Over the years, I have come to build a relationship with not only God, but also with Catholicism. My mother being as practicing as she was and adamant about learning about Catholicism, I managed to learn a lot have grew close to my religion. However, as a child, I questioned my religion (never my faith) on topics such as homosexuality, the worship of Jesus as a “2nd God”, priests’ unability to marry and the hierarchy of the church. In my late teenage years, I abandonned religion almost entirely, appalled by those discrepencies between the message of God and the interpretation (or misinterpretation) of the people. However, my faith remained strong in God and His message and while I did not share my faith, I would often pray to myself when no one was looking.
My mother’s faith in God has always remained unchanging, infaillible. She prayed the Catholic way and attended Catholic churches. She never missed mass and would join with others to study the Bible or to have prayer nights. For her sake, in my late teens, I would attend mass for Christmas and Easter. It became a symbol of my love for God but almost predominently my love for my mother, and my family: my love of traditions.
Now, here I am, becoming a Muslim in the months to come. My parents are both aware of, accept and support my decision to chose Islam as my faith. To me, chosing Islam was more of a logical next step to my already existing belief in God and Jesus as his prophet. Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) only re-itterated the teachings already instilled in me as part of my Catholic upbringing and clarified some confused ideas corrupted over time by the institution that the Catholic Church has become. However, on explaining to my parents why I chose Islam, my father asked “Can I still buy your Christmas gifts?” I laughed because my father is a self-declared agnostic and doesn’t celebrate Christmas for religious reasons. I told him that of course he could buy me Christmas gift and that I would even return the favour. “It’s not religious as much as it is tradition” I told him.
My mother asked “…but will you be able to come to Christmas mass with me?” I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. Would I feel like I am turning my back on Islam if I attended Roman Catholic Christmas mass? I told her that we would see, what my comfort level would be. I could hardly attend mass in a hijab, but would I be able to part from my Muslim identity to be with my mother and celebrate with her our belief in God? She doesn’t agree with everything happening in the Catholic Church, she worships Jesus as the son of God, not as God Himself, she believes priests should be able to marry and women should be allowed to become priests, she beleives anyone and everyone should have the right to attend Church, regardless of faith, as long as the sanctity of the Church is not compromised. Yet she attends Church every day and worships the Roman Catholic way.
If her belief in God and his prophets and Jesus supercedes the establishment, the organization that has become the Catholic Church, can’t mine? Can’t I pray to God wherever I am, to myself without feeling compromised because I am not surrounded by others who share the same faith? Islam is one path to God amongst so many paths to Him. He knows what is in my heart and He understands that I do not walk away from Him because I walk into a Church, a Synagogue or a Prayer hall… just like my faith does not fail because I walk into a bar, the home of a handsome man or a breakfast joint. Where I am has little to do with my faith. So yes, I might join my mother for Christmas mass, I will exchange gifts with her, my father and my friends. I am not losing my religion, I am finding my faith, my unchanging, infalible faith in God!