Breaking all the Rules

Isn’t there a rule about politics and religion? Never discuss politics or religion in polite company. Said someone, somewhere… but we’re not in polite company here, and it’s my blog, so here goes.

On the last day of school before the holidays, the Boy (he’s six) brought home a Christmas present for us. He couldn’t contain his excitement and wanted us to open it immediately, so we did. We unwrapped a drawing he had colored in, it was… a manger scene. I looked at Hubby, surprised. We asked the Boy if he had chosen the image, and he said no, that his teacher had. We then asked him if she had given everyone the same one, and he said yes.

Our kids go to public school. They have classmates who are Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, probably agnostic and atheist (well, maybe not the classmates but likely some of their parents). We’re probably not the only lapsed Catholics. I was amused at the thought of a Muslim or Jewish family opening their six year old’s gift only to find a nativity scene with baby Jesus in the center of it all. I imagined that some of the parents would be bemused, and some would be angry. I don’t know what the teacher was thinking, but I have a feeling she’ll hear about it.

The whole thing got me thinking about my journey with respect to religion. I was raised by Catholic parents who had very Catholic parents. My grandmother used to say the rosary on her knees in my grandparents’ front parlour every Friday morning. More often than not my grandfather would join her. I was encouraged, but not forced, to join when I happened to be over at their house at the appointed time.

I grew up going to mass on Sundays. I sang in church choirs, once played a flute solo, and even volunteered to be the organist for a few months (despite my terror of performing in front of other people and the organ’s unfortunate, prominent place at the front of that particular church).

By the time I was finishing high school my relationship with my mother was rocky, at best. When I left for university I stopped going to church. My first weekend back home at Thanksgiving went very badly when my mother insisted that I attend church and I refused. I stood my ground and didn’t attend church, and spent the weekend avoiding my mother. Our relationship remained rocky for years, for that and many other reasons.

Despite turning my back on the Church, when I got engaged I was adamant about having a church wedding complete with communion. I knew I just wouldn’t feel “married” otherwise. Hubby would have been fine with a wedding officiated by a friend ordained off the internet but nevertheless agreed. Though my relationship with organized religion has further soured since our wedding, I’m still very happy with that decision. I vividly remember standing at the altar, feeling so incredibly sure that I was doing the right thing. Our friend’s young baby cried at the back of the church at one point, and I thought, “Someday, that will be me, standing at the back of a church during a wedding with our crying baby” and I was filled with happiness and love. In contrast, I remember almost nothing about the reception that followed.

I always find it a bit sad when a wedding ceremony lasts less than twenty minutes, as if the wedding isn’t as official, somehow.

After the birth of each of our children (the Girl, who is now nine, and the aforementioned Boy, who is almost seven), I insisted on having them baptized. The priest who baptized them at out local church was beloved by his parishioners and well known throughout the Catholic community in our area. For years I tried to attend mass regularly, but found it difficult to reconcile the Church’s teachings on many subjects with my own beliefs. I tried attending Anglican and United services in an attempt to find the same community spirit without the anti-gay, anti-birth control, anti-abortion doctrine, but it never felt quite right. Then our beloved parish priest was arrested. I remembered one Christmas mass where he had used his sermon to berate all of the CEOs in attendance (Christmas and Easter Only), and the guilt I’d felt (Catholic guilt is a very real thing), while he was committing crimes right under his parishioners’ noses.

That was the end of organized religion for me.




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