Sunday, February 20, 2011

The retired Catholic tells her story

Yep. I'm going there.

I know I shouldn't. Two topics that are taboo to many bloggers - unless you're Billy Dennis - are politics and religion.

But I'm not here to dis one over the other. I'm just going to tell you how I got to where I am today.

Basically, I'm a retired Catholic. That sounds better than an ex-Catholic. That makes it sound like I divorced Catholicism. Which I didn't. Because they don't believe in divorce. So sadly, I was kicked out of the church awhile ago anyway. But I digress.

I was born to Catholic parents via the rhythm method (as were all three of my siblings), raised by Catholic nuns like Sister Bernice who dumped my desk and a priest named Father Franzen whose icy, arthritic grip I will never forget. I went to church Monday through Friday before school, then Sunday, followed by coffee and donuts (only on Sunday).

Sounds like heaven, right?

At the time, it was fine. I mean, I never knew anything different. All our friends went to parochial schools; in fact, it never occurred to me that there were public schools in the town where I grew up. My parents were strict but not ogres. I loved them and between their spiritual background and the Catholic School system, I grew up with a healthy foundation of morals and values. That and an aversion to incense. But I digress.

As I grew older, I remember hating going to church. Sit down, stand up, kneel down... it was like aerobics for an hour. But that didn't bother me as much as how crappy I felt after a Catholic sermon. Now, keep in mind, I was rather young, so reading between the lines was not yet my forte. All I heard was that I was a horrible sinner, and that I was going to burn in hell for pretty much everything I did, ESPECIALLY if I left early right after communion. I was already an overly-sensitive, literal youth. Now I waited for the devil to descend on me and set fire to my feet for every impure thought that crossed my mind.

On top of that, I'll never forget that in 7th or 8th grade they introduced face-to-face confessionals. What MORTAL IDIOT decided that kids should be put face-to-face with the most feared figure in their lives - the closest thing to God they knew - their PRIEST???!!! I remember sitting there thinking, "Just take me now, Lord. Because Father Franzen's gonna KILL me." And I was sure that if I told him I "used the Lord's name in vain" or "copied off my friend's homework paper" he was going to be ON THE PHONE to my parents before I could say my penance of one Our Father and three Hail Marys.

So when we moved out of my hometown, I eventually switched to a public school. Gone were the religion classes, but I still managed to get my weekly dose of guilt in every Sunday. And it made me sad, because I believed in God, I loved God, but I just couldn't believe that my God would want me to feel so... BAD. Again, it could have been me. My parents are still very strong Catholics and I respect them for that. They get out of it something I couldn't.

In college, now able to make my own decisions (to a point), I fell away from the church completely. It never really occurred to me that there were options out there. I was Catholic, and that was all there was to it. I just wasn't a "practicing" Catholic. Of course, I felt guilty about this, and figured I was going to hell, but it obviously wasn't pressing enough to make me attend church when I was on my own.

For the sake of making this blog a skulldrag to read, I'm going to end this here, and pick up with Part II, which would be the "...where I am" part of "How I got to..." It's really quite interesting. And it really doesn't make me feel that guilty.

In the meantime, feel free to comment on your religious quest and where you ended up. I'm anxious to hear others' journeys.


  1. This sounds like MY life story, except my parents had an awakening as well. Interested to read your next part, as I haven't figured that out yet for myself.

  2. We have something in common, Amy. I stayed with the Catholic Church until shortly after my Dad died, and that's when I realized I was mostly going for my parents. What finally drove me away was how the Catholic Church treats divorced and remarried Catholics. Some of my friends who were better followers than me were not able to receive communion and that really angered me. Oh wait, they could fork over a few thousand dollars for an annulment of their first marriages and poof; they could be in good standing! At this point in my life I would have to say that I don't really like any organized religion. Whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name there is going to be someone handing out a rule book and telling you that you're a sinner. No thanks. At least for now, I am a retired church goer.

  3. My last confession: I was in the hospital in Iowa City. A priest comes in and ask, are you a catholic. I answer yes. He said would you like to receive communion? I said yes. He said are you sorry for your sins? I said yes. He gave me the host and left.

    Thats the way it should be, not a preist yelling, YOU DID WHAT?

  4. I'll confess that I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness - and I can tell you that they have brewed up their own particularly strong recipe for guilt, and they've ladled in a good dose of isolationism for that little added control. Glad to be free from that.

    At some point in my life, I realized that there were religions not derived from Christ. Later, I realized that Chris was the latecomer to that particular god. Turns out there are three sibling religions all bickering over who is most devout - and willing to kill each other to prove the point.

    At some later point in my life I realized that if I had been born a few miles to the left or right on this small blue marble, I might have grown up Hindu, Muslim, Buddist, Taoist or something else.

    Still later, I realized that I didn't need any god to make me a good person, I could be that way just because I wanted to.

    What if parents let their children choose their own religion instead of prescribing the religion of their geography? What if their children chose "None of the above"? Would that make the world a better place?

    I don't know.

    I do think that if we can't blame some deity for our hatred/dislike/aversion of another group of human beings, might we then realize that it's in our best interest to get to know them, appreciate their history, their culture, their own flavor of genius?


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