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Home / Articles / Columnists / On the Bright Side /  “Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul.” – Walt Whitman
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Friday, November 1,2019

“Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul.” – Walt Whitman

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  
November is my anniversary month. This year my husband and I celebrate 28 years together – wow! Our kids are grown and embarking on lives of their own. As they start to settle down into their own lives, careers and relationships, it has me reflecting on how my husband, a former Catholic, and I, a former Epicopalian, raised our boys without any sort of pedigree (other than their awesome Shutowickness, and a strict code of compassion and understanding toward all others!)

Religion has always felt foreign to me despite being raised Episcopal… by my mother. My parents had completely different views on religion, so from an early age I was exposed to the traditional faith of her family, as well as skepticism from my dad’s. My father to this day has such raw disdain for organized religion, I sometimes wonder why… but he is a critical thinker to the Nth degree and that is just his thing. While mom was dressing me up in my Easter best, Dad dutifully stayed behind to hide the eggs. He wasn’t anti-holiday or traditions, just church. I was always told that when I was old enough, I could make up my own mind regarding church attendance, and my feelings about God and life and death… you know, typical childhood musings. I was baptized as a baby, made my first Holy Communion at age seven, and when I was 15, it was time to be “confirmed.”

I had a lot of questions, and I took the classes very seriously (this will come as no surprise to those who know me well :-) By the third lesson the priest called my house and asked my mom if he could come to the house to meet with me, because my questions were very involved, and causing a bit of a disturbance in the Sunday School. I wasn’t trying to be difficult. It just seemed to me that confirming my faith in front of the whole congregation, complete with Bible passages, incense, and all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with that event, required serious consideration. A one-size-fitsall answer was not enough.

Father Paul was wise beyond his years. He managed to convince me to go through with it without making me feel dishonest. He told me it was really for my mother, and that if I changed my mind when I got older, God would understand. He gave me the out that I could say “maybe” and make my mom happy at the same time. Who knows, maybe he was hedging his bets and thinking I would not change, and eventually climb on board. But I never did. It never felt authentic, and I preferred tending to my spirituality in my own way.

My kids are getting to be “marrying age.” Not that my two millennials are in any hurry to go down the traditional path of marriage any time soon. But as they date people from different backgrounds, it has occurred to me that we raised our kids without “paperwork.” They are not documented in any religious institution, which for some could pose problems. I wonder if my mom was just trying to make me “normal” so life could be easy and I could fit in where I needed to. I’m sure she also felt that going to church and learning to love thy neighbor was not going to be a bad thing, but it’s not like she was devout. Maybe my mom was also wise beyond her years by just getting me “certified” in the event I ever married someone who wanted to be married in a church. I’m not sure if my Episcopal pedigree would have met my husband’s Catholic church standards. Thankfully, we did not worry about it. We were married by a justice of the peace on a rainy November day in Rochester, NY. I don’t regret that my sons don’t have paperwork to make them official in any religious institution, and I’m very proud of who they’ve become. But I have a feeling that if this becomes an issue down the road for my boys, my mom will be winking at me from heaven.

 

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