My mom would have been 100 years old this month. Unfortunately, she died in an automobile accident on Sept 11th, 1976. So every September, as we memorialize those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I also pay special tribute to my mom, with a sincere appreciation for all she taught me.
The example of her faith was one of Mom's greatest gifts to me. She was a devout Catholic who believed in the church, but she taught me to look deeper into religion -- to look beyond individual personalities, and specific rules.
Mom always said "religion should make sense, and if it doesn't make sense to you, find out why." She taught me that questioning the rules was not only OK, but an important responsibility, a necessary part of personal growth.
As I questioned and looked deeper into the church I began to understand some of the reasons behind the rules. For example, fasting on Fridays during lent strengthens our self-discipline, and required attendance at Mass every Sunday provides important learning opportunities as well as encouraging us to take time for prayer.
Thanks to my Mom, I've been able to go beyond the "letter of the law". And thanks to her I've been able to recognize the church's faults and shortcomings while still appreciating the importance of the church's guidelines for our spiritual growth. After all is said and done, the only mission of the church as an institution, is to teach us about God, to make us aware of our purpose here on earth, and to help us attain the promise of the afterlife we call "heaven".
Thanks Mom for all your guidance! I know you are enjoying heaven.