Interview 2: Joe

“For me it was a very easy decision to choose to continue to grow in my faith and live by it, not just blindly following it because that’s what I was used to, but believing it because I wanted to, and importantly, trying to live based on that belief.”

I met Joe (aged 22) through work. He can be quiet at first but as he opens up, his quick wit and genuine kindness become apparent. Joe is part of the reason I started this blog–as I got to know him, I learned that he lives his life in a manner that is deeply rooted in his faith, and I couldn’t help but ask him questions constantly. I wanted to understand his faith because Joe demonstrates the values of his religion through his actions, quietly and without any desire for recognition. He is extraordinary to me and also somewhat foreign, so of course I found myself trying to comprehend every angle of his beliefs. He was patient and answered all of my questions without hesitation, further proving to me how deep his convictions are and yet how open and understanding he is. So of course, when I decided to bother lots of people with my questions and start this blog, he was one of the first people I thought to interview.

The interview below was conducted via email as Joe lives in Minnesota (though I did manage to snap some photos of him on a recent visit, there wasn’t time for me to interview him in person).

Interview 2: Joe

Could you describe for me your faith journey thus far? As in, how were you raised, and have there been any moments in your life that have changed your faith?
I was raised Catholic, the fourth child of eight (typical large Catholic family). I went to a Catholic grade school and a small private Christian high school that had a mostly Catholic student/faculty body. For my whole life, our family has always had a nightly prayer time where we say at least one decade of the rosary – it’s been very central to our lives. My parents have said that when they made the decision to do this they immediately noticed us kids getting along much better with less fighting and yelling, so it definitely had an effect on us (and on others who have said that upon entering our house, they felt a sense of peace – despite young kids shouting and running around with lightsabers).

During junior year of high school I decided to also pray a rosary of my own each day and have ever since. I decided this in response to feeling a bit down and somewhat lonely at that time in my life, and I immediately benefitted from that, including growing much closer to the people who to this day are my closest friends. Deciding to commit myself to this daily routine affected me in a behind-the-scenes way. I never mentioned it to my friends or anything, and the basis of that friendship wasn’t our religion or religious practices. 

I attended the University of Notre Dame (heyyy another Catholic school), and freshman year was probably the hardest of my life. I didn’t know anyone else at ND, I was separated from my high school friends, and had just had a falling out with my very best friend at the time, who was a girl whom I had very strong feelings for, so there was a good deal of heartbreak there. Plus, the culture shock alone of being in college was draining enough, and having no one to go to with a sense of familiarity and security was tough. I spent a lot of nights at the grotto on campus, which is a beautiful and peaceful candle lit area, and I would say my rosary before heading back to my dorm to do homework or binge-watch Scrubs.
DSC_0080With all of this, I would say freshman year was the most significant moment of my life that changed my faith, as I felt like my faith was what kept me afloat. I built up a large deal of trust in God and I greatly benefited from that. After freshman year and throughout the rest of my time on campus I continued to become more social, more confident, and felt more like a person. 
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Interview 1: My Parents

To ease myself into the “interview-style” of questioning, I started with my parents. Mom (aged 51) is a Southern girl who works hard and laughs harder, and Dad (aged 56) is an Iranian-born lawyer who loves nothing more than to sit and read. The combination is both insane and adorable, and their love has taught me more than they will ever know. There were some hiccups with my first attempt at an interview (I first interviewed Mom separately…and then deleted my only audio copy as soon as we were finished) so this is the second interview. There’s a lot more that they each have to say, so more interviews may be posted later on.

A few notes: the interview is long, so prepare yourselves accordingly, but I think a lot of what they said is very poignant to religion today. To be fair, I’m biased…they’re my parents. Also a few times we mention the word “baba”, that just means Dad in Farsi.

and here we go.

Interview 1: Mom and Dad

Me: So I’m going to ask you guys the same questions basically, and we’ll delve into some things with each of you, but I would like for you to kind of alternate talking. So who would like to go first? Mom’s already had some practice.

Mom: Okay, well go with me first.

Me: Okay, so I would like you to go over your ‘faith journey’, how you were raised as a kid and where you are today and how you came down that path.

Mom: Okay. Pine Forest Baptist Church was the first church that I remember going to. We were very involved there. I asked to be baptized when I was around eight, which was a little young, I remember there being some questions as to whether I was too young to make that decision, but I convinced the minister that I was ready. So I was baptized there. Fully dunked. And we moved away from that house, to the other side of town, to [another church]…went there (sighs) occasionally. What I remember is we’d go at the beginning of the school year and then we’d go twice more, so it was almost painful, because every time I went back, I didn’t know where I was going, I didn’t know the people there, it didn’t feel like I belonged there. I didn’t enjoy going to that church. My dad never went very much. I think he went back at Pine Forest. When we finally joined Highland Hills—well I got involved because I knew some younger people there, and so I visited and then Mother visited and Mother got very involved. And so Mother started going very regularly and I went more regularly—had some great Sunday School teachers there, and of course, Reverend Jim Bruner who married your baba and me. He was just a wonderful minister. I learned a lot about my faith through him and the Sunday School teachers there. I haven’t found another place like that. They were just open-minded. You know, when your baba and I got married, Reverend Bruner sat us down and talked to us about how we were going to make this marriage work when we came from different faiths. He never seemed to question whether he should marry us, he just wanted us to be aware that it was going to be difficult coming from different places. I now understand there are ministers who would not have married us, and I find that shocking, because I never thought for a second that Reverend Bruner wouldn’t marry us! So that’s the beginning of my faith.

 

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