March 19, 2013

A departure.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:19 am by openendedcomment

A new Pope was installed today.  As a woman who was raised as Catholic, this should be an important day for me.  It should be a day to embrace my faith and feel more connected to my church and to God.  I know this intellectually but emotionally and spiritually, I feel only confusion…detachment and sorrow.  I want to believe and I do believe in God and in the basics but in the church itself…in and for that I feel only loss.

This Pope embraces care of the poorest among us, he is a scientist and a Jesuit.  He believes in furthering education and humility.  These  are all wonderful things.  He spoke of and has acted on purging the church of the sins of its leaders.  That is a good thing too, and high time.  Today he spoke of love.  Love for those who most need it and love for those who least deserve it.  That is exactly what I have waited for the church to speak of and to act upon.  I ought to be eleated…but I am not.  I am not because though he spoke of love he remains firmly rooted in the archaic notions of women’s role being minimal at best and in women having no place in the church’s leadership.  He is traditional (in the sense of the church) in his stance on reproductive rights and even birth control.  Perhaps hardest for me is that he, together with the church’s leadership, remain resolute in their opinions and teachings on homosexuality.

I can’t agree.  I can understand that these are the church’s teachings, but for the life of me, I can’t understand why.  I’m not talking about other religions who may agree with the Catholic Church on some of these social justice lines, frankly, that isn’t what I’m concerned with.  I am selfishly concerned with my religion and the church I was raised in and more specifically with how on earth I can justify raising my own children as Catholics today.

I’ve asked.  I’ve spoken to priests and to very devout friends.  They’ve all given me the exact same BS lines and quoted the exact same scripture at me what seems like thousands of times.  No matter how often I hear it, I know it is not true.  I know it isn’t true.  The scripture they quote can easily be refuted with another verse in another chapter.  Besides, I do not and have not ever taken the Bible literally.  How can I?  How could anyone with an analytical and developed mind?  Knowing the Bible has been written and rewritten for political purposes over a millennium with entire sections removed and added for various reasons…knowing that the original disciples, the original priests and leaders of the church were allowed to marry and that women did have a larger role in the church for centuries until someone decided they didn’t…how could I?  And this is just the New Testament.  The Old Testament is clearly up for interpretation.  Please, please don’t comment on this part with any “Adam and Eve” stuff here.  I mean, really.  If Adam and Eve begat Cain and Abel, how did Cain and Abel procreate without committing incest?  If you truly belive that “traditional” marriage is between one man and one woman because “the Bible says so” then please explain why half of the Old Testament had numerous wives. If we’re going straight “traditional” as our guide, then Cody and the Sister Wives are our model and…well…please let’s not agree on that, OK?  And why and how on earth is it that the exact same scripture used to justify this hatred was used to justify laws prohibiting inter-racial marriages?  Look it up.  Exact. Same. Scripture.  Frankly, I’m offended.  I believe that God is offended.  The Bible and God’s teachings are those of love.  To use bits and pieces to promote hate is antithetical to Christianity and it makes me sick.  Further, if abortion and birth control are so wrong, why did the church assist with birth control (granted it was rather crude in form, but still happened) for women for centuries right up until the nineteenth when it became a social issue?  C’mon people…get some new material.

I want to raise my children with religion.  I want them to have the peace and knowledge that I do, that there is a God and there was a Son.  That their conscience is more than a conscience and that the traditions of communion and confession are important and true.  That said, I will raise good people.  I will raise children that believe in forgiveness over judgement.  People that understand tolerance and justice on a far deeper level than they know bigotry and hate.  I want to provide the world with four individuals who know how to question and think for themselves while rooted in firm and unshakeable values…and knowing what I know and hearing what I have heard from this place I used to find such comfort, I no longer know how to provide that for them.

And I need to.

