Strength from within

Note: This is a religious post.

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I am sad that this little bookshop, in the shadows of Westminster Cathedral, is closing.  The lease is up for renewal, and this small humble business could no longer afford to keep going. It had been an important part of my children’s life – the shop sold lovely picture books and cute stationery that my children used to spend their money on after church.

I am a strong believer in religious education (which is part of religious life) for children. In our Catholic faith, children attend Sunday school, which gives them another perspective of the material, immediate-gratification world that they live in. And it is always good for children to have another perspective, especially one where the theme is do good, be kind, forgive.

It teaches a child that you are loved, even if you are naughty. You always have a friend in God.  OK, you might say that God does not exist (who could tell?) but even if He does not, the belief that you are loved and not alone in your vulnerable times makes a world of difference. I think it makes you strong on the inside.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 9.21.39Photo: My youngest daughter in the sweet little church we go to in Phuket – far from home, we found belonging here.

More than anything, religion teaches young people to believe in something else greater than the self and now. There is always a better tomorrow, and that there is life beyond this one. We are here for a reason, so what you are going through is just part of the journey called life. I think that’s a very powerful tool in helping children, especially teenagers, to get over the tough times, to take them out of the me, me, me mode which could be overwhelming.

Social groups in church gives children an escape from school life, which is not always rosy. I think it is important that children and teenagers learn how to integrate with society, and I love the fact that my children hang out with a different group than their usual social set via the church. For example, as expat kids, my children lived a privileged life of international schools, but on Sundays, they went for their Catechism in a local school where there was no air-conditioning, no carpets on the floor and where they had to share rickety wooden desks. They had a new set of friends which taught them as much as the Catechism – adaptability, humility, accepting differences, gratitude, love.

The good thing is you can leave the church anytime (after you are 18, as I told my children), but it will never leave you. It will always be there like a patient teacher. Recently, my mother told me to look for inner beauty – she sensed I needed it. But where do I find inner beauty in the hustle bustle of my current life?

I kind of forgot what my mother asked of me until Sunday, when I walked into Westminster Cathedral, a couple of minutes late, and Gloria was being sung.  The beautiful voices of the choir rose high up and filled the whole cathedral. I thought to myself, I have learned to find meaning here, in God’s refuge, and whatever troubling thoughts I had that week settled in the face of inner beauty. Yes, my religion gives me strength and I hope it does for my children too in today’s challenging world.

Here’s Gloria, by the Westminster Cathedral Choir.

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