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Author Topic: Converts: your parents...  (Read 6288 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: December 25, 2003, 03:27:28 AM »

For those among us who are converts, simply put, what did your parents think?  Especially if you live/lived with them or are/were still dependent on them?  How did you "break the news" of your conversion to them?  Did you tell them everything from the start?  Or did you wait until after you were brought into the church?

Moreover, how exactly do you explain all of Orthodoxy without getting them horribly confused?  How do you handle issues like explaining the situation with ROCOR, etc.?   I'm Antiochian so how do I explain what my church is from, without making my parents think I'm in some kind of strange Muslim sect?  (They are of the idea that everyone in the Middle East is Muslim without exception....)

I know this will vary based on what you converted from, etc.  I'm 20 years old and I converted eight months ago.  As for me, I'm not sure my utterly non-religious parents get the whole picture, that I didn't convert just because of an Orthodox boyfriend (who does not exist), and yes, I do fully intend to be Orthodox for the rest of my life, I'm not a dilettante.  I'm wondering if perhaps there would have been a better way to handle this, but everything I say seems to just confuse them more and more....

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« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2003, 04:20:28 AM »

As for explaining ROCOR to your non-Orthodox parents: I just wouldn't really bother explaining it unless they press you for answers. No use confusing them at this point more than is absolutely needed. And since you're attending an Antiochian parish, there doesn't seem to be a pressing need to give them the details of the Russian revolution or the declaration of Met. Sergius  Smiley

As for explaining Middle Eastern Christianity and the Antiochian jurisdiction,show them Acts 11:26:

And when he had found him, he  brought him  to Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people.  And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

You can also remind them that Jesus wasn't born in Nebraska, but was a Middle Easterner himself.  Also, if they're a bit hostile to Muslims, it might not hurt to  tell them about the persecution the Christian minority faces in the Middle East. Just some thoughts.

I'd say, first and foremost keep things simple. Just discuss the core beliefs, practices, and beauty of Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2003, 07:44:23 AM »

Matrona,

I'm also a convert, due to be received into the Church next month from Roman Catholicism. My conversion has caused those I know to take notice, not because of the words I use to explain my reasons for converting, but in my apparent "transfiguration." Orthodoxy has filled a spiritual void I had for years, and my conversion has been reflecting externally, because a total transformation of spiritual, mental and physical health occurred, enabling me to fulfill Christ's two great commandments easier. I'm more forgiving, charitable and more concerned for others. Let your actions speak louder than your words - it always works.

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« Reply #3 on: December 25, 2003, 09:57:31 AM »

Matrona,

I converted when I was 20 and have non-religious(in practice anyway) parents.  They really didn't have a problem with it, after I assured them it wasn't some sort of cult.  Smiley  They still don't understand Orthodoxy at all(and have no inclination to understand it), but they support me and ask me to pray for them.  Unless your Antiochian parish is particularly Middle Eastern I probably wouldn't emphasize aspect of Orthodoxy.  As I am in an OCA parish that uses 100% English, I never told my parents it was a Russian Church, but merely the Orthodox Church.

If they want to read a book on the subject, give them Ware's The Orthodox Church.  With half history and half theology, it doesn't take much time and your parents can easily read that you are not involved with a Muslim sect.  Smiley

Well, off to liturgy.  Today is the fifth anniversary of my chrismation.
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« Reply #4 on: December 25, 2003, 06:45:35 PM »

Matrona,

My parents accepted my desire to convert to Orthodoxy.  They are nominally Roman Catholic.  I told then honestly (but tactfully - yes I do actually posses some of this Wink ) that I desired a traditional liturgical life, that Orthodoxy is closly linked with the early church since she hasn't inovated in doctrine, and that her saints and spiritual life are extraordinary.  Since they saw that it was a well researched decision - one that even caused me great pain - and that my entire heart was in it, they didn't really object.  The key I think was that I didn't demand they convert with me or even pressure them.  I invited them to come to serives whenever they wished so they could see what Orthodoxy was all about, and I would always (try) to answer their questions.  The trick is not to be secretive (or at least not look like you are) but at the same time not over-bearring.  Also the biggest factor is that my parents could see that Orthodoxy was transforming me - there were no longer any battles about which parties I was allowed to go to and other typical teenage stuff.  I found a different and much better group of friends and they were overall very pleased I think.  If your parents start to see you become a kinder and more loving person that will make them most accepting of Orthodoxy.

