Perhaps George Michael said it best all those many moons ago. Do you have to have faith? I think so at least. But what does that really mean?
I have been searching and struggling with my own spiritual beliefs for several years now. To be honest, meeting my husband really was the starting point of this quest for “what is my faith?”.
Here he was- a smart, sensitive, kind, generous, happy man. And he doesn’t believe in a higher power. And he’s fine with it. He’s moral and good. It was like a light bulb for me. Morality and religion are not mutually exclusive.
But, still, I find it hard to believe that he doesn’t. Believe that is. I still sometimes ask him… “Look at that sunset! What a lovely sky! Can you look at that and still not accept that there is a God?”
He’ll say, “It’s just a matter of light filtering through the atmosphere and blahblah rotation of the Earth blahblah seasonal blahblah…” I zone out at that point.
What’s odd is, he’s not some intellectual or scientific person. He’s really just, I don’t know. I guess the best word I can think of is pessimistic. For example, the past two seasons that the New York Giants made it to and went on to win the Super Bowl, he spent most of his time saying “They just don’t have what it takes. They’ll never make it all the way.” I’m pretty sure he does that to protect himself from disappointment. Sometimes I think his stance on religion is for the same reason.
But, really, back to the topic at hand…
I was born and raised Roman Catholic. I even went to Catholic school for 1st through 6th grades. And then when we moved to the suburbs and I started public school, I attended CCD until 11th grade when I was confirmed. I always imagined I’d get married in The Church and raise my kids the same way I was raised.
But Hubby’s ideals really challenged me to look at my own. Especially since he was brought up Roman Catholic as well, and had also, for a time, attended Catholic schools. His father and I discussed it once. I told him that Hubby didn’t consider himself Catholic. My father-in-law said, “Once you’re Catholic, you are always Catholic. It’d be like saying he wasn’t Italian anymore. You are what you are born to be.”
Is that true, though? Was I all my life buying into the thought that because of how I was raised, that is how I believe? The student/teacher in me bristled at the idea. No. We can all change ourselves. We own our destiny, our hearts, and our minds.
This revelation was freeing, but scary. What is my faith? Without the structure of Mass, how will I communicate with God? Without lighting a candle and/or saying a certain set of words, how can I be sure He hears me?
Twice since this quandary began, I have pledged to attend Mass every Sunday, and both times, I’ve given it up. The first time, was just around 9/11. I was drawn back “to the fold” only to find that I didn’t get any comfort. So, I gave up.
I was okay with my distance from The Church. Even through all the wedding planning. I didn’t feel it was necessary at all to be married in a certain building or my a certain person. I just wanted to marry Hubby. Our marriage. Our way. I did, however, get Lala and Loopsy baptized. Mostly out of a sense of tradition. But there was still that deeply instilled idea of freeing them from Original Sin and all that jazz. I want my kids to go to Heaven… Anyway…
(Side note: During the Baptism prep class for parents, I learned that, even though becoming ordained as a priest is a Holy Sacrament, and so is marriage, taking vows as a nun, is not a Holy Sacrament. This stuck in my craw… More on that later.)
The second time was last year, when I began my Mojo journey and I was searching for something, anything, to guide me spiritually.
I was very gung-ho about it. I even went to confession. That was incredibly cathartic, and I see why people do it. Giving up your guilt and fears to God, knowing that you can let it go and have a clean slate, is very uplifting. The priest to whom I confessed is very down to Earth, very real. The kind of man you could see cheering at an Orioles game or laughing over a cocktail at a picnic. Someone like my Dad, actually, now that I’m thinking about it. Just a Dude. So, attending the masses over which he presided were comforting, centering, and I felt like I was embracing the faith of my family, the faith I was born into. I felt a sense of communion with others with my beliefs. But then…
Other priests took over the Sunday 12:30 Mass rotation. The homilies started to be more about how we should “properly worship” and less about actual worship. I started to notice little things about my fellow parishioners. One family spent the mass either reading the bulletin or writing a check for their tithe or looking through their bags. Once, the mom was clipping coupons. I also noticed this older lady who NEVER smiled. She didn’t sing along with the hymns, she didn’t shake anyone’s hand or even say the words during the “Peace Be With You” time…. in fact, she looked miserable and it was sad to me. Why were these people there? Why go to Mass, if not for a spiritual experience? (I was also sort of oddly put off by the fact that the Eucharistic Ministers would use hand sanitizer before giving out Communion. I mean, we’re supposed to believe that God has transformed the wafer and the wine into the Body and the Blood, but we don’t believe he’d protect us from the sniffles?)
I realized that I was searching for a connection with the Lord, a Higher Power, my Maker. I had sought the comfort and familiarity of the rituals of Catholic Mass, but I was put off by the emptiness of it all. I came to the conclusion that being a Roman Catholic is probably not for me. (See, it’s so engrained in me that I can’t even say this definitely.)
Then, I read an article about the mistreatment of Catholic nuns by the Vatican. This really blew me away. I mean, these ladies devote their lives to their faith and their community. All while not even blessed sacrament-wise. They teach our children, for crying out loud. They should be revered. But, no… In fact, they are under “investigation” because of their charitable work for homeless and *gasp* gay people!!!! The horror! I mean… The Vatican works its tail off to re-assign and hide pedophiles (allegedly), but they are taking away homes and security of their Sisters for providing comfort for needy citizens? What the???
I started to be appalled by the hypocrisy. Do I want to bring up my daughters in a faith like this? For them to be taught that even if you live a chaste, charitable, Christ-like life, you are still not good enough in the eyes of The Church? I definitely do not.
I’m a little heart-broken that I won’t be seeing them all dolled up in little white dresses and veils for their First Communion. Heck, maybe I’ll still have them do it. I dunno. It is a rite of passage. And I’m not going to force my own beliefs on them, especially considering I’m still figuring it all out myself. This Parenthood thing is no joke, right?
All I know is, my God hears me. I pray to him nearly every day. I live the best life I can, I am open-minded and open-hearted. I try to live by Christ’s example. (The turning the other cheek and forgiveness part still trips me up, I’ll admit.) I ask for the blessings of my ancestors, my lost loved ones too. I believe in Angels, and wishes, and even a little bit in Magic. I know that our world is full of wonder and of miracles and that we need to be attentive to them and grateful for them every chance we get.
Does that make me so un-Roman Catholic? I have no answer. I’m still trying to figure it all out.