Sunday, April 20, 2008
Friday was the 7th anniversary of my mom's death. While I still miss her desperately, it no longer feels as though my heart went through my husband's shredder along with unwanted junk mail. It's a peaceful missing. I was going to go to the cemetery and drink iced tea with her, but it didn't work out. Another time. I pray to my mom often; by pray I mean I talk with her. I tell her what I'm about, and ask her to bless my girls. She blessed them lavishly with her love, generosity, and kindness while alive so I don't see why would let death stop her. All in all, a peaceful day.
Mass was even peaceful. No turmoil. Our wonderful priest from Tanzania said Mass. I do love him. He is so humble and has such an eye opening perspective on American life - not that all the congregation appreciate his perspective though. He always has a few words of wisdom if you can understand him. Usually I can follow him until he gets tickled with himself or upset, and then he might as well be speaking Swahili as English. He spoke on Hope. Hope is big for me.
I've been reading whenever I can grab a few seconds: in the bathroom, while cooking - you know, spatula in one hand, book in the other - while eating, before bed. For pure pleasure I'm reading Joanne Harris's Five Quarters of the Orange and Tom Robbins' (confessed with a slight amount of guilt). I finished The Mists of Avalon which makes me want to re-read Mary Stewart's Arthurian series. In addition I've met Anne Lamott (I want to ask why I've never read her before now, but I know too well), and I'm reading Original Blessing by Matthew Fox. I've put The Pagan Christ by Tom Harpur on my library wish list plus I've got a growing list in my reading notebook. Also, I've been watching a video series by Joseph Campbell on mythology plus a stack of Johnny Depp movies. Ahem. No comment. Right now I'm feeling like a couple Agatha Christie books for the umpteenth time.
Thursday I bent over, and my lower back went out. This hasn't happened for several years, but this time it has done a number on me. To the point where I broke down and asked the husband for one of his pain pills. I do not take drugs! But it was that or being totally out of commission with seven year old twins storming the house. It's actually feeling some better today, but I plan on taking it easy for a couple more days which means no housecleaning but more reading. What a deal.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Couldn't think of a title for this. Despair? Hopeless? Where the hell is God in all this? Something on that order.
Yesterday I received an e-mail from the lady that heads up religious education at our church. It informed us that Mr. L., who has been helping with Tues. evening classes for the last 10 years, just received word that his son Michael, 24, was killed in Iraq. Michael leaves behind his wife and an older brother and sister.
Michael should not be dead. Dead means you're dead. You're not coming back. Finite. It's over. Done. No more sunrises or sunsets, no thunderstorms, never a chance to hold your newborn, never to make love with your wife again. 24 years old. I was alive at 24. Working, having fun, in love, planning my future. Michael has no more future. The potential that he held, that every cell in his body held, is gone, erased. I feel so incredibly guilty.
I'm sick. Somebody tell me why we are doing this. Please.
And you know what else? Well, I'll tell you. The other day Abra and I were talking while driving somewhere. Something was on the radio (NPR - I always listen to NPR so you know where my slant lies) about how much Iraq is costing, and I started swearing under my breath. Abra looks at me with a big question mark on her face. So I say, "You know, the war in Iraq." She says, "War?" I say, "Yes, you know we're in a war?" She replies, "Well, yeah, but you know I guess I forget cause it seems normal here."
And she's right. Unless I receive news like the above, I don't think about the war. It's not around me. It feels all normal. I get up, go about my daily business, plan fun things, laugh, spend money. The restaurants are full. The theaters are full. People appear oblivious to this atrocity while they cruise down the road in their Hummers. Not what I picture WWII was like. Where every other house on your street had some young man over in Europe or in the Pacific. Where items were rationed. Where women were going to the factories to manufacture weapons. I picture the people here really suffering, mentally and physically, freely sacrificing to show their solidarity with the soldiers. I don't sense that at all. And I feel even more guilty. What can I do? I hate Iraq, but my heart is with every man and woman over there. With every family with a son or daughter or father or mother over there.
I was really too young to remember much about Viet Nam. I studied it in history in high school and was appalled. Iraq hasn't even seemed to elicit the same response. Yes, there are peace rallies, but not that same fervor that I believe people felt during Viet Nam. Have we become anesthetized to loss of life, killing, hunger, starvation. Have we become so self serving and greedy that all we think of is the next possession we can acquire. No matter the cost? Are we a country of fat, eager consumers who take, take, take just because we can? Not to even mention the destruction we're causing to this planet that has given humans life for tens of thousands of years.
I want to rant. To yell and scream and swear at someone. And what I do mostly when I feel like this is cry. Then go watch a movie. And forget. Just like all the other far, satiated, consumeristic Americans.
I was going to talk about Sweeney Todd, and how absolutely delicious Johnny Depp is even when he is slicing throats and making men into meat pies. How I would let him growl at me in that incredibly sexy growly voice he can produce any old time he'd like to. And about how silly we middle aged women are with our secret fantasies about younger (he's younger) actors while we sport sagging bellies and drooping breasts. But you know what? It all seems rather frivolous right now.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
This is our orchard. There are several varieties of apple, cherry, pear, peaches, plum, nectarine, apricot, almond, plus elderberry, gooseberry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry and something I'm sure I've forgotten. When we moved in and were planting the orchard, I was determined that there would be a picket fence around part of it. I had always pictured my girls playing in orchard surrounded by a picket fence. A place where they could hide, daydream, have tea parties with the fairies and tell secrets. You can't see it from this picture, but there is a picket fence. It's not all neat and white but rather weathered and brown and natural - much like the orchard.
There are also day lilies and irises growing between the trees. These are the day lilies - will be bright orange.
The buds are swelling with life. If Mother Nature doesn't send a late frost, we might have a very productive fruit year. One of my spring rituals is to bless our fruit trees. I go to each tree, call it by name (Santa Rosa Plum, Douglas Pear, etc.), thank her for all the food she provides. I ask for good weather, no late frosts, no hail storms, plenty of sun and rain. Then I picture the growth of the fruit, from bud to being covered in blossoms, from small fruit to large fruit ready to be harvested. I see my family eating and enjoying, and I see myself preserving all the bounty for the winter.
There are still crocus blooming. Abby (7 yrs old) had picked every one of the little yellow flowers she could find and presented me with a beautiful bouquet. More have bloomed and they line my front sidewalk.
My favorite spring flower is the daffodil. I still remember the beginning of the poem 'Daffodils' by William Wordsworth:
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils.....
Today I used the clothes line instead of the dryer. Actually, there's been quite a few days I could put the clothes out to dry, but I couldn't find the clothes pins. Found them today. Don't you just love clothes that smell of sunshine and fresh air? Don't you just love NOT turning on the dryer and allowing the clothes to dry naturally? I do. I love not using electricity. I love hanging out clothes. Like I love washing dishes by hand.
Well, there's a little taste of life on my side of the planet. Hope your days has been full of blessings.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Is my soul my own?
Or does it belong to God?
Am I my own, or do I belong to God?
God gave us free will to do as we choose.
My body is on loan?
My soul is on loan?
God's property but in His goodness He 'loaned' it to me?
I also realized I have no connection with my soul. It feels like something outside of my body that I need to care for properly so I can return it to its original owner. Get it baptized, keep it full of grace which is dependent upon my actions, keep it shiny and new, and return it to God in good condition. I've never, never considered it was MINE. Not my soul, my life, no, not mine. But I've always known my sin is most certainly mine and mine alone. But what my sin affects, my soul, is not mine.
