I grew up with religion. Catholic religion. My brother and I were the only cousins out of… oh about 40… on my dad 100% Irish side of the family that didn’t go to Catholic school K-12.
There are 3 reasons for this:
1) My mom attended Catholic school K-2nd grade. When lessons in penmanship began, she was regularly beaten with a ruler for being left handed. 3rd grade my grandparents moved her to public school.
2) My dad attended Catholic school K-11th grade. During grades 9-11 he apparently spent vast amounts of time digging holes, refilling those holes and bathing the meanest Saint Barnard (the school mascot) as punishment for his antics. For his final paper in religion class he wrote and in depth analysis of the failings of the Catholic Church and called the Pope a fraud. He was asked to leave the premises and never return. He attended public school grade 12.
3) Catholic school is expensive.
Despite these ill feelings, my mom still made sure we were raised in the church. For the most part, as a child, I liked it. We went to mass every Sunday. We stayed after for CCD and catechism classes. I sang in the children’s choir, despite not being able to carry a tune. I stood in front of the entire congregation and did readings. I did these things because I wanted to, because Father asked me to and I could not say no to such a beautiful heart.
After my confirmation, my attendance started to slip. I was in high school after all. In college my attendance was almost non existent. I only went when my friend Bill asked me to go with him, and I am fairly sure he only went as penitence for all the drinking and carousing he did the rest of the week.
It was also in these years that I started to doubt so much of the teachings I accepted without question in my childhood. Particularly the Catholic Church’s hard line stance on a person’s right to choose- their partners and their bodies.
But I always seem to go back. In a fit of rage Matt and I decided to be married by a Methodist minister instead of the priest I wanted, but after much debate we still had Gracie baptized Catholic. When she starts kindergarten we will enroll her in CCD classes too.
We haven’t been to mass in months though. It’s odd because on some level I really do love going. I love the music and voices, the smell of flowers and incense, the routine. It is comfortable and never changes. Watching Kennedy’s burial on CNN this past Saturday, I sat on the couch eating a freeze pop and absent mindedly participating in the service. I’m sure others at home were doing the same thing.
I still find myself struggling with what I believe, but I know that I do believe. I guess that is one of the beautiful things about structured religion: It always welcomes you back with open arms.