This is something that I have been wanting to write about. These are my thoughts, my feelings and my own self discoveries. I respect all religious beliefs that are peaceful.
I am a cradle Catholic. This means I have been Catholic since my days hangin’ in the womb. Both of my parents are Roman Catholic. I did attend Catholic school for the first 3 years of my formal education. I only had a nun for a teacher once. In second grade I had Sister Mary for a half a year when we moved from E. 72nd in Cleveland to the suburb of North Ridgeville. I went to Sacred Heart of Jesus and then finished out my second grade year at St. Mary’s in Avon, Ohio. I loved all my teachers at Sacred Heart. I loved the school, the Polish festivals that my siblings and I partook in, running cross country, I even loved going to mass. Most of all I LOVED my first communion dress! My sister had worn it before me and I couldn’t wait to wear it and the veil that went along with it. I remember feeling like I was marrying God! When we moved to North Ridgeville in April of 1985 we eventually joined St. Julie Billiart Parish. I was NOT a fan of the priest at this church. He didn’t seem to relate to kids well and quite frankly I didn’t feel like I was in church because this new one was so….not churchy?! There weren’t any pews and zero stained glass. Plus it was bright and airy. On the inside it looked more like a place you would have a wedding reception than an actual wedding. My parents continued putting us into to PSR (Sunday school) until the day we graduated high school. I even helped teach special needs kids in Sunday school. Well, pretty soon after I started high school, my friend Kathy and I would skip Sunday school to go by cigarettes and pop at Polly’s. Polly’s was a tiny mom and pop store that someone ran out of the bottom of their house.
I didn’t get much out of PSR…well not when I was older anyways. Everything that was taught was very much on a surface level. We didn’t delve deep into anything really. It was more of this is how it is and this it what you are suppose to believe…Now GO! I remember telling my dad that I didn’t want to make my confirmation in the 10th grade. That I wanted to explore other religions. He said, “Too bad. As long as you’re living under my roof you are getting confirmed.” Now, even at the young age of 15 or 16 I knew there had to be more to this world then my own little area. Different people, beliefs, cultures, etc. I wanted to study those. Actually, I wanted to travel and live among these foreign concepts. But alas, I was to be confirmed. I remember having to write letters (I forget what about…something heartfelt I am sure) and go to confession. What do you say in confession? Crap about your siblings, school, parents, but was I really going to get down to the nitty gritty with all of my thoughts, feelings and actions?! Hell NO! At least not with the priest who was at the parish at the time and certainly not without in me being in my own little stall and a sliding screen window between us! Not gonna happen!
But something DID happen one night during my confirmation journey. We all opened up and read our letters and I started crying as most of us did. It was an emotional evening but in a good way. From that point on I was a good Catholic girl. I wanted to marry a good clean-cut Catholic boy. We’d get married, attend church and live a happy little life.
LOL….then life happened. I fell in love with a boy in high school and we dated for 4 years, moved down south together and moved back to Ohio 11 months later. Oh to be young and stupid…lol! It was around then that my faith strengthened in ways that only one who is going through a life crap storm can experience. I would sit in an empty church and cry until I couldn’t breathe. My world was falling apart around me and no matter how many people surrounded me with love and advice, I needed to walk this journey alone. With The Lord.
I believe being in the wrong church can be like having a guidance counselor in high school (ah hem!) who doesn’t really truly care or support you. Fast forward a few years. I am now in my early 20’s now and really listening to the homilies. They all had a reoccurring theme…MONEY. It made me sick. What also made me sick was the “it’s the Catholic way or the high way” rhetoric that came at me almost every Sunday. Call me crazy but when the parish priest is driving a beautiful new car and eating from the fattened calf while members of his congregation are suffering, that is bull caca! By this time I have jumped from parish to parish trying to find one that truly embodied the way and life of Jesus. My searches fruitless.
At this point I decided to go explore other religions. There had to be one out there that was gentle and didn’t look down upon other religions. That is when I discovered a book titled, Black Elk Speaks. It opened my eyes to Native American spirituality. They didn’t make fun, cast aside or discount other religions. I found my inner foundation of my beliefs! I even made a pilgrimage if you will, to the Badlands. I walked the entire Crow reservation in Montana. But it’s not like you can roll up to a sacred spot and join in the fun. I didn’t know how to get in the door. So after a few more years of worshiping Mother Earth I was still at a loss for a belief system.
Truly I believe that God presents his or herself in different ways to different people. I don’t think that there is a right way to pray. Through my years of religious searching, I would still find myself entering into empty Catholic churches and just sitting there. In quiet stillness. Feeling completely at peace. Maybe this is because it is where everything religious in my life started. It was my religious home base.
After moving home from California I became very quickly involved in a relationship that I knew in my gut I didn’t want to be in. I wanted to establish myself first. I remember telling my friend who set us up, “I don’t want to be with anyone right now. My God I have only been home for 12 days!” But with everyone pushing me to just give it a whirl, I digressed from my original plan and entered into the relationship. So here I am, unexpectedly living back in Ohio, in a relationship, and wanting to scream from the top of my lungs but could not get the sound out. Him and I went to midnight mass that first December and I remember telling him that I believe the Catholic church is political and money hungry and that is about all it is. By this time I had been away from Catholicism for about 10 years now.
From time to time during our relationship I would find him kneeling at the bedside in the morning before he left for work, holding my hand in my half awake/half asleep state, praying. I could not for the life of my appreciate this at the time it was happening. I never bothered to ask who he was praying to or what he was praying about. Communication and respecting each others beliefs and choices were not our strong point with each other. I cannot tell you how many times during my first year and a half being back home from California, I felt incredibly alone. Alone in my beliefs, thoughts, actions, hopes, dreams…. I would be tucked in his arms every evening feeling completely alone. It was not one person’s fault over the other that ended that relationship. The aftermath of that relationship was one of the biggest lessons in my life.
Shortly after moving out of his place, I awoke one afternoon from a nap and found myself on my hands and knees SOBBING and calling out to anyone “up there” who would listen…
To be continued….
“Give what you have, to someone it may be better than you dare to think.”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.