I don't know my soul. I'm trying to get to know my soul. I'm trying to learn to recognize the voice of my soul. But separating the voice of my soul from all the voices I've heard my entire life is so hard. The voice of my soul is so tiny, so quiet, so beat down. For so long it's been drowned out by all the loud voices around me. But I feel it's tired of being beat down and quieted, of being told it is wrong, and fallen, and not trustworthy. I think what I feel is 'my' soul's anger. And little by little it's voice is getting louder and stronger.
I want to know my own FEMALE soul! I want to be intimate with MY OWN FEMALE SOUL! And I want to be able to trust, without fear, my soul's voice.
But I think first I need to answer this:
Is my soul my own?
Yes, I'm confused. But being confused all on one's own, to own that confusion, is still preferable to having others tell you your truth.
Monday, March 31, 2008
"You have an inner guidance system that God has given you that is a good measuring stick for if you are headed toward or away from God's will: If you feel free and joyful and alive, you are moving toward God. If you feel depressed, fearful, depressed, burdened, you are not headed toward God. It is really that simple."
Looking at all I've written (I'm very wordy - it's hard for me to be concise), I sound sad, depressed, confused.
I'm not sad or depressed. Confused, yes. But not sad. For the first time in years I feel alive, joyful and free. Free to be confused. I see now how unhappy I was before. My husband has commented on how I was always angry, nit picky, fault finding. He says it's like a new me. The other day he was looking at me with an odd look in his eye. I asked him what he was thinking. He said he was thinking how I had just recently reminded him of the girl he used to date and married.
Me before I got so burdened down with sin, failing, not being just right. I was constantly at war with myself. I was trying so hard to control my passions, thoughts, ideas. My thoughts were proud, arrogant, willful, impure, and I was constantly at battle with them. Rarely did I have a day where I felt I was victorious. Prayer, sacraments, nothing seemed to help. Until I quit. Quit fighting me. I still get sad and fearful at times. But when I do I go outside, and just let it all sink in. It's so much easier to get back to joyful now.
A moment for me. We like old movies and re-watch them frequently. Anyway, we were watching The African Queen. I could have the scene wrong but I think it is where Charlie (Humphrey Bogart) got drunk, maybe, and Rosie (Katherine Hepburn) is lecturing him. He says something about it being natural. And she says, not verbatim, "that's what we were put in this world to rise above - nature".
And I said to myself, "Why?" Why are we always at odds with nature. Why not communion with nature. If God is in nature, Mother Earth, why are we always at odds. I want harmony.
I don't know where I'll end up on this journey, but I realized that after opening that door, I would never be able to return to where I came from ever, ever again.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
But first, I have met several wonderful people over the internet. Over at Xanga there are several people who have been real friends even though I've never met them in real life. They listen to me, I listen to them. There's no judgment or condemnation. Of course, only one is a Christian and she marches to her own drum. There's been times they've been my life saver. Just recently during some of my searches for other women who are following different religious paths, I met another wonderful woman. Sr. Kathryn has taken time to read my ranting and personally comment. I feel humbled at the help and time people who have never met me have been willing to extend. This is exactly that spirit, connection, divine power that I've been looking for. It does exist. I wish I could find words to describe what I mean. I see these invisible lines or circuits between people, and when we connect with others, those circuits just start sparking. I know that sounds loony, but it's the best I can come up with right now.
This is funny to me, and maybe it shows how far I've come. Sr. Kathryn mentioned some authors of which I was familiar with three. One of them more so than the others. Matthew Fox. But not in a good way. Where I came from - if the people were feeling charitable - he would be described as a lunatic who was being led around by Satan doing his bidding to the other extreme of 'somebody should do away with him to save the Church. Well, you get the idea. So when I saw his name I felt some shock. Then I stopped and thought. I can read whatever I want. It's not a SIN to read different points of view. Heresy is a perspective. I went to the library, looked him up. Our library system had many of his books, but my local community library only had two. I walked over and picked them up. It crossed my mind to hide them in my bag because I'm always running into neighbors (Regnum Christi if that means anything) up at this library, but I felt so liberated I walked right up to the counter and checked them out. I'll have more to say about the books, but after the introduction of Original Blessing I was feeling validated. I'm not alone. Of course, depending on who you are that might label me a heretic, but for me I felt a ton of sin, damnation, penance being lifted.
Reminded me of a short story from my past. When I first became part of the Catholic Homeschooling group we meet in each others' homes for tea. The first time they came to my house I was showing the women around when we entered an upstairs bedroom that has one wall lined with books. One of the ladies - I'd only met her once before - was looking over books and gave a small gasp when she found Hans Kung on my shelf. She told me she was rather shocked to see that. I probably gave some garbled answer like 'it was here when I moved in'. Lie - I bought it. She told me I needed to be careful what I surrounded myself with, books could be a huge danger to our salvation, it was our primary job to treasure and protect our faith, on and on. She advised me to throw it away because if I donated it I would be partly responsible for spreading lies and heresy to other innocent people. I did go through my books and get rid of quite a few. I didn't throw them away - huge sin in my book - but I did tear my name out before I gave them away. I'm sorry I was so easily intimidated by loud women.
Now the big thing I want to say. This is very, very hard for me. The thought has been in me for some time, but I have never said it. Since I have no one to say it to verbally, I will write it. I feel angry with the church. I feel hurt and in some odd way, betrayed. Now I feel embarrassed writing that. Who am I to feel hurt or betrayed? I'm just me, little me. And the church is the voice of God here on earth. The pope the vicar of Christ. The authority. There not here to make me happy but to help me get to heaven, and I'm complaining. Seems pretty immature and childish and selfish. But there it is. That is how I feel. The world is changing. People have changed. Our understanding has changed. While the church can clothe doctrine in different words and language, it doesn't change. I know the changes Vatican II brought in, but I'm talking something different. I'll have to think it out. But all around me I see unhappy, disgruntled Catholics who feel they have no voice. Most of the kids I went to school with (Catholic high school) or that I knew from college have left. Out of my husband's family of 14 children, only 4 still go to church. At the last reunion (30th) only 6 showed up for the Mass. Something is wrong. I don't know the answer to the big problem, but for me I need to find my own way. It felt good to say it.
Now, we have brand new baby chicks that need adoring, and my father-in-law will be celebrating his 90th birthday tonight. So I'm off to do important things.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
I feel like talking, and since the internet is always available, here I am. Today I want to talk about some of my friends although I’m never sure where my writing/talking will end up because it tends to have a life of its own.
I remember talking about how I met this woman who would become my closest friend. She was hosting a cenacle or prayer group for people following Fr. Gobbi at her house, and I went with the other women I knew from Marian rosary groups. Just now I realize I want to follow a rabbit trail here. I’ll get back to my friend, but first I want to talk about Mary.
I’ve always known Catholics who seemed to have such deep, personal devotions. These devotions seemed to be so much a part of them giving them guidance and providing a foundation for deep spirituality. I was trying hard to find something that did that for me, something that I connected with, that would bring my spirituality to life. Some people found Mary, some found particular saint or the Sacred Heart or the Blessed Sacrament. I wanted something special, too.
It’s embarrassing to admit that I never felt any type of a close, personal connection to God. He didn’t seem real to me. I’ve never doubted the existence of a ‘something’, but I could never find any particular feeling for that ‘something’. The only God I ever heard about was the Old Testament God and the God Jesus prayed to and eventually the God that Christians created. Well, there were many problems there for me.
