My Religion Saved Me

Author: Michelle Ioannou, Real Life Stories

I am a millennial, I’m religious, and I’m not ashamed of this. Why? Because in a way, my religion saved me.

My father passed away from Multiple Sclerosis when I was just three months into my freshman year of college. I was away from home, surrounded by people I had just met, and grieving. Sounds like the perfect mix for someone to cope by getting into drugs or alcohol, right?

But I didn’t. Because of my religion.

Now you may be laughing to yourself, I know. “Oh, she’s super religious and a goody goody of course she didn’t go down a dark path.” I wish I could say that that’s true, but unfortunately I’d be lying.

I was angry that God took my father away from me. I was hurt. Why me? Why did this happen to me? I already had a difficult childhood, why couldn’t college be my time? All of that, and more, were running to my head.

But, there were some things I just couldn’t deny. And that’s where God comes in.

The weekend before my father passed away, I came home from college to spend time with him. Little did I know it was the last weekend I’d ever see him. And the last day I ever saw him, was on my nameday.

For those of you who aren’t Orthodox Christians like I am, we have namedays where our patron saint is celebrated. These are quite the big, and holy, celebrations in our religion.

Do I think it’s a coincidence that the last day I saw my father was on my nameday? No. I don’t. I think that my patron saint, Archangel Michael, was there with me; guiding me, and giving me strength. He didn’t want me to be alone, and God chose this day to show me I had an angel looking after me.

Now, I know many of you are probably thinking I’m out of my mind. That it was just a coincidence. Just wait…

My father passed away on November 13th, which is when my church celebrates another saint, St. John Chrysostom.

What’s the big deal? That’s my brother’s patron saint.

So, to recap for you, the last day I ever saw my father was on my nameday. And the day my father passed away was on my brother’s nameday.

Still think it’s a coincidence? No, it’s not. It’s the work of God.

God wanted to show a glimmer of hope in the midst of all this pain. He wanted to show my brother and I that we could handle this, and get through it; that He had bigger plans for my father and He needed him. By choosing my nameday and my brother’s nameday to be two significant days, God was showing us that He’s taking care of the two of us, and my father as well.

And knowing all this, saved me. My belief in all of this, saved me.

It’s the reason I didn’t turn down that easily accessible path. It’s the reason I made it through tough times, and I still make it through the tough times. It’s the reason I’m not ashamed of my religion, and I’m not ashamed to talk about it.

My religion saved me, and it continues to save me.

A Somewhat Scattered Spiritual Journey

Author: Alli Jean, Real Life Stories

In my plethora of interests that some may deem as “nerdy,” by far the most complicated to explain is my fascination with religion. When I worked in healthcare, and now that I’m working in the legal field, anyone who has read my resume is surprised to learn (and confused) about the fact that I majored in religion in college. Why? Because I thought I wanted to go into ministry (but more on that later).

Hi my name is Alli… and I am a fallen Catholic. My introduction to Catholicism came from being raised in a small Catholic church. Growing up, I loved Sunday School, participating in the annual Christmas pageant and most of all I loved “CCD camp” every summer. My favorite story (besides the Nativity story) was the parable of the Good Samaritan which, as cliché as it sounds, embodies what the moral code of all of the world’s major religions – and reminds us to always be inclusive of those who are different.

However, by the time I was attending confirmation class, I found that my own views and my interpretation of Jesus’ lessons were not being promoted, by neither my confirmation teacher nor the church in general. For instance, jokes at the expense of Jewish and Muslim people were tolerated, and I was appalled to hear that hateful and bigoted comments were being made in particular about those of Middle Eastern descent. This zealotry, as well as my increasing frustration with the limited role permitted to women within the church, led me to confess to my mom that I could not confirm my faith to the Catholic church.

My mom also had her own issues with the church. That summer, my mom, my younger sister and I read the Bible at home and decided to start “church shopping” once the school year began. However, it just so happened that the first church we went in, a United Church of Christ (UCC) Congregation, immediately felt like home.

Being a member of this UCC community truly helped shape me throughout my high school years. I enthusiastically participated in confirmation class, went on retreats, joined the Social Action and Education committees, taught Sunday School, and most importantly, participated in youth group. Youth group was such a rewarding experience — the culmination of which was two-fold: 1. Attending a mission trip my junior year in San Antonio, Texas, where our group built ramps on the homes of disabled people and served in soup kitchens and 2. Helping to lead my youth group my senior year of high school.

When I got to college, I chose to major in Religious Studies because I’d wanted to make ministry my career. However, I decided that ultimately, it was not what I wanted to do career wise. That decision did not stop me from enjoying learning about religion — specifically how the five major world religions were morally and historically very similar, but the differences came from the rituals and traditions practiced by their parishioners.

And let me tell you, I’m not sure how anyone can think that the stories of how religions were formed are “boring” or uninteresting to learn about. The story of the founding of any major religion is anything but. From Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt for her disobedience, to the Buddha’s vigilant meditation, to Jesus overturning tables in the temple out of anger, these stories are nothing short of invigorating and dramatic.

I’ve taken a hiatus from attending church over the past few years, with no excuse other than the fact that life tends to get in the way of what we should be prioritizing. However, I miss the challenges, history and spirituality I find from studying ancient religious texts, and the community that is assembled when a group of individuals chooses to come together to ask themselves “the big questions.” As millennials, once we’re out of school, there are few places where we can come together with our peers and learn from one another.

Wherever you find spirituality, I encourage you to explore and question — and I will do the same.

 

Disclaimer: The above reflects my own personal experience and is in no way a generalization of any of the religions/ideas/beliefs of others, nor do the ideas presented here reflect the opinions of Not Another Millennial Blog.