A bit of a personal post for me, but one that I finally feel able to share. Religion is something that a lot of people find difficult to talk about as there tends to be a stigma attached and a misunderstanding about what having faith entails. I know this because I also misunderstood. Growing up, the church was never a big part of our lives. The odd wedding was the only time we ever really entered a church, and some sundays with our great-grandmother. I remember a few sunday school classes too, but other than learning a bit about leprosy, I don’t remember much. Then at the age of 18 I moved in with my now husband. I soon fell pregnant with our first child and was introduced to his family. Mr balancing act is what’s known as a cradle Catholic. He was born into a Catholic family, as were the majority of his family. Church played a much larger part in their lives, with weekly mass, Easter vigils, Holy days of obligation and of course Advent and Christmas.
I had a choice to make as to how I wanted our child to be raised, and as I did believe in God in my own way, I figured at the time that it would be better to raise my child and any future children with faith rather than not. So at the end of my pregnancy, we started to attend Mass every week with Mr balancing act’s parents and sister.
Our attendance at mass has been on and off since our older children started primary school, but when we found out that we were expecting Penny, we started to attend our local church each Sunday. I used to think that I was simply going through the motions, and simply doing what was right for our children, however I found myself listening more attentively and feeling at home there. During some pretty horrific times that followed I found myself praying more. Mostly at home on my own, but I was looking to God for answers. At times it felt like there was no way that he was listening. How could he be, and still allow my family to go through so much heartbreak? But then I had to believe that he was real. That there is a heaven where our loved ones are safe, protected and waiting for us. The two aren’t interchangeable, and it took me a while to realise that. Although I had always believed that there was a God, and that he listened, I had always assumed it was a one way conversation. In the past, I’d prayed and had my prayers answered, but this past year it seemed that no matter how hard I prayed, and even begged, I was ignored. And then, during a time when I was at my most open to him. When every part of me needed him to answer me, I believe that he did. This is the story of how that happened.
I was sat outside of the intensive care unit in an unfamiliar hospital. My baby sister (She was 28, but will always be my baby sister) was fighting for her life. Machines were keeping her alive and the doctors were giving us no real hope to cling on to. Each day, we hoped that they would offer a glimmer of light and reassurance, but that never came. So I was sat in the corridor alone silently, and suddenly I felt like everything was going to be ok. It seemed to come from no-where, and seemed to be unwarranted. I of course ignored it and opted to wait for the doctors to do their thing and went home. That night I came down with a horrible cold, so was unable to visit again. I was filled with dread that I might not be able to ever say goodbye to my sister if it came to it. My mum called and told me that the doctors were very concerned about some test results, and afterwards I cried so much that I could hardly breathe. I remember telling my husband how bad things were and how scared I was, especially as he was at work, so I was alone at home. Sat in the dark, with no-one else to talk to other than God, I pleaded that he would spare my little sister. He had taken so much from her already, so I begged for him not to take her from us too. Again, I had the same peaceful feeling. I can only explain it as a warm, reassuring feeling. A lot like when my husband hugs me and I feel like I’m in the safest place in the whole world. Two days later, against all odds, my sister woke up. She was able to breathe on her own and everything turned around.
As her health improved, I realised how much I had neglected my faith over the years. I had been living the life of a Catholic, but wasn’t actually a Catholic at all. This caused me to feel detached from that aspect of my children and husbands lives and for the first time, it bothered me. Last month I started attending a class at our church in preparation to join the church. I was pretty nervous at first, but I really needn’t have been. Every week we discuss a different aspect of the bible in easy to cope with chunks as well as looking at other aspects of the Catholic beliefs. I am looking forward to continuing with the course and to updating you later on in the course with how things are going.