Tuesday, September 1, 2009

religion dilemma solved

Two weeks ago*, I went home for just over a day before heading out to Hawaii with the family. Unfortunately, this meant that I had to spend a Sunday morning at home which meant church time. It's always difficult to be forced to go to mass with my family and, this time, I didn't have Jesse with me to act as a buffer. I figured I'd be the only really, really, really lapsed Catholic in the church.

The church my family goes to is not a regular church. A few years ago, the Diocese of Orange purchased land to build the Diocese's second cathedral. This was before the pedophile priest scandal broke out. The church had not yet been built at the time of the scandal and, in an attempt to build a church community, religious services were held at a nearby grade school auditorium until a Cathedral could be built. A few years later, the Diocese still didn't have the funds to start building on the land they had purchased. Why? Well, they were too busy spending money on those case settlements for the pedophile priests the Diocese had protected**. Just last year, the Diocese bought the church community some portable units and combined them to make a makeshift church-like facility. This has been about a 5 year process. To this day, the Diocese has not yet started building the Cathedral.

When I entered the makeshift church, I noticed the community's demographic--old and young, nothing in between, and mostly Latino. I was greeted by friends of my family and soon sat down and waited for mass to begin.

Unlike all those other times since I've moved out that I've been forced to go to church, I felt like I didn't belong and I was COMFORTABLE with it. I listened to the deacon give his sermon (which was about communication) and felt that the advice was not only helpful, but universal--as in, not just advice for Catholics but for everyone. When the collection plate came by, I refused to put any money into it. Everything was fine and dandy until...

Communion time. We were seated in the second row and, soon it was my row's turn to go up to receive the body and blood of Christ. Catholic teachings require that your soul should be pure before receiving the host and the wine. Considering I violate Catholic teachings every day with my views, I knew that the Church didn't deem me worthy of receiving the body and blood of Christ. However, as I was about to sit down, my mom pinched me hard, forcing me to stay in line to receive the host.

Whenever Jesse and I go to church with my family, I never receive communion. After many years of Catholic school, I know I have sinned by violating the teachings of the Church and the sacrament of Confession requires that you reveal your sins and be sorry for committing them. I do not feel sorry about my views and my job and therefore I have not been to Confession in forever. I think my mom assumes that when I don't go up to receive communion I do it to keep Jesse company (Jesse cannot receive communion since he is not Catholic).

So my mom forces me to stay in line for communion and I know exactly what to do when I get up to the priest. When it is my turn, instead of extending my hands palm up to receive the host, I cross my arms over my chest and look down. This is a common signal to a priest that I want a blessing, not communion. The priest blesses me and I'm on my way. I'm not sure if my mom saw that I didn't take communion because when I went to my seat, she was beaming at me.

That day was remarkable to me for one reason--I realized that day that I am not a lapsed Catholic. I'm a former Catholic. While there will always be some Catholicism in my life as it is so ingrained in my culture, I feel comfortable not subscribing to one particular religion. In fact, I think I will make the following bible passage the main tenet of my religious faith:

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
From the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25: 34-40

*Yes, I know that this story is way late but in the last 20 days, I've spent only 7 days in DC. The rest were business travel and vacation travel days. If you are wondering, yes, I'm still jet-lagged :)
**Everything you wanted to know about the priest sex abuse scandal in Orange County can be found here.

1 comment:

Bilbo said...

From one lapsed/former Catholic to another, I really enjoyed this post, and I feel much the same as you do when I go home and face the what-do-I-do-at-communion quandry. Over the years, I've come to believe that religion is less about ritual and rote memorization of prayers and more about ethical and moral living. I think we probably understand each other.