Another embarrassment is that I never knew what to feel for Jesus. I had no personal relationship with Jesus. True God and true man. Not comprehensible. Who was he? Was he really man? The church always seemed to focus more on him being God than being human. There were times when I would hear or read something that talked about Jesus’ humanity, but there seemed to be this fear that we would humanize Jesus to where he was no longer God. We couldn’t forget he was God. I never and still don’t know what he means to me. The personal savior bit, dying on the cross for me just so I could go to heaven if I did everything right, just didnt' ring true. So nothing there.
There are certain saints that I’ve taken a liking to such as St. Francis. I liked ones that seemed to be joyful. Some seemed miserable. Some of the most popular ones such as St. Bernadette just didn’t click with me, and I assumed this was because I didn’t have a devotion to Mary. So I wanted to try to develop one. You just can’t force devotions.
It seemed all of the women I met, of course the ones I met through the Marian prayer group, but the other women I became friends with in the Catholic homeschooling group, had these hyper, indescribable devotions to Mary. They prayed to her constantly, the rosary was their weapon, every day. They read Marian devotionals, did Marian consecrations such as that 30 day one according Louis de Montfort, tried conscientiously to imitate her in everything – or to imitate her in the way they believed she lived???
Well, here you have this human woman who was perfect. No original sin so she had none of these failings I had. She was PERFECT. She was never impatient, she never got angry or frustrated or tired of dealing with life. She also must have had perfect faith. She never got totally disgusted with St. Joseph’s maleness and wanted to bop him on the head with a kettle. She never got impatient with Jesus because he never picked up his toys. Of course, there you go. Jesus was God so he never disobeyed his mother, but then was he human so did he ever give into the temptation of pretending you didn’t hear your mother telling you to come to dinner. Back to Mary. She never felt underappreciated. She never felt angry because women were chattel instead human beings with worth. She never wanted to tell of her petty minded neighbor who gossiped constantly. She never looked into the mirror and felt disgusted with herself. She never had moments of vanity. She never got tired of all the mundane work that was expected of her: cooking, sewing, cleaning, serving everyone else and herself last. Work that she had no choice to refuse because she was a woman. Well, she’s already lost to me. Because I have and still do feel all those things.
(An aside. When the movie came out – Mary of Nazareth or whatever it was called – there were some huge arguments over among Catholics. One of the things that some Catholics were offended by was when Mary was a little girl she rolled her eyes at St. Ann. Mary would never have rolled her eyes at her mother. How in the world am I suppose to tell my daughters that they are to imitate Mary if this is the picture Catholics have of her.)
Anyway, I tried and tried. But Mary just wasn’t real. She was too good, and I could not relate to her. In fact, I resented her because she set me up for failure. Or the church made her into a woman who set me up for failure. Beside her I would always fall way, way short.
On the other hand, you can’t worship Mary. Catholics do not worship Mary, or so they will tell you. But some of those women I knew, although they would vehemently deny it, appeared on the outside to worship Mary. But why can’t I worship Mary. Because she’s human. BUT SHE WASN’T HUMAN. I can’t call her a Goddess – is there a worse mortal sin than that? But she was supposed to be my role model.
A woman who never had sex with her husband. What happened to her sexuality. She never felt physical passion, arousal. Or she did but because of her Immaculate Conception she was able to overcome those base human emotions (said with some sarcasm). Next to her I was a harlot! And yes, my marriage has suffered because of this. Trying to come to terms with my real, natural feelings and at the same time trying to be a Little Mary.
(Another aside. My husband had never heard of Mary’s perpetual virginity. 12 years of Catholic school and he’d never heard that. Maybe he blocked it out? I remember him looking at me as if I were nuts. He said that probably had a lot to do with the church’s problems with dealing with human sexuality in a healthy way if that was our role model.)
But then I became pregnant. I was 28 years old, not a young mother. I wasn’t even sure I wanted children when I married and was quite concerned that children were mentioned so many times during the marriage liturgy. I even had people tell me that if I entered my marriage without being open to children it wasn’t a valid marriage. Finally I did feel ready for a child. I was pregnant and literally scared to do death at the thought of labor. I simply put it out of my mind and would deal with it when the time came since I couldn’t avoid it.
It was at this time that I had this most amazing thought. This would be the thing that would connect me to Mary. There she was, a young girl, frightened (or was she with that perfect faith), alone, pregnant under somewhat unusual circumstances. Finally I had found the connection. I could relate to her totally. She and Joseph, along in a cave, labor to give birth to Jesus. Then came the biggest letdown of my entire Marian journey.
Mary never labored. She never felt any pain. That intense pain that reaches a point where you know beyond a doubt you cannot continue yet somewhere deep in your recesses you do. Not for Mary. Well, of course. No original sin. No labor pains. Women only birth in pain because it was a woman who led a man into the first sin. Woman’s punishment. To bring forth life in great pain. There’s that punishing God again. I just realized, my own parents were so much nicer, kinder, loving towards me than God was towards his own creation.
Just wanted to add there seems to be arguments on both sides of the fence as to whether Catholics believe Mary actually labored or had some type of miraculous C section. Did she deliver Jesus naturally or did he just miraculously appear. I remember reading some of the writing Mary Agreda, a nun who had Marian apparitions, and her saying that Jesus just appeared. Of course she also said Jesus only had one tunic that grew with him and the earth was something like 6,000 years old so go figure. Quite a few of my friends took it literally, though. I don’t know whether this falls under tradition, Tradition (with a capital T), or doctrine, and frankly I didn’t care, because Mary had totally been ruined for me. And I’ve had much guilt over that.
Okay, end of my rabbit trail. I never had a Marian devotion and still don’t. I would like to be able to understand her, to feel something other total confusion on the one hand to resentment on the other. But it was because I was looking for ‘something’ and also looking for friendship, that I met this woman who became my closest friend although by the time I’d met her I’d long given up on Mary. She didn’t know that because I knew how to speak the language. By the time I met her I never prayed a rosary on my own because I would always fall asleep. I haven’t picked up a rosary since my dad was hospitalized in 2002, and even then it was an unbelievable struggle for me.
That’s my Mary story. Not very pretty. Guess I’ll talk about my friend later.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
On another note, I tried to make a happier post over at xanga on my sacred life. Still feeling depressed.
Mass was extremely crowded this morning. A full house.
Fr. again talked about how we can do nothing for ourselves (with regards to salvation). Alone we are lost. We are fallen. We can’t do one single thing to help ourselves gain heaven. He’s been on a roll with this for some time. I beginning to suspect it’s all PR work. You know, to downplay all the negative press Catholics get about good works from the Protestants. Good works are good but without the grace of God through Jesus Christ they won’t get you into heaven.
Frankly I always liked good works. Made me feel like I could do something myself. Like I had power. Well, I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that I CAN NOT DO ANYTHING TO SAVE MYSELF. Okay, I heard it.
Why do we need saved? Saved from what? Hell? So God got mad and said he’d show those sinful, proud people. He would just shut the gates of heaven. And make them wait until he got good and ready to send a savior.
Does anyone really believe that? Does anyone really believe that Adam and Eve story? Other than my fundamentalist brother-in-law and wife. Okay. I know. It’s symbolic. It symbolized man’s pride and desire to be like God. The tree in the garden is symbolic of man trying to be more than he is. Well, duh. God gave us a brain. He gave us passion. He gave us desire. But then He says only use these within these very narrow rules. What a set up. Of course we would fail. And why is God so jealous about His knowledge anyway. Why doesn’t He want to share his knowledge of good and evil? Seems like a petty minded dictator. Set us up for failure.
