Growing Up in an Interfaith Home

Describe a personal experience.

Although I do not affiliate myself with any particular religion, I have been a Buddhist nun at temples and an altar server at Christian churches. I can chant the meditations of Buddha in Thai and Sanskrit and recite Catholic prayers in English and French. My exposure to both religions has helped me to become comfortable in discussing and teaching others about them. Growing up in a Buddhist household, my family would never fail to listen intently as I explained the commandments, life of Jesus, and so on. Likewise, my classmates often found topics such as the life of Buddha and the different commandments between monks and lay people fascinating. My mother was intent on providing me with religious education and ensured that I received some sort of it outside of the home, no matter which religion it was.When I first entered kindergarten at the Roman Catholic parish of Saint Nicholas of Tolentine, I was too shy to tell anyone that I was not Catholic. Instead, a friend and I fabricated some information about myself so that I could fit in: I was baptized at Saint Matthew’s Church on the same exact day that my brother, who is coincidentally also named Matthew, was born. My patron saint was Saint Rita, as it sounded similar to my nickname, Nita, and my godparents were written down in sloppy handwriting as “daddy’s boss” and “his wife.” Surprisingly, this information went unquestioned.All twelve years of my schooling have included Catholic religion classes as well as preparation and celebration of the sacraments. However, because I was not baptized, I was not permitted to celebrate the sacraments that my classmates did. During Reconciliation, I reminded my classmates of what to say and jeered at them as they did their penance, only because I did not have to do it. As one of the best lectors in my class, I read scripture at Mass yet was unable to receive Communion. In a sense, I was able to help with but never fully participate in the Catholic community. As my classmates celebrated Eucharist for the first time, they all told me how cool it was to finally eat what they called “that disgusting piece of cardboard.” Feelings of curiosity arose in me – I wanted to eat the cardboard too!Finally, in my junior year of high school, curiosity got the best of me. After more than five years of staying seated and watching my peers receive Communion, I decided to go up and receive it myself. Slowly making my way down the line, I noticed some students smiling at me. I completely forgot – almost the entire school knew that I was not baptized. As I approached the Eucharistic minister, I searched my brain for all of the information that I had gained from previous religion classes. With my right hand cupped over my left, I took the communion and said, “Amen.” To my surprise, I remembered everything – except that the bread had to be eaten! As I stood in the middle of the ceremony holding the body of Christ, I realized my mistake and hurriedly shoved it into my mouth. The stories were true; it really does taste like cardboard! Despite this grand accomplishment, I couldn’t help but recoil at its dry aftertaste.Many of my teachers did not approve of what I did and lectured me afterwards, although I was able to explain to everyone why I decided to receive Communion without Baptism. Growing up surrounded in two completely different religions has helped me to see that a community is essential to any religion and, because both religions considered me to be a part of their community in some way, I did not want to be left out of either one. Although the vast amount of influence that I receive from both sources may sometimes conflict, it has helped me greatly in shaping my own beliefs and morals, as well as to critically evaluate everything I am told. Although some frown upon my participation in both religions, both are integral to my upbringing and definition of who I am; without either one, I would not be fully who I am today.  

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