At the end of May, I was four rows back at my church, ready to witness my 8-year-old receive his 1st Holy Communion.
This was after months of preparation, commitment, and of course, sacrifice for all involved in this sacrament. And there was a mixture of excitement and nerves.
As I sat there, waiting for the service to start, there was also an element of apprehension about me. You see, my family are divided when it comes to faith. Not in a massive way – we are still talking to each other and there are no hard feelings – but my side of the family are Irish Roman Catholics. We are all “cradle” Catholics, and are familiar with the ceremonies, the sacraments, the prayers, the responses, and the importance of Communion. My husband’s family are not so so familiar. Most of them (not all) have been baptised by the Church of England. Most only attend church for a wedding, christening, or funeral, and for this reason are not overly familiar with the ways of the Catholic faith. And they were all sat in the church with me, waiting for the Mass to start.
Thoughts were rushing through my head:
“Will they be bored?”
“Will they judge?”
“What will they think when I kneel?”
“Are they going to understand what the Priest is talking about?”
“Will they talk during times when the silence is required?”
And a million other fears and concerns.
My family are amazing people. And even when I read those thoughts back that I have committed to paper, I find it amusing that I am relating them to my family. But I did at that time. Of course, nerves had a huge part to play, but in the end, they were as I would have expected – dutiful, compliant, respectful, and, most of all, supportive of my family and my son, who was going through perhaps one of the biggest days of his childhood.
In fact, at the reception after, many of them told me how much they had enjoyed it. They asked questions about the Mass and made a super fuss of Donovan on his special day. I couldn’t have been prouder of my son, my family, and also my extended family for making the day so special for us.
But it did make me think how different it could have been had my family not been as supportive as they were. What if they caused problems by refusing to come to the church because of conflicting beliefs? What if they had caused a scene and tried to stop it from happening? What if the Priest had to send them out of the church? These may seem like extreme examples, but I have heard of such things happening when it comes to faith.
I see this all the time as well when it comes to the support my clients receive from friends and family about their new eating habits. They will find themselves out to dinner and making a good choice, only to be scuppered by a “well-meaning” friend or family member asking why they can’t “treat” themselves now and to “live a little”. Or the husband who, despite knowing that his wife wants to make the good choices and lose the weight that will make her happier, insists on bringing a Chinese home and convincing her to to have “just a bit”.
I call these situations barriers. And we shouldn’t really have to put up with this from people who are close to us. Yet we do. I did a complete blog post recently to my group about what to say when people try to sabotage your efforts. It was one of my most popular blogs and it was a shame as that struggle IS real.
When it comes to belief, be it religious, moralistic, or health, it is important to be as supportive as you can. We are all different and we all have things we believe in more than most. So if you are tempted to pass comment, go out of your way to make it difficult for something, or just to outright stop them, please think first and remember how it feels to be on the receiving end.