This I Believe

Theresa - Jackson Heights, New York
Entered on March 17, 2007

I am a Catholic, but not in the traditional way. On any given day my husband is willing to challenge my belief system. I explain I believe in the Saints with all my heart and find comfort praying to them. I try to make him understand that I literally feel something move inside me when we enter old churches and smell incense burning. He quickly reminds me that I couldn’t possibly be Catholic because I not only support, but have also marched for a woman’s right to an abortion. “How can you believe in Heaven and not Hell?” he asks.

I was baptized Catholic and attended religious instruction in order to receive Holy Communion and Confirmation. Aside from that, I attended church when I wished. Usually around the holidays. I loved getting Palms on Palm Sunday. Religious holidays in my family were observed through food and family dinners. On Christmas Eve we always ate fish, on Easter Sunday lasagna. My family’s Catholicism was far more cultural than religious. I still give up my favorite food for Lent but I don’t feel the need to attend mass on Sunday and receive ashes on Ash Wednesday.

What I’ve come to realize is that my religious faith is eclectic. I believe in the Saints but I also believe in reincarnation. Gospel music makes me feel I must somehow be a Baptist. I’m fascinated by Buddhism and try to live my life following the Eightfold Path. I love the idea of atoning for one’s sins during the Jewish High Holy Days. During these days, I sometimes wish I needed to be home by sunset. Greek Easter is one of my favorite holidays. On several occasions, I’ve waited outside a local Greek Orthodox Church in Astoria, late at night to watch hundreds of people walk through the streets in a candle light procession. I feel choked up as I observe families and friends across generations greet each other, holding their candles and kissing cheeks.

Recently, while sitting in my car on Amsterdam Avenue, I watched a Muslim taxi driver pull over, roll out a mat, take off his shoes, kneel and pray. I wanted to kneel and pray with him. It struck me how much we all need to pray right now.

My husband refers to my religious faith as a “Chinese Menu.” Referring to the old fashioned menus where people selected one from “column A” and one from “column B” and everything was served with soup and ice cream in order to make a complete meal. I don’t see it that way.

In my version of Catholicism, Heaven can exist without Hell. Women have the right to choose but capital punishment is unacceptable. The miracles of the Saints are without question. I can believe and hope for reincarnation, find solace in hearing Baptist Preachers and understand the Eightfold Path will lead to world peace.

I believe that there are probably many more interfaith believers that don’t claim to have all the answers, instead they follow their hearts and have faith in their own spiritual interpretations.