Of course I don’t believe that. I admit I’m clueless about original sin. Man fell. Was it one act by one man? Was it a general act by society trying to improve and gain more knowledge? We got a little greedy and wanted more knowledge. Is that so bad. Why am I fallen? Why do I need saved? I think it was just a story to explain the rotten, miserable lives the Jews had. And to give them hope that some day someone would come and make their life better.
So I need saved. But I can’t do a thing about it. Because I’m fallen. Because I was born without God’s grace. So there’s God up there, or out there, everywhere but evenly present thinking up a plan to save the helpless, unworthy humans he created. The three personalities or parts or personalities or characters come up with a plan. God the Father (Creator) will send down God the Son (redeemer) to teach the people and then die this bloody, horrible death to satisfy God the Father for the sins of humanity. Then later He will send God the Holy Spirit (paraclete) to help us on our way. So he picks this young Jewish girl to be the mother of God the Son. This plan has been in the making for sometime because God had the forethought to make sure this girl wasn’t conceived with this original sin thing. She becomes miraculously pregnant and gives birth to this baby boy. God the Son. Jesus.
Who is Jesus? God, as in God up there, out there. Divine. While we have God’s grace (his life) in us, as long as we’re not in mortal sin, that doesn’t make us divine. This Jesus is God to us humans – vertical. Yet he becomes man. Horizontal. God and man. Hypostatic union. Not man with God in him, but God who lowered himself to become man. Man and God together.
Fr. has also said several times that Jesus ‘gave up’ his divinity to become man. That isn’t Catholic teaching. But I considered it. God giving up his divinity to come down among us to save us. That was nice. That would be a sacrifice. If you were God and you gave up being God to become one of Your creation. Yes, that’s a sacrifice.
Well, here we have God/Man in Jesus. He grows up. He suffers all the temptations we suffer. But he’s still God. And then the time comes for the great sacrifice. His death on the cross. Now why in the world would GOD need a bloody sacrifice, require a bloody sacrifice, to let humanity gain heaven. If God is God, all powerful, all knowing, all perfect, He wouldn’t need this. But there it is. Without this sacrifice, heaven would still be shut up tight.
Scripture tells us Jesus prayed to his father (or was he praying to himself if he’s god – or do the holy spirit and Jesus have to pray to the father but who does the father pray to). Anyway, he prayed that night in the garden that he not have to do this thing, but if it was his father’s will, he would. I’ve always wondered since the apostles were sleeping how anyone knew what Jesus really said when he was praying. You don’t think somebody put words in Jesus’ mouth, do you. So poor Judas plays his part in the whole pre-arranged plot and gets Jesus arrested. Then feeling really rotten about it, goes off and hangs himself. But Jesus had to die so somebody needed to turn him in. Poor Judas. I always felt for Judas. So he gets nailed to a cross and dies. Three days later he rises from the dead, rises bodily from the dead and walks around down here until he goes up to heaven until his second coming – whenever that will be. Then God relents and opens the gates of heaven.
No, no, no. It just doesn’t work. I don’t think it ever has worked for me. This is not reasonable. This God is just like man. We continue with our anthropomorphic god and find a story that fits. Just this past year have I had the courage to actually write this out. To even let these doubts enter my mind would send me into near panic mode. I’ve come a long ways.
In a class I took to get my catechist certificate, we discussed the fact that more and more theologians are acknowledging that Jesus’ resurrection could have been a spiritual vision that the apostles had rather than this actual physical one. Again, that directly contradicts Catholic dogma.
Who was Jesus. I truly don’t know Jesus. Was he God. Remember, God is way up there and we’re way down here. I can’t even think of metaphor to describe the different between God and man. Creator and created.
What if Jesus is like us. What if we are like Jesus. What if Jesus is divine in the way we are divine. What if we are divine as Jesus is divine. What if Jesus was crucified just simply for the reason that the Pharisees wanted to get rid of him because he was about to pop their all powerful bubble. What if Jesus was just more evolved – his soul was more evolved. What if there have been others who have a more evolved soul.
When I started this whole journey I decided to go back to square one and start with God. Yes, I believe in a God, or a something. Not God as Christians teach about him. This energy, this something that is inside of us. And outside of us. And connects us to every other single human being, from beginning to end. Yes, something like that. Yes I do believe. But how to know him. Nature is my first answer. God is in nature. Well, then he’s in me. I’m trying. I have it suggested to look for God in me. I have to get out of the mode that I’m fallen, I can’t do anything, that I’m not worth, and consider the possibility that I’ve been worthy from the beginning.
Could all humans just be part of the big God. I didn’t put that well. But that’s where I’m at right now. I know I said this before, but I’ll say it again. Living inside of rules, doctrine, dogma with someone else telling you how to live, telling you exactly what was right, faithwise and moral wise was easy. It really didn’t take a lot of faith. Putting that all behind and looking inside your self takes an enormous amount of faith. Trusting that God will continue to love even I’ve questioned everything, even his own existence, takes more faith than I might have. It would be so easy to fall back into the rules, letting others tell me what I should have faith in, what is right, what is wrong.
Today at Mass my heart felt so heavy and sad. I felt near tears. It’s not easy shedding an old skin and donning a new one. It’s frightening and lonely. I want to be part, but I felt on the outside looking in. This Easter didn’t feel joyful. It felt very, very sad.
Friday, March 21, 2008
First, I absolutely should proofread what I write. I'm embarrassed by my errors. However, my idea was to write what I'm thinking down quickly, without questioning or analyzing it first, and then to not change anything so when I go back to read, it's original - hopefully. But when I do go back and read, I want to change what I wrote. More thoughts.
This entire Lent has been a fizzle. In fact, the Lents of the last 7 years have been big fizzles. The last three years, I haven't even tried to give anything up; I have tried to do more though. Little things. Smiling at grocery store clerks - especially at Walmart - strangers in the store or on the street. I fail more often than not, but I can actually say I've been more successful with each ensuing year. I'm certainly not opposed to 'giving up' especially considering American consumerism. And I do that. I've been going through closets, cupboards and just this week gave a huge bag to goodwill. Today, I'm starting another one. I'm so quick to notice the excess in others, and since I'm working on being simpler and smaller, I tend to put myself above others. Then I look at my house, and I am ashamed. I might not drive a Hummer, have a 4,000 sq. ft. house with 4 car garage, an RV and boat, but nonetheless, I have so much more than necessary. So Lent is a time when I will get more scrupulous about getting rid of what I don't need.
The part of 'giving up' that I don't get into anymore is looking for ways to actually make my life harder, more uncomfortable, the suffering that is difficult. I used to give up any myriad of things: coffee, tea (ouch!), bagels and bread, sweets (not a big deal), candy (no big deal at all), television, reading for enjoyment, movies, internet plus the taking on of extra works. I think they used to be called mortifications. Getting up at 4 AM instead of 5:30 AM, adding in extra prayers, more spiritual reading, praying on my knees instead of my comfy chair (that didn't last long), doing extra chores that I especially detest. I knew a few moms that gave up eating dinner, only eating the leftovers of their children. I never did that as I get light headed and generally feel unwell if I don't eat regularly. I even knew some couple that gave up sex for Lent. Holy cow. I knew a mom that made her way around the Station of the Cross on her knees. I used to wonder if they wore sackcloth and beat themselves, too.
I just don't get the point of it, I guess. I like doing things that make me feel good. Driving my '96 Saturn and getting 33 mpg makes me feel good. Trying to buy local makes me feel good. Giving away extra clothes and appliances makes me feel good. Smiling at people makes me feel good. Trying to be green and greener, loving the earth, and being simple makes me feel good. Plus, I believe in my heart of hearts, that it's good for everyone. I'm not fool enough to think that I alone can change much of anything, but I feel good about trying and improving in doing my very small part.
