Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I think I've sent my ancestors spinning.

Before you read on!  This is a post that has a religious theme!  I'm an accepting, hippy kinda gal when it comes to religion!  Don't dis mine, I won't dis yours!  Do not attempt to solve the religious questions of the ages by gnashing your teeth over my bones in the comments!  I do not play those games, and I will happily delete you!

This is the blog post where I acknowledge that I've been riddled with guilt for the last few years for being a very lapsed Catholic and dragging my children into a lapsed state.  I've never lost faith in God.  As a matter of fact, I consider myself very spiritual.  I pray daily, and I know the good Lord gives me truckloads of patience to deal with my life (read children and husband there) on a daily basis.  I am, however, disillusioned with the leadership of a church that felt it was good reasoning to keep moving known pedophiles around, hoping they would avoid detection.  That doesn't sound very Christian to me, on any level.  To be totally honest, I have issues with most organized religions.  I figure Jesus was a pretty loose-thinking, accepting guy, savior or not, yet many of the Christians I've met seem to relish in excluding others, and it all just doesn't make sense to me at all.

I come from a strong Catholic background.  My grandfather deserted his pursuit of the priesthood only because he could not reconcile the way he felt about science and discovery with the way the church treated those advances for humanity.  He felt called to help as a doctor instead, but he once admitted to me it was the one decision he was never certain of, even at the end of his life.  My grandmother was equally faithful.  There wasn't a day that began or ended for her without praying for her family members in turn.  When asked what she hoped she'd passed on to her children and grandchildren the most, she answered her faith.  The Catholic church was a part of my life in a very real way.  My first communion was at home.  The bishop who performed my confirmation was a personal friend of my grandfather.  My grandmother played violin, without fail, for midnight mass at a local convent, and I was a fixture there since the age of 10.  One summer I read all four volumes of The Lives of the Saints and picked my favorite ones.  Can we say "immersion" with a capital I?

Really, it was when Cubby was of the age to begin religious education that the heavy guilt began.  I had little nagging bouts, but up until then, it wasn't flaring or anything.  I've always believed that really most religions are aiming for the same thing, and that children need to be raised with some belief system larger than themselves.  I mean, it would be pretty egotistical--and slightly depressing--to think we're the only life in the universe and we know everything there is.  We did briefly considered sending Cubby to one of the Catholic schools, but a well-timed job loss put the kabosh to that idea (maybe God was already trying to tell us something!).  Even the prospect of signing him up for religious education apart from public school filled me with dread, making me physically ill.  I hated, I mean HATED our local parish.  The huge parish with all their little cliques that didn't open for newcomers, the letters about how much money we SHOULD be giving, the general air of unhappiness everyone had while at church, I couldn't subject Cubby--or any of us--to all of it.  Scout was ok with whatever I wanted, but the trouble was, I didn't know what I wanted.

We did a lot of church shopping in the coming years.  Yes, I said years.  And it was more like my loving family suffered my incessant church shopping, and I LOVE to shop.  Nothing fit.  Nothing felt right.  Everything felt forced.  It was like those times when you've got pockets of money to spend, but nothing looks good on you, so you end up going to the spa and calling it a day.  It was, by truly (I think) devine intervention that there was an art class on Wednesdays that was inexpensive and close to home advertised in our school.  It happened to be held at the local Presbyterian Church.  I figured in grade school, all they'd do is talk a little God and Jesus, and that wouldn't be bad for the kids.  As a part of this art class, 4th graders and up could join the Jr. Bell Choir, which Cubby wanted to do.  Part of joining bells was going to worship a few times when they played.

I will tell you, from the first minute, I felt at home in this church.  The small congregation, the friendliness, the way people seemed genuinely happy to be there (my kids included!) all made me think that art class was put in front of us for a reason.  We brought Brownie and Sport, and they felt the exact same way we all did, that we'd found a place we were all comfortable.  We've spent about a year attending this church, and that feeling hasn't changed.  In a couple weeks we're going to be officially welcomed as members of the church, and I feel completely guilt-free about that decision!  I feel certain I'd make this same decision for my family, even if my devoutly Catholic grandparents, whose opinions I valued immensely, were still alive.  Yeah, they might have wrung their hands a bit and had lots of questions, but given how I would have answered them, I'm also certain they'd be happy with those answers.  One thing I know for certain, they would have begun and ended their days praying for God to bless my family, whichever church we chose to call home, and now, we have a place to pray for them too.