This is a personal issue I’ve been struggling with. And, by personal, I mean mine. I can’t possibly articulate, value or judge your beliefs. I can only wrestle with my own.
There’s an old joke amongst former Catholic School attendees; you can tell who went to Catholic School because they’re all atheists now. Many of my former classmates are, in fact, now atheist.
I always appreciated the foundation I received. I don’t resent my parents for sending me there, for baptizing me as an infant, for putting me through all the sacraments. Was it boring? Sure. Did I believe all of it? Maybe not. But, my grandmother and mother are Irish Roman Catholics, and I always loved the beauty and century old traditions associated with Catholicism. My dad, however, was not religious.
I remember I was 10, reading an article in YM Magazine, then running to my dad’s computer, firing up Print Shop, and making a sign for my bedroom door that read, “Be Young. Be Modern. Be Pro-Life.”
Do you have any idea what those words mean?
Those are strong words. Until you know what they mean, you aren’t allowed to post them on your door like a mission statement.
I didn’t understand what my dad meant and I was humiliated. I took the sign off my door.
By the time I went off to college, I was on a spiritual break. I wasn’t involved in religion, unless you count worshiping at the alter of Rusted Root and PBR. It wasn’t until I got engaged and started planning my wedding when I was bitten with the OH BTW I’M CATHOLIC bug. I was determined to get married in the church I grew up in. I hadn’t attended in years. I didn’t know the priest. But I was so desperate for this tie to complete some sort of movie-like wedding scenario, that I forced it. We attended church to meet a quota, but I felt nothing, and stopped shortly after the ceremony.
Then we had kids, each of them baptized, and each of them sent off to the Catholic School in our town, my alma mater. I tried to be involved, but more and more, my personal beliefs stopped meshing with the words coming out of the pulpit. Nothing about it fit anymore. We left.
Today I passed our former church in the center of town, pulled off the road, and gasped.
At the end of mass, they would close with a prayer to end abortion and ask for volunteers to protest outside abortion clinics. I remember sitting in that pew and thinking of the face of every girl and woman who found themselves having to enter that clinic, and decided, that wasn’t my spiritual narrative.
I couldn’t and can’t politically mandate or spiritually judge this decision for other women, the same way I couldn’t and can’t apply those same standards to marriage equality.
We’ve long since switched churches, putting the kids in a new school with small class sizes and high quality education that is, yes, also Catholic, but also houses other faiths. We allow them the same foundation I was given, but with the added encouragement to explore, taste and question the hell out of things.
This morning as I dropped the boys off to class, schlepping in donuts, and cupcakes, and gift bags, and costumes. I bent over to draw a lightening bolt on Wyatt’s forehead with some eyeliner from my purse, as he excitedly stood in Andy’s Harry Potter outfit to represent a character from his favorite book, when a little girl told him that he shouldn’t read those books because they were about witchcraft.
Walking out, I heard two parents whispering about how they hated that the celebration of such a holiday was even allowed.
These people have every right to personally feel these things, the same way my old church had every right to place 3500 crosses in their front lawn.
But, I got into my car and realized, I don’t know what I am right now. I believe in something. I pray to someone. I champion social issues, and devour the hauntingly beautiful history of many religions.
But, my temple is Target on a Monday afternoon. My bible is Elton John’s Greatest Hits on vinyl.
And, I still don’t know how to explain those crosses to my children.