This time, though, it’s about me, wrestling with my own religion. The religion that I was brought up in. The religion – the church that when I was a child made me afraid, and when I was an adult, welcomed me home. I’ve had good and bad, and I’m just losing my religion over what I should do with my own.
When I was little, I don’t remember much about church. I do remember my first communion. I remember that my godmother (my aunt) couldn’t come because she was selling her house or something. And my other grandparents couldn’t make it for some reason or another. It ended up to be my parents and my maternal grandparents. I remember, even at a young age, being disappointed.
When we moved to a rural town, we had one Catholic church in town. It was run by old Italian priests, one of whom mostly talked about the devil. I remember he gave sermons about masturbating being a mortal sin (way to connect with the youth of today) and how the devil stole his blanket – or was it his cot? I had my confirmation there. I remember memorizing answers so that I could be confirmed, but only memorizing them – not really caring to understand. Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy church much.
Not until I met Father G. He was amazing. He opened up the mass for me and explained everything in a way I’d never heard it before. He brought to light so much of the things I didn’t see or didn’t understand. Then, I went to a Catholic university, where the priests at the mass actually understood young people. They talked about studying for finals and issues that were relevant in our lives. The bonus was beautiful music on top of that.
The good experiences continued when I moved to Los Angeles and found St. Monica’s church. Martin Sheen sitting 2 rows behind me in the gymnasium mass because the church had earthquake damage – and the choir was all professionals. The priest, Father what-a-waste, used puppets during his sermons, and there was a gay and lesbian group, and the young adult group had all kinds of great events where I met some great people. I felt at home. I even taught at a Catholic school, attended Religious education meetings and conventions, was very involved in teaching children about God. A friend of mine from an acting class took me to an Episcopal church here in Pasadena. It was so similar in structure, yet so different in other ways. It didn’t quite feel like “home” to me.
And yet now, here I am, several years later, I don’t know where home is. I don’t know where I stand. I don’t go regularly enough to really feel like I belong, yet when I resurface, I am almost always disappointed. I almost always leave with a feeling of “What am I doing here?”… Example: When I went in October before the election. The church passed out pamphlets in the bulletin telling us why we should vote for Proposition 4 and Proposition 8. The priest didn’t say “You should vote this way” but rather “This is so that when someone asks you why you’re voting the way you are, you are knowledgeable.”
And then high profile people started being denied communion because they supported Barack Obama. I felt conspicuous with my Obama button on my purse, almost hiding it so nobody would say anything. And then I did a 180. And when I picked up my son from his ccd classes, I almost made sure that every time I was wearing an Obama shirt. Daring anyone to give me a dirty look or say something to my face.
My oldest child, my son, is in 2nd grade. This is when all good Catholic children receive 2 of the 7 sacraments – First Reconciliation and First Communion. I’ve been struggling with this. I want my children to experience them as I did, and I want them to have some base to start out their religious (or not) life out with and to have a background and some knowledge and some Faith and from there they can decide how they want to proceed. On the other hand do I want them to grow up in the church that tries to make our decisions for us? That tells us how to vote and who to love?
I don’t know. I simply don’t know.
And if I decide that next year we try out a new church, what happens? What about the girls? Do I deny them the experience that I gave my son? Is he being punished for going to ccd, or are they being punished for not having the chance to do the same?