Don't tell you parents about internal church politics.  Just tell them that Russian / Greek / Serbian / Arab etc. Orthodox are all one church.  If you don't want them to see this as a middle Eastern thing, tell them it is the GREEK ORTHODOX Patriarchate of Antioch (lol I am always trying to Hellenize these days).  Emphasis that this the Church of Russia and Greece and deeply Christian.  My Grandpa being Polish once told me has was glad I became Greek Orthodox and not Russian Orthodox (Poles are a little unfavorable to Russians!) - emphasis whatever ethnicity would most put your parents at ease.  But also make sure they know that is not about culture and ethnicity both ORTHODOXY that you are converting to.

David - Many Years on your fifth anniversary of entrance into the Church!
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« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2003, 03:16:55 AM »

Nektarios,

Wonderful advice, I second everything you say.  Thank you for the many years.
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« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2003, 01:43:07 PM »

My parents have been very good about fasting; I have been very blessed here.  My first fast was last year's Nativity fast.  Rather than follow it to the letter I only abstained from meat both to ease myself into fasting and to ease my parents into the idea.  Seeing this moderate fast made them realize I probably wan't going to drop dead of starvation!  Also I have greatly increased my intake of healthy food - which made my parents happy beyond belief.  Before Orthodoxy my diet consisted mostly of sugar so like other things in Orthodoxy they saw this as a POSITIVE change.  Now that I have started following the fasts more strictly I do a good deal of my own food preparation or just pick out the food from the main family dinner that I can eat.  For example most meals here have at least one vegtable, potatos etc. so I take those and maybe make something small for myself.  I cannot emphasis how wonderful PB and J is...  One wierd event happened towards the end of great Lent to me.  My parents and I were talking to one of our neighbors (who had no idea about the fast) and she suddenly said that she had never seen me look so healthy.  An odd thing to say since I have never been unhealthy, but it convinced my parents that fasting was good for me!  That is probably the key...make sure it looks to your parents that fasting is good and beneficial to you and not just some legalistic ploy of sorts.

My cautions would be...

If somebody else in your family cooks for everybody, do not expect them to cook fasting food for you, offer to help / or cook your own food.  Then you won't look like a giant burden.

Even if you are eating a different meal, always eat at the same time as the rest of the family.
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« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2003, 01:58:19 PM »

One major thing I forgot to add was to always remain joyfull (if not moreso than usual) during the fast times.  The idea of fasting is lighten the weight of the flesh so that the spirit and soul can can be attended to (Grammar police, note I ended that sentence with a prepisition Tongue ).  Not a superficial outer happiness, but an inner spiritual joy.  People can see this even if they aren't exactly sure what it is.  Still smile and don't be glum - even monastics smile and laugh during the Great Fast!  

Also if you can't keep the "correct" fast keep in mind these words of Saint John Chysostomos on the true nature of fasting:
Quote
Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works.
If you see a poor man, take pity on him.
If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him.
Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all the members of our bodies.
Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice.
Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin.
Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful.
Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip.
Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.
For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers?
May HE who came to the world to save sinners strengthen us to complete the fast with humility, have mercy on us and save us
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« Reply #8 on: December 26, 2003, 02:08:59 PM »

Oooooooh - I had noticed that, Nektarios - but I have to admit that I will forgive that error [ the grammatical one that is - but SubDeacon Peter may not be quite so forgiving about the spelling error Wink ] It has to be admitted that it is sometimes exceedingly diifcult to avoid the final preposition without the sentence being impossibly clumsy - not always though - so don't count on me always being so forgiving/understanding  Grin
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« Reply #9 on: December 26, 2003, 02:09:46 PM »

My parents didn't react strongly either way. I think my Mother was a bit concerned when I started asking her questions like "What would you think if I became a monk?" but overall their response was neutral. My Father, who grew up Catholic and respected the Church from a distance, undoubtedly was happier with me Orthodox than me Protestant. My mom, after she had attended Vespers with me one night, said, "well, if you like it, that's what's important". I got mostly the same types of responses from friends who attended with me, lol. My best friend, after attending Vespers, said, "er... it was very... good harmony... lots of pictures... er... what were those candles hanging there for?"

