Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Teen Is Feeling Lost On The Path Of Religious Teachings

Dear Tazi-Kat:

I don't know what to do or who to turn to for advice with my problem. I am 15-years-old and preparing to make my Confirmation in the spring. My problem is, I am not sure I want to do it. I was raised Catholic, and have always gone to church because my parents drag me there, which is why I have also been going to my Confirmation classes; but the way the teacher talks about how Confirmation is my "decision to become a full-fledged member of the Chruch" makes me balk at the idea of it.

I am not sure I am ready to commit to the idea of one
true religion, when there are so many in the world. I think I would at least like the opportunity to explore some of them before pledging myself to one for life. If I tell my parents that I don't want to be Confirmed, I am afraid they will be very angry; but if I go through with it, I will be angry with myself for not following my heart. Any suggestions on how to handle the whole situation, Tazi?

Confused Catholic

Dear C.C.:

From the tone of your letter, I am predicting you will be the kind of Catholic who stops attending services as soon as you are old enough to move out of your parents house. No parent who values their religious faith wants this for their child, so I suggest you have a frank discussion with your parents about how you are feeling. Will they be angry with you? Most likely not. Will they be terribly disappointed with your decision not to be Confirmed? Most likely yes, because this is something that is important to them. However, that is one of the beautys of the sacrament of Confirmation - according to my sources, it is your choice to make; and if you express doubts about wanting to go through with it, the Bishop of your Diocese will see to it that you are not Confirmed until you feel you are ready - should that day ever come.

If I may make a simple analogy, religions are like perfumes. Some people are given the perfect scent as a gift, and choose to stick with that one scent for all of their lives; while other people discover the perfect perfume all on their own, sometimes finding it on the first try, other times sampling several different scents before finding the right one. Some people start with one scent, but with time their happiness with it fades and eventually they stop wearing the perfume and either find a new one or stop wearing perfume altogether.

There is something else about perfume that also correlates to religion: If you sniff-test more than three perfumes in a row, you will lose your ability to distinguish between them. The same can be said for trying out differnet religions, as many of them are extremely similar, differing only by subtle nuances within their dogmas.

Do you have a spiritual advisor? Someone who you can talk to about your questions and misgivings? This person may be able to help you focus on why you are experiencing the feelings you are going through, and could also introduce you to the basics of different religious beliefs. S/he does not have to be a priest or a religious sister; in fact, Youth Ministers are some of the best sources of guidence to teenagers with questions of faith, because they are specially trained and educated for the vocation of working with teenagers.

In the end, whatever their children decide, most parents are just happy that their children have decided on some kind of faith and belief in a guiding higher power. Just remember that like perfume, faith itself is a gift - one that many would say is far more precious than gold. Like an heirloom, it is passed from generation to generation. Understanding this is the key to understanding your parents viewpoint on the subject, and why your religious education is so important to them. Good luck to you on your spiritual journey. Please write to me again in the spring to let me know what you decide!


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