Giving up coffee and tea, books and movies makes me grumpy and generally not feeling good. Going out of my way to find extra household chores that might not even necessarily need to be done, but makes me down right grouchy. And I wouldn't even entertain giving up sex. I mean, after all, I'm getting older and my time is growing shorter. And who am I helping by giving these up. I know, the poor souls in purgatory. God will take those suffering and do good with them. Funny, a God that needs my sufferings. I know, God doesn't need my sufferings. It me showing how much I love God that I'm willing to offer up and unite my sufferings with Christ on the cross. Well, that another whole post.
So, am I hedonistic? I give up what makes me feel good. I don't give up that which doesn't make me feel good. Yeah, sounds hedonistic.
Yesterday was Holy Thursday. And it was glorious day. The sun was shining in all her glory, the sky was blue. The air had a chill, but with a sweater you were fine. We went upstairs, opened the windows to let all the old, stale, frustrated energy out. The twins and I worked in their room all afternoon, and it looks fairly decent now. Abra cleaned her room by herself. I lighted a new candle. Then I went outside to the orchard and sat under the almond tree with a book. After a while I got up and went around to each fruit tree, praying for a productive spring, admiring the small buds that are just waiting to burst open. About that time Tim came home. We had a small dinner and watched Danny Deckchair. I love that movie.
In the past I always made certain to go to Mass on Holy Thursday. The stripping of the altar was always so poignant. The empty tabernacle. What would we have without Christ. Bareness. Nothing. No salvation, no hope. Lost souls unable to do anything for themselves. But yesterday I hardly thought about it being Holy Thursday. I knew it was, but just didn't spend much time with that. It felt like a good day. I felt good.
Tim always takes Good Friday off. He usually works outside in the yard. We always joke that Good Friday is usually grey, dark, dismal. Actually today is like yesterday. Chilly and a slight wind, but bright and alive. As I said, he's outside. Right where he belongs. That man never belonged in an office. He's working - physical work - but for him I don't think he ever looks at it that way. He took me out for breakfast - our one big meal today. We shared a vegetarian omelette. Stopped by a greenhouse on the way home. And here I am. We won't be going to church tonight either. The last time I went on Good Friday they had some women from the parish in the part of the apostles while the priest washed their feet. There was an uproar from some because they had women portraying apostles. By that time I was getting filled up and burned out on all the petty little arguments. I secretly suspected that if Jesus were here today he would have women apostles, but I didn't dare voice that opinion. Anyway, Good Friday will be spent at home, working around the house. I think I'm going to go outside and pull some weeds when I'm done here.
Tomorrow will be more of the same. If I'm feeling up to it, I will take Abra to the vigil Mass tomorrow night. Depending on the number being baptized, it can last quite a while, and I turn into a pumpkin around 10 PM. But if I don't go tomorrow night, Tim will want to go to 7 AM Mass on Sunday which might be okay. The rest of Sunday will be spent hunting Easter eggs, re-hiding them and hunting again, playing and weather permitting, a picnic in our backyard. We always spend Easter outside.
I'm stopping for now. Things I need to do, and things I want to do are waiting.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I'm a romantic. I romanticize things. I dream about living in a little cottage (could be Ireland, maybe England), surrounded by my gardens, a few sheep, goats and chickens. Life is simple. I grow my own food, I have no need for fancy gadgets or clothes. I have my books. The hearth is in the center of the house, and my tea kettle is always ready. Here in this place I can ignore Iraq, terrorism, race relations, CEO's with $40 million salaries and just focus on the good. My husband would do well here, too. He was not cut out for this fast paced life in the consumeristic society; we call him 'Pa Ingalls'. He could dig in the dirt, care for the animals and have his solitary time he so desperately needs. I can picture this. I swear I can even taste and smell it. The vision is that vivid. But then I open my eyes, and here I sit with a fat lip, a pain in my jaw, health insurance issues, job insecurity (at the age of 50 in my husband's case), taxes plus everything else. That old voice starts to creep in saying something like, "The Lord never promised you happiness here on earth." But now I'm telling it to shut up and go away. I'm not listening to it as much.
When I was about 19 or so I decided I wanted to be a nun. I think it had a lot to do with In This House of Brede. I would live in a convent in the country, I would till the ground, I would eat simple meals, and I would have my books. All of them. Until my dad pointed out that I might not be able to take all my books (in the 100's). In his day nuns renounced those material possessions. Renounce books. That stopped me in my tracks. Then when I was 21 I met Tim. It didn't take long to acknowledge that the celibate life wasn't for me. And I never looked back.
Of course I romanticized the religious life just as I romanticized the married life. All in all though, the married life has been good. I'm fortunate. Ups and downs are inevitable when you've got a male and female living together. We are different, and isn't that the beauty of it. I've never believed in soul mates. The idea that there's one person out there who is my soul mate is not reasonable to me. How in the world could I find him? But, you know, over the years Tim has become my soul mate. We've grown into it. I have had friends in bad marriages; they truly were miserable. Some divorced, some would not consider divorce and tried to make the best of it, but they're not content or happy. I don't know the answer. But it does make me wonder how Tim and I came together. Was it coincidence? Was it prayer? Just simple luck - in the right place at the right time? I don't know the answer but the romantic side of me likes to think it was prayer and a connecting energy that brought us together.
Where was I going with this? Oh, how I romanticize things. Well, the religious life was out. Marriage was in. I needed to find my spot, my spiritual spot. I've always felt this need to be centered spiritually. I need to feel peace and contentment. But I think I tried to force things that looked good on other people to fit me instead of just being silent and listening to me.
Through Tim I met a woman who was married to his friend. She was a convert to the church and totally devoted to Mary. She started asking me to prayer groups, and since I'm always looking for where I fit in, I would go with her. They were usually wrapped up in some Marian apparition and would discuss that, read messages from Mary, say the rosary. That type of thing. What I really looked forward to was the the coffee and conversation afterwards. They were nice women, and I enjoyed our time together. I didn't mind praying the rosary with other ladies because that way I wouldn't fall asleep. It felt good. Around 1990 we decided to go to Medjugorea. I will be honest. I was excited about going because I love traveling, seeing new things, experiencing how others live. I wasn't either a believer or a disbeliever in the apparitions. I went because it's exciting to get on a plane and head out.
It was a good trip. Everybody around me had this hyper type devotion to Mary. I did not. I tried, and it never happened. Everybody wanted something to happen: the sun to dance in the sky, hear voices, mysterious pictures to appear. I was just enjoying my time. Now while I was there two things happened to me. I've never really talked about them to anyone other than my husband. By the way he finds it easy to believe in miracles; I'm more the cynic.
The first thing that happened was this: I standing with my tour group, probably 50 people. We were gathered in the street underneath the balcony of a house where one of the visionaries lived. She was standing on the balcony, talking to the crowd. I don't remember what she was saying. Anyway, as I was standing there, suddenly this incredibly strong scent of roses surrounded me. No one had walked away, no one had joined the group. In fact, no one was moving; they were are rooted to the spot listening to this girl talk through interpretor. The scent was so strong I thought I might have a hay fever attack. I looked around me, and no one seemed aware of anything. They were all looking at the girl. As far as I could tell, it was just me. The only person I ever shared this with was my husband. He's always maintained it was a gift from Mary.