I haven't yet had to explain about the various jurisdictions, and I probably won't try. From experience, it seems like that's an issue that you can't simply get a summary of and understand it. You either have to dig DEEP into it, or you won't get anywhere at all. That sort of reminds me of the differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, come to think of it.
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« Reply #10 on: December 26, 2003, 03:54:25 PM »

may not be quite so forgiving about the spelling error Wink ] It has to be admitted that it is sometimes exceedingly diifcult to avoid the final preposition without the sentence being impossibly clumsy - not always though - so don't count on me always being so forgiving/understanding  Grin

ohhhhh dear..... :-

Now I am almost afraid to post anything.
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« Reply #11 on: December 26, 2003, 04:34:00 PM »

Hehe - a bit of wickedness from time to time is good for us all - and yes I know that at times I am somewhat pedantic - put it down to both parents having been teachers.
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« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2003, 04:12:48 PM »

Amazingly, my parents were really cool with it.  Neither of my parents are religious in the sense that they attend any services regularly, but they certainly have their own beliefs.  They have questions about stuff so we talk about it when questions arise.  My dad has read some stuff and he even buys me little icons and things now if he's traveling in Europe or something.  My mom is fairly confused by it, but can tell its a good thing.  She's not an academic type, so she isn't going to read any books or anything probably, but I try to get her to come to services sometimes.  I got my dad a subscription to The Orthodox Word for Christmas because he loves reading about religion and hopefully it will effect him in a good way!  My brother teases me about fasting, but I think its just because he's my brother.  Once some other people were ragging on me about it and my brother totally stuck up for me.  My parents general attitude is "We don't understand that much about it, but it's had a good effect on you."  Considering how many people's families are hostile to them, I will take my family's semi-ignorant, semi-indifference anyday!
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« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2003, 10:30:25 AM »

Oooooooh - I had noticed that, Nektarios - but I have to admit that I will forgive that error [ the grammatical one that is - but SubDeacon Peter may not be quite so forgiving about the spelling error Wink ] It has to be admitted that it is sometimes exceedingly diifcult to avoid the final preposition without the sentence being impossibly clumsy - not always though - so don't count on me always being so forgiving/understanding  Grin

You know, ending a sentence in English with a preposition is not gramatically incorrect.  The idea that it is comes from the Latin classes people had to endure for centuries, where it really is impossible to end a sentence in a preposition.  The future grammaticians of the English language applied the grammar rules of Latin, the "perfect" language, to English, when it really has no business being applied so.  English in its base form is not a Romance language, but a Germanic one.  And Germanic languages end sentences in prepositions all the time.

"Excuse me, where is the library at?"
"Here at Hahvahd, we never end a sentence with a preposition."
"O.K.  Excuse me, where is the library at, *smart@&%!*"

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« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2003, 11:25:01 AM »

Where is the library at?Huh? What sort of English is that?

Excuse me, where is the library? is more than sufficient.
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« Reply #15 on: December 31, 2003, 11:26:07 AM »

Welcome to American English 101, Peter!
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« Reply #16 on: December 31, 2003, 11:59:07 AM »

Isn't, like, Rhode Island kinda like Long Island or sumptin?
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« Reply #17 on: December 31, 2003, 12:10:50 PM »

I'm going to attempt to translate Vicki's "Rho Dyeland" dialect into my own Pittsburghese:

"Hey yinz dahn'ere!  Yinz know where the liberry is?  No, naht the section of tahn Liberry, but the Carneggy Liberry?  I gotta get a book ahn diction so's I can talk to them there non-Pittsburgh types!"
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« Reply #18 on: December 31, 2003, 12:43:03 PM »

I'll join him there - if he will permit it.

