I don’t go to church and I wouldn’t describe myself as religious. The memories of my parents dragging me out of bed on Sunday morning still echo in my mind and so does the dread I felt having to sit on a pew for an hour listening to a sermon I didn’t understand. But now at 26 years old, something’s shifted. I’ve developed a surprising affinity towards Catholicism, specifically as it relates to my family history and culture. The traditions I used to roll my eyes at are suddenly endearing. The family heirlooms and my grandmother’s collection of rosaries are things I feel lucky to have. Seemingly out of nowhere, I’ve had the strangest desire to incorporate this part of my life into my home, akin to how my parents and grandparents have always done in theirs — albeit with fewer crucifixes (I am not there yet).
For me, being raised Catholic was a little like learning how to play an instrument that was missing strings. I got some of the routines down like going to Mass on Sundays, memorizing prayers, and attending funerals anytime a distant relative or family friend passed. But it never felt completely right so eventually, I stopped practicing altogether. In general, a lot of my experiences with Catholicism were rooted in morals, tradition, and family rather than strict biblical practices but as a kid, those things weren’t the most fun to care about. Then as I got older I questioned the bible and rebelled as teenagers do. As such, I wouldn’t say my relationship with religion is or ever has been easy and I consider myself lucky that my experience with the Catholic religion is not traumatic, especially since humans are fallible and can screw up even the things that are meant to be holy.
But as I said, I was lucky. My parents grew up Catholic and with the understanding that there are certain things you do in life not because you want to, but because it is the right thing to do. When it comes to family, no matter how distant or problematic they might be, you show up. Family parties were non-negotiable commitments and the same applies to funerals, baptisms, first communions, weddings etc, etc. It’s this emphasis on family and tradition that has me reminiscing about Catholicism and reevaluating what faith and religion mean to me. As is the case for most people, the older I get the more I understand the desire to believe in something. A higher power sounds extremely attractive when the world is on fire and I often wonder what it would feel like to have an unrelenting faith.
In fact, when I think of faith I think of my dad, whom I’ve asked dozens of times “Why Catholicism?” and his answer is always, simply, “It gives me peace.” Wanting to feel at peace is as universal as it gets on this earth so I get it. I get it even if I don’t understand it all and have trouble with some of the inconsistencies.
Though I don’t presently practice Catholicism, some things remain ingrained such as doing the sign of the cross when I hear bad news and repeating the Hail Mary in my head when an ambulance drives by (something my 3rd-grade teacher told us to do — it’s weird the things that stick). I also have the best parents to look up to, who practice their faith with poise and are nonjudgmental about other people’s beliefs. They’ve always told me that they don’t care what religion I chose, so long as I find spirituality somewhere. They are the reason Catholicism feels non-threatening and why it clearly remains a part of me despite my protests and disbelief in religions that preach love but can often be so cruel.
Now as I move forward with the first real design of my apartment I want to show parts of my Catholic upbringing into my home, which started with a Virgin Mary tapestry that was my Grandmother’s. When my mom asked if I wanted to have it I decided I did, even if only to display something that was dear to my grandma in my home. Then the idea of acknowledging my Catholic upbringing became an endearing and even comforting thought.
As a design lover and enthusiast, it helps that my boyfriend Rocky and I are planning our living and dining room style to be old world meets mid-century modern (or 70s-cowgirl-meets-eclectic-old-world-Italian-grandma if you want to get fancy with it) so our Catholic leanings feel natural. Rocky’s family is Italian Catholic and mine is Irish Catholic so it’s something close to both of our worlds and upbringings. Aesthetically speaking, we are both inspired by Frank Sinatra, The Godfather, Good Fellas, The Sopranos and any movie by Martin Scorses so yes, the old-world Catholic ornaments are fitting.
But all of this pondering has led me to confront the fact that religion is rarely ever displayed in the popular design world. I searched high and low for home tours seeking inspiration and even went as far as searching for homes of celebrities that are known to be religious. All to no avail. Why is this? In an industry that is all about cultivating a home that is personally fulfilling, why is religion excluded? It might be time to acknowledge this inconsistency, and question whether it does any good to shelter something that is a significant part of many people’s lives. In the meantime, the question remains, is there a way I can display this side of me in a way that feels authentic, beautiful, and doesn’t alienate anyone who walks through our door?? I still don’t know for sure, but I intend to try.
I write this knowing all human experiences are different, thus making our relationships to faith and religion nuanced and complex. I also write this believing we can do hard things such as discuss this subject with compassion and understanding — knowing that we are all just trying to get through life the best we can. So, if you are willing to let me into your world, I would love to hear how you display your faith in your home, what it means to you, and what specific pieces you find comfort in. Or, if you’d simply like to share your experience with religion, I’d love to listen and learn. xx