Thursday, 12 April 2012

O Ye, Of Little Faith

Have you said your prayers?” My Nan would ask before I climbed into bed. No, I hadn't. The act slipping from my head; I wanted my head stroked and a story read! In mute reply, I'd kneel beside the bed, head bowed and hands pressed together. Mutter thanks to the Lord or select a page from 'My First Book Of Prayers'. My maternal Grandparents were Roman Catholics. That was the deal - if I stayed with them, I was indoctrinated! Around the house were discreet signs of their religiosity: Jesus on the cross and the Virgin Mary. Attending Latin Mass once a week to worship. I didn't understand any of it, but I acted as if I was a member of the congregation: respectably dressed, covering my head and kneeling when others did. The church smells and sounds even now can be evoked within me; the incense, the rise and fall of the Hail Marys. Collecting a post-church supper of battered cod and chips.

Some of you might think this was an underhand conversion, drummed into me during holidays, but it wasn't. My Grandparents faith was never forced onto me. The time spent with them was about inclusion: being included in their daily habits from household chores to individual tastes in food, drink, film and music. By adapting myself to their routine, I experienced a slice of their life. I think it was then I fell in love with retirement! Back home, I returned to my secular ways; no regular prayers or church involvement. Left to find out for myself about other religions and form my own opinions. If asked now I would describe myself as spiritual. God for me has no form or gender. I think of God as an invisible energy connecting every one of us to each other.

According to recent polls, the UK wants to retain its Christian heritage but be ruled as a secular state. Is this possible? Does having faith mean attending a church, a mosque, or a synagogue? A lot of people don't seem to think so. How many of us have said a quick prayer to ask for help or for someone we care about and don't label ourselves as religious? Do faith and religion go hand in hand, or are they separate? Could a lack of one or the other be why so many succumb to addictions? Food, drink and drugs comfort us, temporarily filling emptiness up and diluting pain. A modern religion which is harming us that we knowingly continue to practise.

Studies have shown, (regardless of your beliefs), prayer and faith is protective. Faith isn't seeking it outside of yourself, it's recognising spirit within. So, hands pressed together, I bow and say to you: “Namaste.”