Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Greater Reason

I was pleased my son chose to attend his father's alma mater.  It's a Catholic university.  We're Catholic, and we live in the evangelical Bible-belt South.  My children have been asked questions I never would have thought possible growing up in a Catholic-heavy section of the midwest, such as, "Are Catholics actually Christian?"  (Said with intense skepticism.)  I thought it would be nice for my son to be able to live in a Catholic-majority area (about 85% of the students at the school claim the Catholic faith), and I'm sure it will be.  However, I didn't think much about what it meant for a university to be overtly religious, until we arrived there for the student/parent orientation.

While unapologetically and wholeheartedly Catholic, the university made it very clear at all times that students of all beliefs, all backgrounds, all sexual orientations (yes, they made that specifically clear, despite the Catholic Church's repressive history on the subject) were equally welcome.  But, they said, we are different here.  Because we are a religious institiution, we are trying to teach our students--parents, your sons and daughters--that they are to live lives that have purpose.  We want them to learn that there are greater objectives than making a bunch of money and buying a lot of stuff.  We want them to serve.

I don't think you have to believe in God to have a life of purpose.  I think believing in God makes it easier, but I don't think it's absolutely required.  I have a friend whose son is in the Navy, and she has a sign in her lawn that says Honor and Commitment.  Honor is a concept something like God.  Serving your country certainly puts you outside serving yourself.  However we do it, the more we can step outside ourselves, the more holy and whole we can be.

A friend of mine told me a story about my husband the other day.  My husband is a surgeon, and a very good one.  I know that he doesn't bring up religion or faith unasked with his patients, but I also know that he'll pray with anyone who asks him.  "Kim," my friend said, "my mother went in for surgery, and she was so frightened.  She asked if he'd mind praying with her.  And he got down on his knees.  She felt so much better then.  She quit being afraid."

If my son grows up like his father, I will be very proud.