Now, this is NOT something I do often (an overstatement), and I’m probably never going to do it again, so I hope you’re paying attention.
First things first – this is not a tirade about right and wrong religions. The idea of a “right” religion and a “wrong” religion is absolutely ludicrous in every way. Of course there’s no right or wrong. Your belief system is yours, uniquely and beautifully yours. Period. No one shares it. Period. Yes, yes, you may belong to a congregation, you may prescribe to certain religious doctrines along with a group of similarly minded individuals, you may even wholeheartedly take the bible as one hundred percent unwaveringly gospel truth… but you do it differently than everybody else. The differences are minute, imperceptible to the human eye, but they exist. Be it the science of your atoms, the construction of your DNA, the lightness of your soul, or just the way you see Jesus in your mind’s eye, your religion is different from every other living thing on this planet.
So there is no right and wrong. It’s not even right or wrong for you to agree with me. Or disagree with me. But, feel free should you chose.
That said – and I firmly, FIRMLY believe every inch of what I just stated with every fiber of my being – I believe the Catholicism on which I was raised is the right way. You don’t have to believe it for it to be true. We’ll all learn the truth when we die. Some may say that I’m wrong, that this way or that way or the Fred Phelps way is the one true and right way of the after life. And to that I say, “Okay.” I won’t argue with you. Because I know I’m right. I don’t believe it. I don’t have faith in it. I know it. I know it as absolutely as I know my hands, my toes, the skin on my forehead, the love of my husband. The certainty of this subject is greater than any other in my life.
Now, let me voice my opinion on a few things. Don’t worry; this isn’t political, judgmental, or emotionally charged. Just my opinion on how and why I practice my religion the way I do, starting with a confession:
I haven’t been to church since I moved to NorthCarolinaLand.
I might be scared. Not of the church. Just the churchgoers.
I enjoy being Catholic for one important reason:
The Mass never changes.
I know that I can slip into any Catholic church in any country with Mass delivered in any language, and it will be exactly.the.same. Raleigh, Rayne, Mumbai, New York, Manila. Johannesburg. Mass will be delivered in the same order it has been since before I was born. And I find that terribly comforting. I came to this realization in my late teens. I was preparing to graduate from high school, my parents had recently divorced, my father was dating again as was my mother. People I knew were sick. People I loved were dying. The world was on it’s face, and I had no idea which way was up. But I knew that for one hour on Sunday morning, I could expect stability. I could expect sameness. I could expect beautiful, predictable monotony.
And I savored it. Selfishly. Shallowly.
I didn’t go to deepen my relationship with Christ. We had an understanding. We were cool. I went to center myself. To pull all my chaotic pieces back into alignment so I could face Monday.
In 2006, when my friends abandoned me, my career failed me, my courses didn’t meet graduation requirements, my grandparents were dying, my friend and coworker died suddenly and tragically, my beloved pets came to the end of their all-too-short lifespans (LOTS of dying in 2006), and I couldn’t find my own ass with a map and a flashlight, the Church was there, just where I needed it. And I CLUNG to it, wrapped myself up in it like a blanket from the dryer. It was a precious relief to have that hour of knowing my next literal move. Kneel. Stand. Kneel. Sit. Repeat. It was glorious. It was my salvation in the bedlam. It was my private sanctuary.
And I didn’t have to share it with anyone.
I mean, okay, yeah, I was on a pew with at least seven other people, in a church with a hundred or so others. But I was alone with God. Just the two of us. He guiding me through the Liturgy, Eucharist, Communion.
Which leads us to opinion number two: Religious celebration is between me, God, and no one else. Sacraments not withstanding of course. I don’t want to share. With anyone. I don’t want to seek out the fellowship of like-minded Catholics (hint: there aren’t many liberal, pro-choice Catholics in NorthCarolinaLand… or the world for that matter. And no, I’m not discussing my pro-choice stance right now, so just stop before you start.) I don’t want to be a social butterfly in a religious circle.
I go to Mass for one singular purpose: to celebrate Mass.
That’s it. That’s all I want to do. That’s all I feel I need to do. That’s all I feel I’m called to do. My other acts of kindness, charity, good will towards men, whatever… those are NOT contingent on my beliefs in the after life. I do them BECAUSE THEY NEED DOING. Not because I want to spread the glory of God. God’s awesome, but I’m not going to shove him down your throat. Ask all the scholarly questions you want, and I promise to answer them to the best of my abilities. But I’m not going to attempt to convert anyone through my good deeds, whatever they may be. I’m not going to debate your religious ideology with my religious ideology. I’ll provide you with the information, and let you come to your own conclusions. The greatest gift God gave us was free will. Many argue it was Jesus. And Jesus is AWESOME, don’t get me wrong, but even within Jesus, God maintained free will. Take Him or leave Him. You have options. And I don’t want to discuss my options with anyone but God.
So for me, Mass is not social hour. Mass is not up for discussion. Mass is what I take away from it. Mass is what it is TO ME. And it’s going to be something different for you.
And of course, I should probably revisit that whole “I’m afraid of the churchgoers” statement I made a few paragraphs back. You see, it’s been my experience that meeting people within the confines of a religious gathering leads to difficulty separating the social from the religious. Which goes back to that “whole ram it down ones throat” problem. I don’t want to make friends AT CHURCH because I don’t want CHURCH friends. I just want friends. People with whom I can be absolutely real. Not to mislead you, but I do have a few friends who I met through my parish in Rayne, and they are more than just church friends. They are first and foremost religiously like minded individuals upon whom I rely for spiritual support (and yes, I know that goes against everything I’ve just said for the last elebenty paragraphs. Remember what I said about right and wrong? Just drag all that down to right here.) , and really the more I think about it, they are church friends. Beyond a shared experience within the confines of our religious similarities, I have very little in common with these people. Except one, and only then it’s a tenuous commonality.
Moral of the story: Social is social and religious is religious and never the twain shall meet because I’m not religiously social or socially religious.
And I think that’s where I was going with all of this. It’s just something that’s been on my mind lately, and it’s something that I needed to verbalize…with a keyboard. And it’s like midnight thirty. I just really hope all of that made sense to someone.
More importantly I hope someone reads it.