Ask me, don’t tease me, about my faith
“You really pray before you eat?”
I get asked this question all the time.
As a practicing Catholic teenager, it isn’t new to me to receive funny looks on occasion for openly expressing my faith. Even in a primarily Catholic and Hispanic state like New Mexico, making the sign of the cross in front of my corn dog at lunch can lead to awkward conversations and questions about such rituals.
Occasionally, peers’ lack of familiarity has translated into offensive comments or, at the very least, the rolling of eyes when I publicly pray.
Because these practices are part of my core beliefs, these responses can be deeply offensive. As a 16-year-old Hispanic girl from New Mexico, my faith is what carries me. It is what allows me to put a smile on my face. As a teenager, my belief in God has given me hope in hard times. Faith has been what fills my life with ultimate meaning.
Beyond that, my traditions and my family’s traditions are deeply rooted within the Catholic Church. My ancestors were Catholic long before me, and my family inspires me to practice my faith with them every day. My connection to my history, to my relatives and to my culture is a daily part of my life. Tradition is what ties me to my heritage and fills me with a sense of belonging in my home state.
If you find it odd that I always wear a crucifix around my neck or wear ashes on my forehead on a Wednesday afternoon, asking a question is better than laughing at my appearance. Respect can go so much further than scoffing at or looking down on someone for practicing their beliefs. Inquire about their religion and customs in a kind way, with the intention of learning and broadening your perspective.
Respect stems from an understanding of others — from learning, asking about and from acknowledging people’s different views. Whether we are speaking about being Catholic or Muslim or Buddhist — or any religion or faith — conversations regarding all beliefs requires a mutual understanding, a willingness to learn and an open mind.
Sophia Ortiz is a junior at St. Michael’s High School. Contact her at email@example.com.