Personal Religious Statement
by Thomas Sienkewicz
I was raised in the Catholic Church and attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through college. I was an altar boy for many years in grade school. Religion meant a lot to my family, especially to my mother and father who made sure that all of their children had Catholic educations even though they themselves did not attend church regularly. I have always felt comfortable in the Catholic Church and especially attracted to the church’s liturgical aspects. By this I mean that I find the deepest religious experience in the mass rather than in theological doctrine.
My wife Anne is a Methodist and has never felt attracted to the Catholic faith. We were married by a Methodist Minister in the presence of a Catholic priest present in 1972. All three of our children have been raised as Catholic but attended public rather than Catholic elementary school in Monmouth. Until our children went away to college we attended mass together as a family nearly every Sunday and sang in the choir. All these years my wife has been attending the Catholic church in order to enhance this feeling of family worship. I am very grateful to her for the sacrifice she has made I have never wanted her to change her religion for my sake and respect her religious beliefs.
For me religion is less faith and commitment than a bond of traditions which link me with the long line of family members who have shared the same religious experiences that I have had. When I go to Mass, I am aware of these generations of family members going back for centuries and centuries who also attended Mass. When I go to Mass I find consolation in thinking about deceased members of my family like my parents and grandparents with whom I feel more connected because of this shared religious experience. While at mass I feel a sense of their presence even in death. At the same time at mass I feel attached to the wider community of Christians who have worshiped at mass going all the way back to the time of Jesus.
As a classicist I have had to teach about the religion and mythology of the ancient Greeks and Romans for many years. Because of my enthusiasm for this topic, some students have occasionally suggested that I am a closet worshiper of the ancient gods like Zeus. This is not true. I do not believe in Zeus as a god although I do respect the ancient Greeks and Romans who believed in his divinity. I am enthusiastic about the religion and the mythology of the ancient Greeks and Romans because I think that these ancient points of view can offer meaning to the modern world even if we do not consider their gods to be real. We may have transformed the religion of the ancient Greeks and Romans into mere mythology, but I am convinced that by studying Zeus I can understand my own god better. By studying how the ancient Greeks and Romans answered questions about the meaning of life and death, I can search for my own answers to these same questions.
This material has been published on the web by Prof. Tom Sienkewicz for his students at Monmouth College. If you have any questions, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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ISSI402 Classical Mythology and Religion
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