do a lot of bad stuff and feel totally bewildered and empty. Experimenting sexually because intellectually it seemed a logical thing to do. The heart was somewhere else and I was only aware of a complete emptiness in everything I was doing.
I hope that young boy doesn’t have the rocky road to finding his faith that I had.
My parents were unable to pass on their liberalism to me. Liberalism to me just seems a way of avoiding the truth. Maybe they were hurt by the Church or by a particular priest, it is very hard to get to the bottom of why they turned away. In fact I genuinely hurt now at their lack of faith and how they managed to turn away from such a priceless gift. If they do ever come back to the faith, they will hurt so much at what they ridiculed in front of their children. It is parents that are supposed to hurt at the waywardness of their children, it has been the other way round for me. Not that it will it stop me hiding a green scapular in their house next time I’m up North.