Do your holidays feel more commercialized than spiritually meaningful? Do you feel disconnected from the kind of faith you once had growing up with your ancestors religious rituals in the Italian American home of your childhood?
Belief in God is a personal thing, and the way people worship varies, according to the individual. Even Italians in Italy do not go to Church in droves as they did in years past. In fact results of a recent survey by the Patriarchate of Venice and reported in The Telegraph, found that only 23% of Italian worshipers admit to going to church regularly. This doesn’t mean, however, that Italians are not extremely spiritual, or that they don’t visit their local cathedral or church when the mood strikes. It doesn’t mean they don’t pray, or listen to sacred music, or write their prayers on little note papers and lay them at the feet of the town’s patron statue. In Italy, religious faith is an experience, not a cut and dried adherence to dogma.
There are many reasons for your longing to reconnect to your faith. Believing in God not only gives you a sense of meaning over the holidays; it anchors you all throughout the year. Often, in this culture, we seem to have exchanged a belief in God for a belief in crystals, commercialized “ancient” rituals, or nebulous concepts of “spirit”. Studies, however, have show that connection to religious faith may even be correlated to longevity. In my book “Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy” (HCI)¹ ,I cite a study from the Istituto di Fisiologia Clinical del CNR di Pisa, which reported that praying and having and active faith in God may even increase our odds of survival during a health crisis. Italians rely on their faith to get them through all kinds of life crises, whether or not they attend Mass regularly on Sundays.
Religious rituals give us a sense of community, camaraderie, and a network of support, in addition to a set of guidelines to follow to strengthen our relationship with God. Attending Holy Mass again may be a good place for you to start, if you want to rekindle your faith, but that is not the only way to go about it. Author Paul J. Griffiths, in his book “Religious Reading”, writes that the kinds of things we read become part of our identity. Thus reading religious materials, such as the Bible, a prayer book, a treatise on comparative religions, etc., when read regularly, can help you incorporate faith into your life naturally. Another suggestion is to begin to pray. Pray to the God whose image you can relate to, not necessarily to that vision of an old man with a long white beard, commonly portrayed in paintings. Talk to God in your own way, or pull out some of the more formal prayers you said as a child and see how they resonate with you.
Other ideas to help you rekindle your faith include visiting a church during the week, whenever you feel the need to find peace and meditate. Bring a few beautiful religious artifacts into your life, such as a statue of a saint whose life you can relate to. Keep a journal of conversations with God, and write in it regularly. Seek out some spiritual counseling, where you can ask questions and find further resources.
When it comes to believing, you already have the most important ingredient: The desire to bring God back into your life.
I wish you a blessed, holy, and spiritual natale.
1. Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy (HCI Books) is available through Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and wherever books are sold. Makes a powerful gift to yourself, or anyone you know who is dealing with loss or personal difficulty. When you order on line you have the book sent directly to their address.