Our Catholic Upbringing

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen,” my dad said as he began the blessing at Sunday dinner a few weeks ago. After the prayers were finished and the food was passed, my nephew nudged me and whispered, “Why does Grandpa always say ‘Holy Ghost’?” I nodded toward my dad and whispered back, “Ask him.” His answer? “My Catholic upbringing.” My nephew shrugged, seemed satisfied, and returned to his meatloaf.

My Catholic upbringing. An apparently simple answer but one that means something different for my parents, their children, and now their grandchildren when looking at life in the 1940s versus today. My mother’s stories of having to wear a head covering at Mass, even if it was a tissue or a handkerchief, has drawn incredulous looks from my daughters. My neighbor remembers only taking Holy Communion on the tongue, and now – at 85 – he still does. My grandfather, long passed, sang all the hymns in Latin, words that even today, I don’t always understand.

My Catholic upbringing. Different in some ways, but not in the ways of the faith. The older generations learned the same 10 Commandments, received the same sacraments, and recited the same prayers, albeit with slightly altered words as the younger generation does now. Do those different words matter? In some cases, yes, but the meaning behind them? In most cases, no.

My Catholic upbringing. My dad didn’t go into detail about theology or church teaching as he gave his grandson that answer. He didn’t need to. We all understand tradition and how once we learn something a certain way, it becomes habit and a part of who we are. For him, there is a comfort in retaining the words he remembered from his own parents and grandparents. We continue to do what is familiar and what allows us to preserve a connection to our past – be it religious or otherwise. Though my teenage daughters may (sometimes) wear jeans to church on Sunday whereas my mother at their age wore a veil to daily Mass, they all – then and now – steep themselves in the culture and tradition of their own Catholic upbringing. The words we use in prayer may differ slightly, but they have the same sentiment and are still lifted to God who hears them all.

His Catholic upbringing. Next week at Thanksgiving dinner, I wonder if my nephew will surprise us all and say, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” No matter. Even if he’s wearing jeans, he’ll say the prayer and understand its meaning, whichever word he uses, for he learned it from his own Catholic upbringing.

By Emily Clark