Not quite sure what we will drink as we try and work out what the heck you are all talking about  Smiley

Where's the Sub- Deacon - we will have to have a meeting and discuss this Grin Grin
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« Reply #19 on: December 31, 2003, 01:13:49 PM »

Completely barking I would say :cwm4: :cwm4: :cwm4:

I don't know how bad it is in the deep South [ the uncivilised part of the UK  Grin Grin ]

But this smiley :cwm31: :cwm31: :cwm31: describes the Temp today here and it's very very wet as well.

I think I could do with something warming Tongue

Maybe after the bells
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« Reply #20 on: December 31, 2003, 01:42:44 PM »

Wait a minute! Do we have a dispensation since it is a fast day today? If so, let me know! Cause I was figuring I would have to hold off until midnight. Grin
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« Reply #21 on: December 31, 2003, 01:48:33 PM »

Well I am pretty sure that my church doesn't fast between Christmas and Epiphany, except for Epiphany Eve which is very strict fasting.

I am sure that many of you holding drinks in your hands are on the OC and should be fasting every day at the moment!

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« Reply #22 on: December 31, 2003, 02:02:29 PM »

No fasting until the 5th...Strict Fast then...for one day only.  You can still receive Communion tomorrow, if you have prepared spiritually. Prayers, etc.

Oh my Gosh! I didn't check the GOA website. I just assumed that Wed and Fri were ALWAYS fast days.

St. Sophia is having a St. Basil liturgy tonight at 7:00. I am also going to the Orthros at 6:00 because I need some extra forgiveness.

I too, ask the forgiveness of any I may have offended (especially Vicki, Br Max and The Slave).

Forgive me.


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« Reply #23 on: December 31, 2003, 03:13:07 PM »

Tom said <<I too, ask the forgiveness of any I may have offended (especially Vicki, Br Max and The Slave) >>

Forgiveness - of course I forgive - were we not told to forgive by Someone ?

God Forgives
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« Reply #24 on: December 31, 2003, 03:56:14 PM »

for my part, forgiven.  May you receive forgiveness in the measure you give it. Smiley  If I have been a stumbling block to you I ask your forgiveness as well.
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« Reply #25 on: January 02, 2004, 12:19:37 AM »

My soon to be conversion lets see.

I lost a few of my Byzantine Catholic friends, I was told not to call
one of them any more.
My mom is mad at me and hasnt called me or seen me since my b-day
12/15.  

And my dad wouldnt know the difference between byzantine catholic or Orthodox.

Im going to be recieved into the Antiochian Orthodox Church, by the Mysteries of Initation. I really wanted to be recieved by ROCOR but my ROCOR spiritual advisor told me to be recieved into the Antiochian Church.
And later in life if i wanted to become ROCOR I am permited to do so, he just wants me to become Orthodox right now.

Also I just turned 18.

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« Reply #26 on: January 02, 2004, 04:56:15 AM »

Byzantine,

you said
Quote
My mom is mad at me and hasnt called me or seen me since my b-day 12/15.

Why does she have to make the move to you ? Now give youself a shake and go and   call her
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« Reply #27 on: January 02, 2004, 07:24:09 AM »

Oh my Gosh! I didn't check the GOA website. I just assumed that Wed and Fri were ALWAYS fast days.

 Grin I remember these times. Don't worry Tom, you've got plenty of stuff to learn yet Cool

You may already know that there is some leniency when a feast day falls within a fasting period. It usually means fish is permitted along with oil and wine but there are some variations. When we first got started in regular fasting we were way too strict on ourselves including our kids. We try to follow the guidelines as best we can but only have our children fast from some of the things they enjoy the most. They need their milk and meat.

John.
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« Reply #28 on: January 02, 2004, 09:41:50 AM »

Orthodocs aren't the only ones who are converts with parents: my mother, after 25+ years, still doesn't quite get the "I'm busy, I'm going to church" issue.
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« Reply #29 on: January 02, 2004, 02:12:18 PM »

Prepared my parents for my Orthodox conversion (at the age of 34) by conditioning them since I was a teenager.  Yes, my parents always expected weirdness and rebellion from me, so that by the time of my conversion, they didn't seem to care one whit.