The second happening. I had this medal that my parents had given me when I was in high school. It was a Miraculous Medal made out of pewter. I always wore it. Probably more so because my parents gave it to me rather than having some devotion to the Immaculate Conception of St. Catherine Laboure. It was a couple days before we leaving to return home, and my friend looked at me and asked where I had bought the new medal. I hadn't bought a new medal; it was the same old one. She thought it was new because it was gold. Sure enough, it didn't look pewter, it looked gold. Now a lot of people were saying their rosaries were turning gold and such, but there was no denying that my medal was a different color. The medal not only turned gold (color) but the link that connected it to the chain was gold also. The chain was the same. Some years later I was leaning over a chain link fence and caught the medal on it. When I jerked up the it pulled the medal off. I found the medal but could never find the link so I put a new one on. It was silver, just like my old chain. The next day the link was gold. Well, the medal was old and wearing thin. I was afraid where it would wear through where it connected to the link. I took it to a jewelry shop, and they tried filling it in but I always worried about it. So I put it in a special drawer.
When my dad was in the hospital the first time and they thought there was no way he could survive, I needed something desperately. I didn't know what that something was, but for some reason I went to my armoire and opened that drawer. There was my medal, still gold. I put it on. Throughout the day I would constantly pray that prayer: "O Mary, conceived with sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee." My dad recovered. I still have my medal, in the drawer. I looked at it the other day. The chain is gone. The medal is still a gold color. I haven't felt that need for it, so it waits.
Anyway, back to the story. After we got back, the women seemed to get more and more fanatical. They lived by the messages. They fasted on certain days, said prayers a certain amount of times. It became unbelievably legalistic. I felt that some of them had moved from devotion to worship. Catholics are always being accused of worshiping Mary, and, of course, Catholics will say they only worship God. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I have met some people who call Mary a Goddess. I still don't know. I'm thinking. And I'm getting sidetracked again.
Back to the story. Then some of them got into Garabandal after a man spoke at a local church about those apparitions. They were a little too out there for me. In fact, they made me down right uneasy. I started to drift away. The conversation at coffee after the prayer group was always about 3 days of darkness, or a cloud pillar in the sky, or the end of the world. I was expecting any moment for one of them to start talking about the rapture. It wasn't working anymore.
About this time this same friend asked me to a new prayer group. It sounded a little more grounded so I went. They were called cenacles and focused around a Fr. Gobbi - I think, the memory fails. He was an Italian priest who received messages from Mary. I remember reading these messages and some of them not sitting well with me. They always focused on sin and hell and being good and heaven. I know one of them said something about Mohhamed and the anti-Christ and the year 666. Again, not for me. But one thing came out of this. I met the woman who become my closest friend. The cenacles were held at her house.
She was a mom of 5, I was a mom of 2 at the time. She homeschooled, and I was planning on homeschooling. She liked to sew, cook, bake bread, garden. I did too. So shortly I romanticizing the 'little woman' role. I was still working at the time but was planning on quitting and she encouraged me in this. We became very close friends. She, too, drifted away from the Marian apparitions and finally stopped having the cenacle at her house. She was more of the intellectual type. She read Aquinas, studied encyclicals, was raising her children to be apologists and save the church from the Satan led liberals. Well, it was also easy for me to romanticize that. Saving the church. Sacrificing myself for the good of the church. Noble. And she and her friends got together weekly to talk, discuss, drink coffee and eat pie. I had found a new group. Little did I know that this one would be catalyst for me falling away from traditional Catholicism and Christianity.
My kids need some snuggling and a book. I need a cup of tea. This computer needs a rest. So until later....
Monday, March 17, 2008
After dinner last night I told him I really needed to say some things to him. I was embarrassed and timid, plus I didn't want to make him feel he needed to get defensive - which I'm not good at. But I finally just dove in. He listened. He let me talk. He looked at me with concern and love. When I told him I could not teach catechism to the younger girls, he didn't get upset. He asked me what I could do, I said I could teach them about this God that is full of love, that we need to open up to this awesome spirit that connects all of us. I said I couldn't focus on heaven, hell, mortal sin, rewards or punishments, but I could focus on how we treat all people. I said I couldn't teach that the bible was divinely inspired, but that it was written by men who were trying to find answers to their own lives, trying to find their way and make sense out of the sufferings. He nodded his head. Then we talked some more, and I mentioned to him some of the questions/problems I have with traditional Christianity, and he nodded. Then he told me he had some questions himself, but that if he didn't think about them, and I didn't mention them, he could ignore them. I smiled because I knew that. We went for another walk. And I felt safe with sharing my intimate thoughts with him. It's been a long time since I felt safe doing that. Maybe I can open up even more in the future, but I think it best if I don't dump too much on him.
Right now the twins are in Rel. Ed. so they can make their First Communion next year. I need to get them through that. I really can't rock the boat too much right now. However, I feel relieved he heard me and accepted what I said. I wish I still didn't have moments of panic where I'm afraid I'll end up in hell - whatever hell might be - and I wish I could learn to trust my inner voice. It's hard. This journey has taken more faith in a loving spirit than I ever needed to follow black and white rules that were laid out for me by someone else. I feel I'm getting stronger, but it's been a long, windy, bumpy path.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Since I started this journey I have told my husband in a very point blank, plain English type way that I'm having a faith crisis. Probably a half dozen times. This would be over 4 or 5 years. A couple of them I remember vividly. One evening we were sitting outside and the conversation wandered over into the realm of God. I felt the urge to share some of thoughts so I started talking, a little, because I wasn't confident about sharing too much. Finally I looked at him and said, "Tim, I having a faith crisis." He just looked at me. He didn't respond. After a minute or so he looked out at the orchard and commented that he needed to finish picking up the slash.
Another time was last August. I wrote it down in my daytimer. We were in KMart of all places. I don't remember what led the conversation to God, but something pushed my buttons and I told him I didn't feel he really heard me. Of course, he reassures me that he hears and listens and cares. Then I asked why he never asked how I was doing? That people I've never met who live across the country show more concern about my faith, or loss of faith, than he does. Somewhere in here I blurted out I wasn't even sure if I believed Jesus was divine, the son of God, in the traditional Christian understanding. He asked what he could do. I told him to pray for me. He said he does, and I believe that. Then I asked him to check with me once in awhile, ask how the journey was going. He said he would. As of today he's never asked.
One other time, last summer. I'm not sure if it was before or after my KMart meltdown, but we were standing in the kitchen. I told him I saw that he clearly didn't want to talk about religion or spirituality or any problems pertaining thereto. He admitted he really didn't. Then he said to me that he believed in God and that he went to church because it was the right thing to do, but other than that he didn't want to go down any of those "man made rat holes". Okay. So I don't say much to him.
Now today I felt the need to say something about where I'm at right now because he needs to understand what I'm capable of giving and what I'm not capable of giving in terms of passing on faith, religious education with our girls. Backing up again, about a year ago or maybe longer ago than that, our second oldest daughter was really balking at taking part in some religious activities. She absolutely refused to go to confession, and I supported her choice in that. I think my husband felt he was losing any control he had over this family, and we ended up in an argument about it. Not what I wanted to happen, but I felt it important he not try and force her to go to confession - not that in the end he actually could but he was trying everything he could think of. I finally got him to admit that you can't force someone to confess, or be sorry, that it must come from the person's heart. So in the end he dropped it but not until there were a couple unpleasant moments. When he was young he was forced into things, and I believe we often fall back on these default modes when pressured.
Anyway, there were others issues with our daughter, and we decided to take her out to dinner so we could talk. While we were there he started in on God, mortal sin, heaven, hell, church with her. She told us how she felt about religion, church. She told us the questions she had and the things that she just couldn't believe. Her dad wanted to make a point with her, but it started getting uncomfortable. She looked at me, pleading, wanting me to stop it. Then he looked at me expecting me to say something to back him up. And I couldn't. I just said that the conversation wasn't going anywhere and we should let it go so we could have a pleasant evening.
