The Resurrection of Jesus
Fruit of the Mystery: Faith
What Kind of Catholic Am I, Anyway?
by Sarah Bradley
My six year-old son is a champion evangelizer—he wears his Catholic faith boldly and proudly on his sleeve. (Case in point: the conversation about angels he roped his pediatrician into when the doctor innocently asked him what he wanted to dress up as for Halloween.)
At his young age, it never crosses his mind that other people might not love Jesus and Mary, or want to talk about the saints and angels, or even believe what the Church teaches us about all its holy men and women.
It’s a little bit embarrassing, honestly, though not because I wish he would talk about his faith less: because I know I should be talking about my faith more.
If my son can run around in a St. Michael t-shirt reminding each one of his grandparents to say “Oh my gosh” instead of taking the Lord’s name in vain, what on earth am I doing feeling embarrassed about wearing a crucifix, or telling someone I use NFP, or talking to my closest friends about my connection to Mother Mary?
If my son can be beautifully, confidently, outwardly Catholic, why can’t I?
When I first started homeschooling my kids, I had no idea how little I knew. Not about homeschooling, but about…well, everything else. Antarctica is technically a frozen desert? They speak Portuguese in Brazil? Four presidents have been assassinated in the course of American history?
And math? Don’t even get me started. (To be fair, I was well aware of how little I knew about math.)
Catechism, though, I figured I had covered. I was a lapsed cradle Catholic who converted to fully practicing “let’s talk about Jesus” Catholic before my marriage to my husband, so I was pretty confident I could handle teaching my kids about the faith. I didn’t have much of a Catholic foundation from childhood, but I had built one up as an adult—that had to be just as good.
If only all of us could talk about Jesus with the pure and simple devotion of a childSarah Bradley
Then the questions started rolling in.
“Why was Jesus born?”
“How is Jesus also God?”
“Why did Jesus have to die?”
“Why does God let bad things happen?”
“Why can’t the Devil ever turn good again?”
To say I wasn’t expecting to have my intellect and faith challenged on a daily basis when my kids became old enough to ask these kinds of questions would be an understatement. (Parenting is nothing if not a constant exercise in mortification.)
But more notable than the shame I felt over not having all the answers was a growing sense of panic. How would I teach my kids about our faith—and encourage them to be lifelong Catholics—if there were so many things I didn’t know? What kind of Catholic was I, anyway? How was I supposed to pass down knowledge and traditions that I didn’t even have myself?
It took me a while to get there, but the answer, it turned out, was simple: we could do it together.
I spent a lot of my life, as a child and as an adult, just sort of skimming over the faith, like a stone skipping on the surface of a pond; the substance was there, but I wasn’t really engaging with it. Now that I had kids, I desperately wanted something more for them…and for myself.
The only way I found we could achieve that was to dive in—together.
When my kids ask me questions I don’t know the answers to, we look them up—together.
When we want to celebrate a saint’s feast day but don’t know how, we think of ideas—together.
When we are hurt or sad, grateful or anxious, worried about the future or missing a prized possession, we sit down and say a prayer—together.
We are stumbling much of the time, for sure. I can see now that most of my embarrassment about being boldly Catholic isn’t shame over my beliefs but simple insecurity: I don’t know as much as I want to.
That’s okay. From now on, when my six year-old starts talking to people about his faith, I won’t silently worry about what the other person is thinking of us. Instead, I will listen deeply to what he says, marvel at his joy, and make a promise to myself to emulate it. If only all of us could talk about Jesus with the pure and simple devotion of a child; what an act of love that would be for Him.
As a Catholic, a mother, and a homeschooler, I’m supposed to be educating my kids about Catholicism (and I am!). Still, there are some things only my kids can teach me about the mysteries of our faith, the miracle of our Lord and Savior, and the tremendous amount of love to be found within our Church.
If I didn’t have my kids, what kind of Catholic would I be, anyway?
About Sarah: All Sarah Bradley wanted to be when she grew up was a wife, mom, and writer—now somehow she gets to do all three. (No, she can’t believe it either.) Her freelance essays on health and parenting have appeared in The Washington Post, Parents, and O the Oprah Magazine, but most days you can find her happily homeschooling her three boys, buying too many houseplants, and baking something with chocolate in it. For snapshots of her messy but grace-filled Catholic family life, follow her on Instagram at @thisisourship.