It’s been 10 years since I returned to the Catholic Church after I became pregnant with my oldest daughter. It doesn’t seem that long, and it struck me that there were a few things that, when I think back to those days, I thought I would be, or not be, after that many years of trying to walk in my faith. Here’s a quick list of the things that come first to mind:
1) Sacramentals – Shouldn’t I “get” that more by now?
People are always showing me things that are blessed, or giving me Holy Water, or I see people drinking Holy Water, and I just don’t get it. Everyone seems a lot more excited than what I can muster up. Not that I have disdain or disrespect for sacramentals. I have my blessed palms from Palm Sunday on display in my house, and I surely appreciate the effort of the people who get gifts blessed for me (as well as the Priest’s time.) Yet when someone says “It’s blessed!” the best I can muster up is a “Oh, isn’t that nice.” If anyone can tell me what I am missing I would be very appreciative.
2) I thought I would be better doing the “Holy Praise Talk”
You know what I mean. When it’s time to lead a prayer in a group, I never have a good repertoire of good holy things to say. Some people just seem to be able to speak about putting on Christ, they know all the names for Mary, have a billion Saints memorized, and they have all the phrases of blessing, praising and who does what through who. Me — no matter how many biographies of the Saints I read, only four ever spring to mind in these situations (I guess I should include the Evangelists, so okay – 8.) When I try to discuss spiritual matters, I still sound like I am reading out of a cook book. No, actually it is more like the driving directions from Google maps. I need a gift of tongues or something. (Last sentence being more evidence of what I am talking about.)
3) I was sure that I would be less materialistic
I thought for sure by now I would be happy giving away insane percentages of my income to worthy causes, and living off of borrowed goods and second hand clothes. But I’m not. Part of me wants to disentangle from material things, and the other half reasons that since the Patriarchs were rich men, then why not me, Lord? Like, how can You know if I would give it all away for God, Lord, if you don’t give it to me first? (That makes sense. Isn’t our faith supposed be all about reason?) Plus, I have a lot of stuff that I really, really want to buy — and then gift to charity! See what I mean? Anyone who has any tips on this, please, please help.
4) There was no way I would be totally okay with the Church’s stand on abortion, contraception, women priests, or gay marriage
This is the most shocking to me. I was so socially liberal back then, that had I known what would happen to my views on these issues, that is, if I just stopped talking and ACTUALLY LISTENED TO WHAT THE CHURCH ACTUALLY TEACHES, I may have run in the opposite direction, or at least found a more liberal Church. My problem is that I had never heard what the Church says on these issues, I had only heard what other people said that the Church says. Contraception is banned because priests are male celibates, abortion is wrong because the Church is patriarchal and hates women working, women aren’t priests because the Church won’t accept gender theory — and on and on. Back then, I thought that I would just read the Church’s defence of its teachings, with the eventual goal of dissenting, since — let’s be serious, here — the logic and reasoning was bound to be faulty. Cue laugh track. I seem to remember something about truth making you free – or at least very uncomfortable at social gatherings with your old cohort of liberal friends.
5) I would have one child, because only crazy people have large families
Cue that laugh track again. At one point, I was determined to arrest our family at 3 members — not counting all those dogs and cats we had, who were “our babies too!” (Gag.) Back then, I thought the only people who had a lot of children were either stupid, irresponsible, on a farm, wore prairie skirts everywhere because they thought they were pioneers, Mormons, female-misogamists, rich or eccentric. There had to be something wrong with them. In fairness, all I ever heard growing up was that you loved your children in spite of how they ruin your lives, and the only people I knew with six kids were the Brady Bunch. Even in my Catholic High School, the largest family I knew of had 4 kids. And her Dad was a judge, so obviously rich (well compared to me.) Other than that, no more than 3 kids, 2 preferably. So this point is one of those “if it wasn’t God, what was it?” kind of thing. Sort of a really minor, “if there isn’t a God, that how come the Church is still in existence?” question. Not only that, I am way happier in my tired, stressed, never-completely-in-control life, than I was with no or one child. And on that note….
6) I couldn’t be happy without a “career”
I sometimes I ask myself why I’m not miserable. According to everything I was ever taught or figured out previously, I should be. Don’t get me wrong — after 10 years of dealing with small children, I could use some intellectual pursuits (hence this blog,) but I am fundamentally okay with staying home, raising children, cleaning the house, and putting supper on the table. I don’t necessarily like any of these things, and I wouldn’t do them in and of themselves, but I feel like all the work I do has meaning now. And its a meaning that was missing when I just showed up at work because I was ambitious and wanted a paycheque (which, let me tell you, re: #3 above, I could totally use right now!)
7) I’d never get all this Mary stuff
My journey with and to Mary is an entirely separate post. Suffice it to say that 10 years ago I figured that Mary’s chief purpose in our faith was to ward off Protestants, and as a decorating choice for Mediterranean types with a penchant for plaster statuary.
Seven seems like a nice, meaningful, traditional number to stop on, though I could probably list a few more if I thought hard. However, biggest difference is that back circa 2000, I did a lot of “fake it til you make it.” I would put on a really “pious” look during the homily, I would try to affect a what I thought was a “holy” position, I never admitted that I didn’t know something, or that I was confused by Church teachings. Faith was less an invitation to a personal and transformative relationship with God, the Creator of the Universe, and more a clique that I was trying to insinuate myself into by learning its self-identifiers. But in fairness, that’s all I knew then. And I am sure that’s all most of the nominally-Christian/functionally Pagan souls out there know — unless we witness to them that Christianity isn’t a club, but a new life. A new and totally differently life, that I could be more happy to be living.