Clare Bekkers

Faith after flying the coop

By  Clare Bekkers, Youth Speak News
  • September 5, 2014

When I was eight, one of my friends made a statement that baffled me: she didn’t know any of her cousins. Growing up, I had this precon-ceived notion that everyone had a large family, and every Sunday my peers, like me, would go to church, walk down to their grand-parents’ house afterwards for brunch and play with their cousins long into the afternoon.

My family is a tremendous part of my life. They were there when I was baptized. They were there when I received my First Holy Communion. They were there at my Confirmation, birthday parties, Christmas time, Easter and every Sunday Mass. My family was the foundation of my faith. They were the ones who first brought the words of the Bible to life, turning Jesus’ teachings into action. It was more than just birthday parties or family reunions. My family was a community that allowed me to be immersed in my faith without judgment, accepted my faults, loved me for who I was and supported me through all the bumps in the road.

Leaving that security of family when I went away to university was a whole lot harder than I expected.

It wasn’t until the first Mass I attended alone that it hit me — I had broken free. I was on my own. I no longer was in a community that completely accepted my beliefs. University was entering a world of temptation, of peer pressure, of societal norms that would continu-ally test my better judgment. I was the only one who would hold me accountable. And that was scary.

What frightened me the most was trying to maintain the once unshakable faith my family had passed on to me. Now that my family was far away, I had nothing to ground me. I feared I would fall over and never be able to pick myself up.

I was wrong.

I mistakenly thought my family was the foundation of my faith. But sitting in the pews that first week without a familiar face in sight I realized that Mass was not any different than how it was at home. We still listened to the Gospel, we still offered peace to one another and we still received communion. That’s when all my fear and nerves about surviving as a young Catholic in a secular society were lifted. My family wasn’t my foun-dation. If they were, Mass would have been all about them. I had been solely relying on the wrong source. God was the reason we cel-ebrated Mass. He was the constant.

This new consciousness brought a fresh perspective to my faith. Having a support group did make things enormously easier, but ulti-mately it didn’t matter where I was or who I was with because God would always be at my side. I had nothing to fear.

(Bekkers, 20, is a third-year English student at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S.) 

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