Like this month’s chapter writer Seth, I was taught the Catholic faith growing up. (well partially). I say partially because my parents were divorced and I was only exposed to Catholic teachings when visiting my father and Italian grandparents on the weekends. Conveniently our visits coincided on Sundays, which meant I spent 50% of my Sundays during childhood in a Catholic Church and/or Sunday bible study classes called CCD. When it became my choice if I wanted to attend these rituals or not, I stopped attending both by the time I was 13. I am 37 now and have participated in little to zero other organized religious services or gatherings outside of weddings and funerals.
Reading the Bible this month, although strange to me, may actually come at a perfect time. As I said in my previous post, my own spiritual growth and exploration has had plenty of time and space to grow in the past six months. I started a meditation practice back in September guided by my first existential chapter writer and have continued the practice at my own pace and with my own agenda.
Here in St. Croix, I have had even more time in a very surreal and existential setting to ponder even more my connections to the environment and the people around me (Chapter 7 and Chapter 8). Thinking about the connections between it all inevitably has led me back to the overall existential questions about God and faith. But I must admit, even just picking up the physical book “The HOLY BIBLE” is giving me flashbacks of being a kid and dreading the oddness and confinement that I felt when attending Sunday mass.
The one thing I probably do agree with from my Catholic teachings is that confessing or being honest about things you’ve been hiding, or holding back can sometimes feel really refreshing. (As long as it is NOT in a small dark closet and to a stranger behind a wooden wall! That is just scarring not sin-relieving) So with my Catholic background in mind let’s start out this month with my top 10 confessions(in no particular order) about my religious experiences now and then.
1) I have never read the Holy Bible: Its true. At least I don’t remember ever reading it. Maybe I read a bit back in CCD bible study classes as a kid but if I did, I blocked this out of my memory. And my only experience with Genesis was rocking out to Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel with my brother in the 80’s. I also blocked out almost everything else about CCD except the fact that I got in trouble for having a Michael Jackson “Thriller” folder (that was considered unholy in my class?)
2) My father had to bribe me with Dunkin Donuts munchkins to sit still in church – this was the real motivation behind my good behavior during church.
3) My brother and I spent our time in Sunday mass gambling. We would bet each other our allowance money on guessing pre-sermon how many times the preacher would say Jesus, Christ, or Holy Spirit. The closest who did not go over won the bet. This took our mind off of the echoing booming voice of the preacher and the somber and serious expressions on everyone’ face in the congregation.
4) I never (until now I just looked it up) knew what my “CCD” class name stood for. Now I know and it creeps me out a bit. Check it out here if you are curious too.
5) Going to Catholic mass always felt like a huge punishment – I dreaded it and was only comforted when I focused on listening to my grandfather playing the organ as he did on particular Sundays. (and of course the idea of donuts afterward)
6) Getting communion freaked me out. I cannot remember how old I was when I had my first communion (ceremony and all). But I do remember having to wear an awful white dress and crying the entire service. I avoided taking communion in mass thereafter like a 4-year-old would avoid eating vegetables. Somehow eating the body and blood of Christ was never appealing to me.
7) The most religious experience my mother introduced me to was the album “Jesus Christ Superstar” My brother and I at age 8 and 12 memorized the words to these songs and ran around singing happily to this record. I saw the film much later in high school. It did not bring me back to the church but gave me a greater respect for the stories that going to Sunday Mass had turned me off to.
8) I love the idea of finding community in faith, a church or religion – but have always felt more ostracized by all of these things than welcomed. I have felt more at home and welcomed in neighborhoods I’ve lived in, friend’s homes for dinner, movie theaters full of other science fiction fans, classrooms that I’ve taught in and group yoga mediations. (to name just a few of the many positive and uplifting community experiences I’ve experienced)
9) I often have lied when someone would ask me if I believed in God. I told them yes to avoid any long-winded converting conversations that may come after if I told them I didn’t believe. (is this a double sin if you are lying and not believing in God?)
10) And last but not least, I procrastinated this weeks task of reading the first 11 chapters of Genesis through. I just sat down and read it (did it twice actually). And somehow I still don’t really understand it fully. Do I need to relive my CCD classes?
Maybe I need to read the chapters through at least once more with a few more chapters for context? I know that these are ancient stories to help us come closer to translating the genesis of the earth and our lives but am finding it hard to translate to our current times. I am grasping little in this right now that relates to or adds to my already strong sense of personal faith, and guidance that I believe is necessary to move through the world. I will however remain open and will read further. There is always something to gain from processing how others around you navigate the world. Like the moth to the fire. The flame can lead the moth to a blinding enlightening experience or it can lead to a fiery end . If we are alert and make our own decisions there is nothing wrong with following our own path to knowledge.