I grew up in one of those sprawling, tempestuous Irish Catholic families that are equal parts joy and heart ache, but tilt a little toward heart ache.

I never meant to write about them. In fact, for a long time, all I really wanted to do was escape them, and I did a pretty good job of it, moving to states they had never stepped foot in, going to college, switching to an Episcopal church, and pursuing a career they found hard to understand. I worked at newspapers for 20 years as a reporter and editor and have spent another 10 as a teacher and administrator at a journalism school. (My mother thinks I work in a hospital. I tell her it’s a university, but the distinction seems to escapes her.)

I must have known that I could never fully elude my past, but I certainly never expected it to catch up with me quite as completely as it has since my son decided to become a Catholic priest. He’s a Jesuit, a member of the Society of Jesus, and he teaches and preaches at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, not far from where I grew up and where most of my extended family still lives. In some ways, I think, he has picked up my life, and my religion, where I left off.

As my son became more and more Catholic, I faced a choice: I could either try to understand his faith and begin wrestling with my own or I could lose him. 

I am not the kind of person who seeks understanding in either deep conversation (which in my family would more closely resemble a very loud argument) or quiet contemplation (sometimes called prayer).The only way I can figure things out, the only way I can truly understand a thing and decode how I feel about it, Is to write. And so I began a book-length project on faith and family as I have experienced it. An excerpt from that manuscript is offered here as well as several articles that explore the inexplicable things children will sometimes do. You also can find me on Twitter @kristingilger, where I post about family and religion.