Later that evening at home he 'sort of' jumped on me for not saying something to her. He actually expected me to start lecturing her about theology, Catholic doctrine and tell her what was what, what was right, what was wrong. It was then that I realized he truly didn't understand that I couldn't do that. Either he had never truly heard me, or he didn't believe me maybe thinking I was just being an emotional female or making a mountain out of a molehill, but that whatever the case, he didn't not accept that I was having a real faith breakdown. I remember standing by the bed and the tears flowing down my face. Of course that wasn't what he wanted to happen, and he immediately felt bad. I just told him I couldn't talk right then.
The next day we went for a walk together, alone. I stopped, asked him to stop, and looked at him. Made eye contact. Then I asked what part of 'having a faith crisis' he didn't understand. I was angry, I was hurt, and I decided he needed to see that anger and hurt. He told me that he didn't know. I told him very clearly that I couldn't lecture Rachael because her questions were my questions, the issues she was having, I was having. If he wanted her to be lectured, he was going to have to do it, but I truly, truly believed that God, Jesus or whomever never wanted religion to be a source of tension in families. Since then he's pretty much let it drop. Fortunately Rachael, the daughter I'm talking about, has never refused to go Mass. She goes without too much complaint for which I'm glad because I don't know what her dad would do if she refused. He's dropped saying anything about confession and overall, I think relationships have improved drastically.
What's interesting about this is this daughter could run circles around him when it comes Catholic doctrine and teaching. When she was growing up, I made sure she got her daily dose of catechism. We studied and memorized and talked. I made sure my girls were the best catechized of any group because after all, they were going to save the church from the liberals. And, no, I don't have to ask why she's burned out and tired of religion.
I want to say that my husband is a kind, loving man. I love my husband. I have a very good marriage. I think we become complacent with one another, take each other for granted. He took my faith for granted. Just as I've done the same with him. Also, I know he has his own faith issues, but I don't know how much I want to talk about that since that's his story and not mine. I think I'll mention his faith as I see it relating to me, but I could never say exactly what he believes, doesn't believe because that's his faith.
Well, time moved forward and here we are. I restrain from talking to him about what I'm thinking. A few times we've had a good conversation about God, spirituality, just naturally, not me instigating it or bring my issues into it. But last night while we were at Mass I looked over at him, and it hit me again that I still don't believe he has accepted what I'm going through. I could almost swear that he thinks things are back at the status quo. I'm at Mass, I don't say too much of anything, we're going forward as if everything is normal. But it's not. And we still have three younger children coming along, and he's probably thinking that I'm teaching them everything Christian and Catholic. But I'm not because I just can't right now. And he should know that. I don't want him thinking I'm doing something that I'm not doing. He could be taking it for granted that I'm teaching and sharing with Catholicism and faith with the younger girls as I did with the older two. I don't want someday for him to look at me and say, "I thought you were catechizing them."
So I thought I would talk to him today. I asked him to go for a walk with me, but nothing worked out. He seemed frustrated and cranky with people, and that negative energy seemed to engulf me, and I lost my confidence that I could speak kindly, without making him defensive. So I didn't say anything. And it's all building up inside of me right now. This is my journey, my path. I'm not upset with him, he didn't do this to me. I just need to share it. Maybe I'll try tomorrow.
Well, my girls are after me to get the corned beef on the table. We're celebrating St. Paddy's Day early since everyone is home. I'll think and write more later.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Yesterday she asked us to pray for her sister. I said, of course we will. I thought perhaps she had gotten worse. Then she explained that her sister is an atheist. She was asking for prayers that her sister would let God in before she dies. Again, I said of course we will pray for your sister to open her whole being to God. Then I said, "But you know, just because your sister says she doesn't need God doesn't mean God has abandoned your sister. God would never abandon any of us." But, you know, I don't think she believes that.
She didn't say this, but this is the feeling she left me with. That unless her sister makes a decision to believe/accept God's existence, that she is all alone, God isn't with her. For God to be with her, she will have to mentally make a decision to open her heart and ask God in.
I do not believe that.
How could God not be a part of us. He is in us. We have God in us. We are part of God. He could not abandon this woman. Also looking at God as Father, how could a Perfectly Loving father abandon his child? As a mother, I could never abandon my children. In the end, that door would always be open and my love would always be there. Even if my child denied me, I would still be there.
How many people view God this way? As a God 'up there', looking down on us here on Earth. They must view God as separate from us. Does our piano teach truly believe that if her sister dies without accepting God, she will not go to heaven. Does she believe God would send her sister to hell? I was afraid to ask. Not only because it's a very touch subject, but also because I don't think I would like the answer.
I read something recently that went like this: In the Old Testament God created man in his own image, and we've been repaying the favor ever since. Yeah, you could say that.
I'm thinking on this. And here comes a heretical sentiment. In the end, does it matter? During life I believe that accepting God's existence can make our life infinitely better, if only on an invisible level. But in the end, is God going to hold it against us if we chose to navigate this world without acknowledging him?
And in this life if a person chooses not to believe in God, does that mean God is no longer in them? He is no longer part of their life?
If I remember correctly, mortal sin kills the life of God in your soul. His grace is gone. I remember a picture from my old Baltimore Catechism of two little kids. One had a heart with a picture of God in it. The other little kid had a black, empty heart. How awful.
What a petty, jealous God.
And what about all the love these non-believers have felt. My b-i-l says he is an atheist. I know he loves his wife, his daughter, his parents, his siblings. He's respectful of people, takes care of this beautiful Earth. Doesn't that love have its own energy? All that love is for naught?
Our piano teacher said her sister doesn't believe in God because her life is so much simpler without God. When I told Tim that, he said it's probably because people (perhaps her family, maybe even her sister) have made God so complicated she doesn't want him in her life. Sadly, I can understand that.
I have more thoughts but am stopping for now.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
My mom had a rather sad, depressing, interesting life. That her family was dysfunctional would be an understatement. Her grandparents, George and Jane, came to America from England, met here in this country, married and at some point traveled to Utah with a Mormon wagon train. That they joined the Mormon church I think is a given since they lived there for a number of years and several of their children were born in Utah. Also, Jane's brother had become involved with Mormon missionaries in England and come to America because of them. Well, the story goes that George was being pressured to take a second wife, which he didn't want or his wife didn't want or something, and they abruptly pulled up stakes and moved to Idaho. They left with another family deserting their homes in the middle of the night in order to leave undetected. This story came to my mother from the oldest daughter of Geo. and Jane who was a young girl at the time. They settled in Idaho where my grandmother, Matilda, was born, number 8 out of 9 children.
There's nothing that leads me to believe that they attended any church during this time. However, at some point my grandmother was baptized in the Reorganized LDS Church although I don't think she ever attended. The oldest daughter married a French Catholic and converted, and shortly after that Geo. and Jane followed along and joined the Catholic Church. At some point my grandmother had my mother baptized Catholic. And that's how my mother became Catholic.
My mother's father was not one for organized religion of any kind. He was raised Presbyterian and left home when 16 or 17 because of his mother pressuring him to become a minister. What he had to say about my mother being baptized I have no idea. Actually, I don't think he had much to say about anything as my grandmother ran everything making his life hell. My mother went to the Catholic school here until her dad died when she was 12. She never went back after that, and her life changed for the worse in many ways. My grandmother was mentally unstable and my mom's life was very, very difficult. I know my grandmother was involved in spiritualism of some type and for a while my mom went to a Seventh Day Adventist school. What a combination. I honestly don't think my mom had been in Catholic church from the time she left the Catholic school until she met my dad when she was 28. Her upbringing wasn't particularly religious, definitely not Catholic; actually it was rather a hodge podge.