They miss the ceremony and the tradition.  Sometimes I do, too.  We walked out of a mass several months ago when a deacon took to the pulpit and eschewed hatred and judgement for many that I love and millions who should find comfort rather than persecution in the arms of God.  I took one look at my four babies and knew in that instant I could not allow them to hear such things.  That even though I had always explained our family’s feelings on the issues after a mass, that by having them exposed in any form to such outrageous statements while telling them to “believe” was inexcusable as a parent.  So we walked.  It’s been bothering me ever since and today, of all days, I miss my church.  In writing this I can understand that I miss the idea of my church…of what I thought it to be for so many years.  I miss the comfort I found as I kneeled and prayed, enveloped by a sense of tradition and the teachings of Christ that I had chosen to acknowledge…of redemption and of love and of charity and peace.  New beginnings and eternal life.  I know that I will never go back, not the way I once was.  I don’t know what I am anymore, clearly not Catholic.  Not really.  To continue to identify as one seems unfair to those that actually are and a departure from what I know in my heart to be right.  I know that for my children I will have to find something different.  A compromise of what I know to be true and what I believe they need in their lives.  I will likely always cross myself and carry my rosary.  I will never waver from fish on Fridays.  As a family, we will still pray before dinner and still say the Hail Mary at the graves of those we love and lost.  I will find something new, someday.  In the meantime, for the church of my childhood and my grandparents, I will pray.  I will go again to the Basilica of Saint Mary and I will kneel before Our Mother and light a candle the way I have hundreds if not thousands of times before.  I will quietly ask that she bless me on this journey, secure in the knowledge I gained at the feet of Father Milano, that no matter what I am taught or told in my life and regardless of by whom, if I take the Spirit as my guide and listen in reflection to the truth of my conscience, I will be on the right path.

And for today, at this moment of what may be great change but still not great enough, my path is away.

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December 10, 2012

Sugar Cookies and Champagne.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , at 8:06 pm by openendedcomment

This is the first Christmas in forty-four years of life my husband will not spend the holiday with his family.  Every Christmas morning of every year he went to his Grandmother’s home.  It is always difficult when traditions change, when childhood, no matter our age, takes its final bow in the known and predictable ways and places of our lives.  Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Birthdays…for each of us there is that one thing, that one person or activity that we always do or always see because we have always done so.  For him, it was Christmas at Grandma Jane’s.   Cousins everywhere and platters upon platters of sugar cookies so thin you can almost see right through them.   It was thirty-plus people in their Sunday best (because when your Grandmother tells you to dress up, you do), it was coffee and champagne by the case,  catching up on who is having yet another child (Irish Catholic family, someone is always pregnant) and an annual time of  simple togetherness.  It was his connection to a man he loved dearly and knew for far too short of a time,  the Father he lost at twelve years old.  These past few years they and it meant even more.  It and she has been the family he felt he would always have, through these difficult past two years they were the people who he knew would never leave him.  His Grandmother is still with us, but for the first time she’s not up for the Florida to Minnesota trip.  As it is also the first Christmas since his Mother passed this makes it an especially difficult year and despite mine and the children’s best efforts, we can’t seem to get him in the spirit.  I suppose it is like this for all of us at one time or another.  I remember when my Grandmother on my Father’s side passed…Chrstmas with my Nana had always meant Norwegian pastries, Lefse, Herring and the Lutefisk my Poppi would drown in butter.  It meant the Moe family and singing and laughter and seeing a side of my Dad that was reserved for Grand Forks, a softer and more relaxed, quicker to laugh version of himself…something I wonder if even he realized.  It has been over fifteen years since my last Christmas in North Dakota and almost a decade since I saw the Moe family.  I make the krumkake and flatbread, the english toffee and the divinity for my family now…there is song and laughter…though I’ll happily admit that the lutefisk is not a part of the tradition I carried on.  I do this to honor the family I miss, to give my children a grasp of their heritage and a piece no matter how small, of the Christmas’ I knew as a child.  I do it to give my Dad a taste of the home he was raised in.  This year I will do this for my husband, too.  I may not be able to provide the cousins, but I can make the cookies.  If I am lucky, having our little family around him will provide the security and steadfast comfort he needs.  In time our own family will surely grow and perhaps much like a Scandinavian Christmas without Lutefisk, while not identical to what we were raised in, it can become something even sweeter- A holiday that respects and embraces what and who we were raised with while allowing us to make it our own.  This year on Christmas morning we will open gifts according to age, youngest first, and on Christmas morning there will be champagne…just like Grandma’s house…but this year, under no circumstances will we be driving in a blizzard in our Sunday best.  Cheers!