By Angelica Recierdo, inside columnist

In Middletown, N.J., a lot of the residents are Roman Catholic. Whether Irish, Italian, Mexican or Filipino, everyone went to the same churches and went through the same milestones. The biggest sin at confession was teasing your siblings, and by confirmation, you were picking out a saint’s name based on what cool thing they were the patron saint of, like music. The process of Mass was like a reflex to you: sign of the cross, holy water, genuflect, kneel and pray. You mumbled the responses to prayers and committed them to memory like the theme songs to your favorite cartoons. CCD – the Catholic equivalent of Sunday school – was a chance to meet kids from other parts of town and learn that Jesus Christ was just a normal part of your education like learning the multiplication tables.

Although I don’t consider myself religious now, I have a great respect for faith and the principles it teaches. Patience really is a virtue. In a fast world, it’s calming to be able to center yourself and keep focus on what’s ahead. Being one of the few people who can sit through an entire flight without any means of entertainment and not feel bored is something I credit to learning to be at peace with oneself and reflecting on the past, whether that be the past year, month or hour.

Years of kneeling at my bedside to thank God for everything I have used to feel like a chore, but it is now integrated into the core of who I am. I rarely ever pray anymore, but I think that inner conversation is important for remembering where you are in your life and being grateful for every part of the journey, even the difficult parts. In my apartment, I’ll find traces of religion that I don’t expect to see anymore. Rosary beads on a doorknob, a wooden relic of two hands joined in prayer. They are little signs of strength that ground me, remind me of where I’m from.

One thing that has stuck with me is a pension for community service, which is almost always fostered in faith. I remember the story that taught me what service means. It was about a man who gave only two coins at church and was worried that wouldn’t make a difference, but he was reassured that his contribution meant just as much, if not more, than the others who gave countless coins, because those two were all he had. Urban living has hardened me to an extent, making me forget what sparing some change really does for the homeless, but I can honestly say there won’t be a day in my life when I don’t have the desire to help others.

I didn’t pack religion with me on my way to Boston at age 18. It doesn’t really thrive here the way it would in a New Jersey suburb. I know we’re in the middle of Lent, but I’m not doing anything about it. I’m not abstaining from anything or actively trying to keep the seven sins at bay. I do reflect, though. I stay mindful, and I treat every person I meet with kindness. Our generation is statistically the least religious of any before us, but we’re navigating through with the experiences we were raised on. Maybe we’ve shed certain traditions  because they don’t make sense anymore. The word “religion” itself is starched and heavy, outdated. We’re not followers to faith, we are patchers, patching together what rings true in our minds and hearts.

-Angelica Recierdo can be reached at Inside@HuntNewsNU.com

Photo courtesy Toby Hudson, creative commons