My mom converted from Mennonite to Seventh Day Adventist along with HER parents when she was maybe 10 or 11? Her parents were deeply spiritual and ascetic people, whom I loved dearly.  My mom converted from  Seventh-Day Adventist to UGC when she met my Dad.

I grew up Ukrainian Greek Catholic.  Winnipeg has a fairly large Orthodox community.  Best friends across the street were Ukrainian Orthodox.  I remember asking my mom & dad what the difference was between UGC and UOCC.  They said "Oh, it's the same, really, except they don't follow the Pope."  I grew up believing this!

When I converted to Orthodoxy, my parents attitude was probably something like "The UOCC are really the same as us, so why doesn't David want to come to our Church?"  Truthfully, I don't think they "got it" then, nor does my mom really "get it" today.  She probably thinks it's more of a "super-Uke" kinda thing, because the UOCC churches in Winnipeg predominantly use Ukrainian for the liturgical language, whereas the UGC in Winnipeg have both English and Ukrainian liturgies in the same church on the same Sunday.  UGC, therefore, are percieved by some of the "super-Ukes" to be watering down the Ukrainian  culture in Winnipeg.  The same "super-Ukes" applaud the UOCC for maintaining the Ukrainian culture.  You see, the "super-Ukes" don't get it either...

BTW, I was also raised FIRMLY believing that a preposition is something you should never end a sentence with! Cool
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« Reply #30 on: January 02, 2004, 06:55:41 PM »

For a little more information, my mom wont answer the phone when I call and she never returns messages.

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« Reply #31 on: January 03, 2004, 02:57:36 AM »

RE: Wednesday, Friday fast between Natvity and Theophany

Our Bishops say we do NOT have to fast those days so if you do not feel compelled to fast it is not "mandated."  But there is some debate on this issue sparked by Saint Nikodemos the Athonite pointing out that this was historically not the universal practice of the church.  Some 'traditionalist' spiritual fathers will tell their spiritual children to fast on these days (but wine and oil is allowed)...but this is not even universal among traditionalist.  If you have a spiritual father do what he tells you to do, if not follow what your bishops do.
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« Reply #32 on: January 03, 2004, 04:48:53 AM »

Byzantine,

Vicki's advice is good - make sure you call every week - also try a wee card from time to time , and make sure you are always up-beat.

If you can get home - try a visit - she will find it hard to close the door Wink
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« Reply #33 on: January 06, 2004, 03:32:11 PM »

I didn't convert until I was older (32), but I can tell you that my parents liked it a lot less when I became an Eastern Rite Catholic than they did when I became Orthodox.  I think that the first transition was probably more jarring for them, while the second transition was something that they were more prepared for -- or at least it happened at a time when they had had the opportunity to experience the Eastern Tradition already.

I'd recommend honestly and pragmatism.  Be honest about your convictions but respectful of theirs.  Answer questions honestly, including hard ones like the ones about our jurisdictional problems.  Be pragmatic about things like fasting (most recommend that you ease into these aspects anyway, rather than going whole-hog from the get-go).

Good luck.
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« Reply #34 on: January 07, 2004, 03:58:12 PM »

You have received lots of great advice... At 20, I was no where near your grace and maturity level. I admire that greatly.

Yes, be upfront with your family about your beliefs and practices. I strongly suggest steering away trying the explain the great ethnic divide, it's confusing even for us who are ethnic.

Some of my family is ok with it, others don't get it and still some more are against it. My mom has some what of a problem with it. My father is Serbian and my mom is well...not Serbian. She associates Orthodoxy with being Serbian. My father is abusive and addicted to drugs and alchohal. She associates being serbian with my dad. So she is wary at best. Sometimes she's fine and other times she is is not.  However, my husband has puzzled some friends and associates. He is Croation and being Croation equals being RC. Certian people think that he is trying to be Serbian. :rolleyes:  


Ahhh the village mentality, it's so entertaining.

