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catholicThe expectation was in writing. We were to be raised Catholic.

When my parents were married all those many years ago, my father was required to sign a declaration agreeing to raise any and all children of the union as God-fearing Catholics. Being madly in love with my mother and, though a titular Protestant, in practice rather indifferent to formalized religion, he signed where they told him to sign. Future offspring now firmly indentured, the marriage ceremony was soon advanced and they were off to honeymoon on a New Hampshire lake.

Being of devout Catholic stock, my mother dutifully dragged us children to Church each and every Sunday, including the annual Christmas midnight mass and assorted holy days. Dad remained at home during these excursions, having discovered a loophole – the declaration promised the children but said nothing about his own presence. Still, the Church got three for one; not a bad tradeoff.

The “going to church” part of Catholicism didn’t survive adulthood, a tradeoff for the amount of money the Catholic Church has spent settling pedophilia charges against its priests. Ironically, the morals and integrity taught by my parents seems to have taken hold much more intently than did mindlessly repeating the assigned “Amen” and “Lord be with you” as cued in the weekly missal. It certainly wasn’t the forgettable white noise our aged priest called a sermon that inspired me. My inspiration was, and remains, my parents themselves.

My mother found her strength and morality, at least in part, through her strong faith in the Church (though perhaps more so from her strong extended family integrity). My father found his strength and morality from more secular sources, though again perhaps more a function of the lessons learned growing up in a family the size of a small town. Maybe they were innately honest, a sort of genetic trait that appears to be recessive these days. In any case, we should focus more on being moral, being honest, and having integrity in our daily lives, whatever our motivation, be it religious, secular, or something else. Start with yourself, and the rest will come.

Now, that is an expectation worth signing.

David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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