My dad did not come from a religious family, either. I don't know if his father ever attended church, but his mother might have attended the Methodist church occasionally. He grew up on a farm, went to public schools and had a very normal life. Religion just wasn't part of it. They weren't anti religious, just indifferent. Neither of my paternal grandparent's funerals was held in a church.
My dad moved to Chicago in the early 40's, and there he made friends with several Bohemian and Polish kids. (He always referred to his friends as kids.) Of course, they were Catholic, and this would have been his first introduction to Catholicism. He often told me how they impressed him with their sincerity. I'm guessing he might have attended Mass with them on occasion, but he did have one experience while in Chicago that touch him spiritually. It was Christmas Eve and he was feeling quite homesick. He had gone out to eat by himself and while walking home (it was safe to walk in downtown Chicago at night then???) he passed a Catholic Church and felt a strong urging to go inside. He went in, sat down in a back pew and just stayed. For a couple hours. He said he had never felt so peaceful before; that he felt he had found his home. He stayed for Mass and then went home.
He didn't start instruction until 1950 when he moved back to Idaho and was baptized that year. He had an aunt by marriage that was Catholic who played a large part in his conversion. Then he met my mom, and in 1953 they married. Because my grandmother was causing so many problems for them, they took off one Friday night for Winemucca and were married by the justice of peace about 1:00 AM. My mom always said that it was very important to my dad that their marriage be blessed in the church. I took it that she was okay with the Nevada marriage, but she was happy to have the marriage blessed in the Catholic church for my dad. So three months later they had a small ceremony in the Church. Coincidentally, the priest that married them also married Tim and me.
I don't think they attended Mass regularly when they were first married. In fact, of the friends they had back then none of them were Catholic. They were married 7 years before I was born, and I wasn't baptized until I was 3. If they were going to church regularly, I think I would have been baptized before that. As far as I can remember we always attended church except for a couple years when I was young. Probably around this time some of the changes of Vatican II had started to take root here, and they left my dad feeling rather lost. He had joined the church in 1950 before Vatican II, and then a little over a decade later, things started to change. Our Mormon neighbors decided to jump at the chance and had the missionaries at our door in no time flat. I remember going to the Mormon church a few times, but the only result of that was my dad quickly becoming convinced that he would never be a Mormon. We went back to the Catholic church and there we stayed.
I also thought we were fairly religious. We went to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, my sister and I attended Catholic schools (with a few public school breaks thrown in), we had Catholic papers in the house, catechisms, theological books, etc. We discussed religion at the table; sometimes we argued religion at the table. My dad was a reader and thinker so consequently he was a very well catechized Catholic. But as I said, he was a thinker. He didn't just take whatever the priest said during his homily on Sunday or what the Vatican said at face value. Remember, he wasn't raised Catholic or in any church at all so he didn't have grounding in being absolutely obedient to the church. When I was older he would discuss certain teaching that he didn't agree with, but he was a Catholic until the day he died.
Now my mom on the other hand wasn't religious at all, but she was very spiritual. Yes, there is a huge difference as I've come to know. She prayed, especially novenas and rosaries. She loved the Bl. Mother. But she was particularly Catholic - other than the rosary and Mary. She could have been Anglican, Methodist, something like that. The only thing she could never be was a born again fundamentalist. Church teachings just didn't mean much to her. She followed her own conscience, and could never understand when dad and I would get distraught over something Fr. said at Mass or something we read. Actually, for dad and me, I think it was more the argument than any deep seated belief that drove us. My mom found God in her family. Her spirituality was her family. Her purpose on earth was to love her family. Dogma, doctrine, teachings she didn't know, but she loved her family.
Towards the end, before mom died, I remember talking to dad and him saying, "Oh, your mom just wanted to take a drive in the country and eat lunch somewhere so we didn't make it to Mass." This was during my 'on-fire' time, and I would be so upset with him. I would tell him he couldn't just miss Mass like that, it was a mortal sin. I was appalled. He would always say something like, "You know Janet, your mom is failing. She doesn't have much longer. It makes her so happy to take Sunday drives and enjoy our time together. She didn't feel like going to Mass, and I want to spend this time with her." And of course I said something like, "Feelings don't have anything to do with it; or why didn't you go Saturday night," or something equal to that. And he would say something like, "The older you get, you tend to see things differently, not so black and white." And I would say, "I'll never do that." You know: never say never.
Dad usually always made it to Mass after mom died. I do remember him saying that he never went to confession any more. He just didn't know what to say. By that time, my 'never' had been fading. I told him I was sure that he was fine with God. One of the last conversation with him about religion he said, "I believe in God." That was about it.
I've never believed that I chose my parents. I'm more of the 'it just happens' type. But had I been able to choose parents, I couldn't have done any better. No woman ever had more loving, dedicated, honest, kind, caring friends than I did. Those friends were my parents. I miss them terribly. I want to believe they're on this journey with me. Sometimes I feel them; sometimes I don't. Sometimes I feel them right next to me; sometimes I feel incredibly alone. Lately, I've been feeling very alone. So I create conversations with them and try to hear their voices. Their voices have been faint lately, but I choose to believe they're still very involved with me. On a different level, but still intimately involved. Otherwise, this whole life is a damn crap shoot.
Monday, March 10, 2008
At the age of 47 I find myself on a path that a decade ago I would have sworn in blood I would never travel, and I find myself very alone in this particular journey. I have a wonderful husband and family, but this is my journey. I would very much, at some point, love to share this with my husband, but right now it would make me feel more vulnerable. Also, I think it would make him uncomfortable. He doesn't think and ponder as I do. What has been a huge, guiding force in my life has not been one in his. He's a man; I'm a woman. We have different needs, different personalities. He would feel responsible to help me solve these issues even though I would assure him it isn't his responsibility. As much as I never thought I would be here, I am sure he never thought this would happen to his wife, either. I'm in the midst of a faith crisis.
I'll freely admit that being a middle aged, pre-menopausal woman probably has much to do with this. I don't find this a reason to sweep it under the rug and ignore it as best I can for the next 10 years or however long it might last. Also, there are other reasons I am where I am having little to do with my hormone fluctuations. Whatever the reasons, here I am, very much alone.
Right now at this point in my life I am without a woman friend. I've never been one to have many friends; one or two does quite nicely. But in the past I've always had several acquaintences - the kind you stop and visit with in the store, meet up with at park day, visit occasionally with on the phone - but most importantly I've always had a friend. The kind you sit down with at you kitchen table, the teapot between you full of Constant Comment or Earl Grey, a few cookies and several to talk, laugh and cry together. She is someone you could share your inner turmoil with and you wouldn't be embarrassed by the fact that your family is less than perfect: teenage problems, marriage problems, depression, grief, happiness, dreams. You could even share your faith crisis, honestly without having to choose words carefully. For me, however, my friend (and acquaintenaces) were are based on sharing the same religion. More importantly, sharing the perspective of that religion. So when I started to fall away, my friend fell away. I had become a danger to her soul.
And that brings me here. This blog will be my friend sitting across the table from me. I will enjoy my cup of tea, talk away unhindered, share thoughts and feelings. Of course, this friend lacks human warmth and love and the ability to converse with me. If along the way someone wants to leave a thought, please do. There is much to be learned from others who have forged their own spiritual path.