As for fasting... do what you can. I'm not sure if you live at home, if you do volunteer to do the cooking a couple nights a week. I'm sure your mom (or dad) would appreciate the night off. Smiley
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« Reply #35 on: January 08, 2004, 12:34:35 PM »

It is a tough road to hoe for Croatians who choose to explore or affiliate themselves with Orthodoxy.  I know one Croat convert I have met here, and I think that siuation presents very specific issues because many Croats are, I daresay, anti-Orthodox because it is associated with Serbia in their own cultural milieu.
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« Reply #36 on: January 08, 2004, 12:48:34 PM »

It is a tough road to hoe for Croatians who choose to explore or affiliate themselves with Orthodoxy.  I know one Croat convert I have met here, and I think that siuation presents very specific issues because many Croats are, I daresay, anti-Orthodox because it is associated with Serbia in their own cultural milieu.

Bingo! Smiley I'm half Serbian and this is what I think of it's cultural baggage :rolleyes:
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« Reply #37 on: January 08, 2004, 01:25:08 PM »

Orthodocs aren't the only ones who are converts with parents: my mother, after 25+ years, still doesn't quite get the "I'm busy, I'm going to church" issue.
Keble: Cradle Orthodox get that one, too.
When I told my mother-in-law I was starting RCIA she was thrilled. Now she comments it's "a bit much" Roll Eyes because I arrange my day to do daily mass as often as possible, spend two or three evenings out a week, and go to a EC monastery two or three times a year.

Funny, my agnostic husband is completely supportive... encourages my trips to the monastery, and happily takes care of the kids. Part of his history of animosity towards the church was hypocrisy.
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« Reply #38 on: January 13, 2004, 02:45:58 PM »

Just a couple of thoughts from a parent angle (though all of mine are under 11 so they're not changing churches anytime soon.  Smiley)  

I think that how parents would deal with a child changing religions in part depends on how it is presented to them and what the child expects.  I recall an Onion Dome column some time ago about a youthful convert who is expecting his parents to call him by a different name and cater to his practices while still living in their house and being supported by them to the extent of iirc needed them to drive him to services.  People who have been calling someone by one name for many years, likely would find it hard to use another quickly and demanding it would show lack of respect as well as saying somehow that what they did (the naming) wasn't good enough.

Expecting ones fasting practices to impinge on ones parents so that, for example, Mom is supposed to cook separate foods would be a bad thing.  Having an air of "I'm so much more spiritual then my parents" would lack charity, I think.  I have knowledge of this sort of thing happening when a teenager decides to go vegetarian and then expects her/his tastes to be catered to.  It doesn't go over well for Mom or Dad to be treated like a short-order cook.  Other teens I know of who have done this, prepare their own food and don't guilt trip the rest of the family and life is more serene.

  Whether they have no religion or one that they take seriously, being in some sense, patronized by their child would not go over well. Treating the parents are Human Beings is a good thing.  In the ideal situation, the parents can also treat the child as a Human Being, of course.

Yes, there will be parents who don't like the child changing or get really upset, or angry.  One question then is "Why are they this way?"  Is there something in their past?  Is there a sense of betrayal?  That's where communications is vital.


Ebor
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« Reply #39 on: January 14, 2004, 04:40:40 AM »

I recall an Onion Dome column some time ago about a youthful convert who is expecting his parents to call him by a different name...
You've reminded me of what Father Averky on Mo' Nachos said. I think his name has changed three times, once when he became a novice, again when he was tonsured a monk and once more when he was made a priest IIRC. He said that his mother complained that everytime she visited him he had a different name Grin

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« Reply #40 on: January 14, 2004, 02:59:49 PM »

You've reminded me of what Father Averky on Mo' Nachos said. I think his name has changed three times, once when he became a novice, again when he was tonsured a monk and once more when he was made a priest IIRC. He said that his mother complained that everytime she visited him he had a different name Grin

John



 Smiley I'm sure that if she called him by one of his former names, though, that he didn't get huffy and say something like "MOM, that's *not* my name." (I may not have teenagers, but I know and have heard a number of them.)

Ebor
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