by Ashley Brown
Religion. Faith. God. These three words, formerly unfamiliar and distant, have begun to be infused for me, with meaning and significance. This progression, in my understanding of these words, in addition to a myriad of other associated words, symbolizes my developing relationship with religion. My initially detached view of religion has opened into a journey toward becoming a member of the Catholic Church.
During my childhood, religion was never a central focus of my family. Entering a religious space on Sunday or saying grace before dinner with a friend’s family was a foreign concept that did not hold significant meaning to me. Additionally, the occasional Sunday worship service at a church of the United Church of Christ or time spent at Vacation Bible School briefly permeated my life but never guided my identification with a certain religion or set of religious beliefs. I was never admitted into the Christian Church through baptism, and I did not adopt the religion of my parents. This being said, I never felt that the absence of religion in my life had any affect on the way in which I lived. For me, organized religion was seemingly not something that needed to be a part of my life in order to be a “good” person.
After accepting my admission into Boston College, a Jesuit Catholic university, I was unsure how my relationship with religion would be affected given the distance between religion and myself grown from my thirteen years of public school education. My choice to attend Boston College was not heavily influenced by its Catholic identity, and I was not entirely sure what it meant to be a Catholic. However, I undoubtedly knew that my understanding of religion would change as a consequence of the required core theology courses and as a result of the environment into which I would be immersed.
During my first year at Boston College, I was exposed to the Bible in my Western Cultural Tradition seminar and attended a few lectures given by notable members of the Catholic Church. Despite my immersion in Catholicism, I still felt distanced from religion. Religion was, for me, associated with the academic exercise of writing essays stripped of personal views, in addition to attending lectures on religious topics without a true personal connection to the subject. This relationship with religion would continue throughout the majority of my time spent at Boston College.
The turning point in my narrative, although still occurring, has its genesis in two friendships that have proved exceedingly influential in the development of my relationship with religion. Initially, whenever discussions between these two friends, one Catholic and the other Lutheran, focused on religious concepts, I would immediately tune out the conversation out of confusion regarding the ideas being expressed. However, frustrated with my confusion, I began to listen, to question, and to learn from these individuals.
It was through discussions with these friends that I began to construct a personal connection with religion and religious faith. As an aspiring family physician, an integral result of my relationship with these two friends resulted in my questioning of the association between religious faith and the practice of medicine.
Medicine, in my mind, is too often associated with the impersonal diagnosis and treatment of disease and the unfeeling study of biological and biochemical concepts. Therefore, since it is in the nature of family medicine that strong connections between doctors and their patients are made, I feel that the development of my own faith is essential for providing the best care for my future patients. The infusion of faith with the study of science and the practice of medicine will allow me to become a physician not only knowledgeable in the diagnosis and treatment of disease, but also able to develop meaningful connections with my patients during the process.
The development of my relationship with religion stands, as of now, in my decision to become a member of the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program. My relationship with the events, people, discussions, and views that I have thus narrated informed my decision to pursue this journey and continue to grow in my religious faith.