Sunday, January 4, 2009

Post-Traumatic Catholic Guilt Syndrome

There was a two year period in my life, ages 8-10, when I genuinely thought I was going to be the next Virgin Mary. It was less of an "I am such a humble servant, guide me" belief and more of an "Okay, fine I'll be ready" situation. Those of you who didn't know this about me must be second guessing my sanity level, but Tal assures me that she went through this same thought process. Between a daily religion class, weekly school mass and Sunday church with the fam, I had learned that Jesus was coming again. From there, I decided there was no one more qualified and deserving of the motherhood position than myself. Can you tell I suffered from a devastating lack of self confidence at this same period in my life?

It all started out with some independent bedtime prayer. Much like I now switch to have my feet at the headboard if I can't sleep, I used to whip in a few Hail Marys if I laid awake for a long time. Eventually this led to me praying every night - one Our Father, One Hail Mary, one to my guardian angel and then all of the intentions to JC. I don't know why I left out the Holy Spirit. I do know that all this prayer led to me believing I was on the verge of being plucked for a big role in the 2nd coming of Christ.

I used to wonder when I stopped the gung-ho Christian thing, and now I wonder if I was ever really on board at all. If my main incentive to pray, even as a second grader, was to secure the world's second virgin birth then I guess I was always skeptical. You can almost visualize my frizzy 90's bangs hiding a sneer, can't you?

There's also the real possibility that I was a just an attention-starved middle child and my strange obsession was nothing more profound than Joel's phase where he damned his brother to hell all the time. We were both middle children desperately seeking attention- self-righteousness guaranteed that we got it. God loves me more than you, even if you came first.

At some point, though, I made the unconscious decision to not be the girl who includes her confirmation name on facebook, and urges you with subtlety to VOTE FOR CHOICE on Election Day by changing her profile pic to a fetus shot. I went to school with her and we learned all the same things- why it didn't take for me, I'll never know. Probably because deep down, she always understood she was not holy enough to be the Virgin Erin. And I was laying in my bed, prematurely gloating about how fantastic it would be to finally get that mandate.

I know I'm terrifying the vast majority of you right now, so let me try to sum up why this has been bothering me lately. I really think that my current lack of religion has nothing to do with a lack of belief in God. It is true, though, that I just can't wrap my head around the God I was raised on. I simply want to believe that God is bigger than the judgmental doctrine, the man in a funny hat who rides in a pimped out glass vehicle, and the nasally off-tune chants of a priest as he breaks the bread. I want devotion for the sake of devotion, not for the promise of a second coming (which I think we can all agree is a good thing, mental health wise).

Abe Lincoln once said, "When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That is my religion". It's a nice, simple sentiment but I think I need more than self-gratification and a logical pay-it-forward philosophy. Faith in humanity is good, but I think I could be coaxed to have faith in something unseen.

After a few conversations about this same topic, a girlfriend and I have been testing out new churches for the last month or so. So far we've tried Unitarian Universalist (too chill, but kinda awesome), non-denom megachurch (too big, great sermon), and an Evangelical Lutheran service (jigga what? we're at an evangelical service?! At least we can score some meth and some male hookers!)

We have acknowledged that we are looking for different things, but it's nice to have a "spiritual journey" partner. My main goal is to find somewhere that doesn't make me tune out the minute I hit the pew. Somewhere where the loudest noise of the service isn't everyone putting their kneelers up. Somewhere where the children don't fear the repercussions of disbelief- or aspire to play a large role in the Holy Family. Somewhere where "tolerance" is a four letter word and "acceptance" is the first commandment er, rule. Surely there must be more people out there like me, and they must congregate somewhere every Sunday morning. Oh, and there must be donuts. It wouldn't be church without donuts.


Teresa said...

1. I LOVE that both you and Tal thought you would be host to the Lord His second time around. I can say that thought NEVER occurred to me as a child, nor do I believe it ever occurred to any of my friends. Perhaps your Nativity had an aspect of religious education that mine did not share.

2. Took me 2 readings to realize the funny hatted dude in the pimped out vehicle was the Pope.

3. Nothing you just wrote freaked me out. I also struggle with certain doctrines of the Church that just don't seem to fit into my idea of God.

Mary said...

I joined math team for the donuts... just saying. Slightly less devotional but it helped with my devotion. Eslinger knew the way to my heart and any priest would have to know that too.
i love you.

Anonymous said...

I came across your blog via 2 others and have read pretty much every singl entry in less than 3 days...all at work. Some make me laugh because of your writing style, while others remind me exactly and completely of me. I wasn't going to comment until this entry. I too have been thinking of trying new churches in my new city. The fact that other people my age are doing this, not because they are completely against their own religion, but the fact that it just doesnt quite fit them, is very comforting to me.

Your blog is amazing and I will continue to read it...hopefully not getting fired for doing it at work!!

Reverend Jenkins said...

I came across your blog by doing a search for Catholic Guilt. I got into a conversation about it with a co-worker and was wondering what others had to say about it.

I must say this was pretty good. Growing up a Catholic child, I didn't see myself as the second coming of the Virgin Mary, but I was very serious about the religion. I remember in CCD they would tell us stories of these children in Europe who would see The Virgin Mary, and I was always so jealous of them. I wanted a vision! Then I would be the holy one who everybody would look to for guidance. Lol

Great Blog! Keep it up!