I was brought up as a Catholic.
Well kiiiiiiind of. I mean, I went to Catholic primary schools and a Catholic college for five years, I undertook baptism, reconciliation, communion and confirmation (though the appeal was getting to wear a veil more than anything), and in my younger years I went to church most Sundays (though this was a more social activity than one of faith).
I more associated church with my grandparents. My Nanna and Bampga and my Babcia all attended mass every Saturday evening. I know for N&B the socialising aspect came into play a bit (old Father Orange had a wicked sense of humour), whereas my Babcia is devout in her beliefs and she still quietly slips in and out of the services, there for her own prayer and reflection.
I confess (slip some reconciliation in there) that religion is something I play quite close to my chest. Is it my own perception, or do you seem to get judged sometimes should you have faith? I know I’ve been party to rolled eyes and sighs of frustration when someone spurts on about their personal feelings or viewpoints. I wouldn’t say at all that I am one of those people (either of them), but I do have my well concreted Catholic roots.
I had a friend called Maria when I was about seven whose family were pious pray-ers. I used to be at her place a lot and I always felt so sorry for her; imagine having to recite the Rosemary every single night! I happily partook whenever I was there and felt a peaceful sensation in doing so, but to live my life like that everyday? How boring.
When I was 8/9/10, church was cool. I had a massive crush on the boy whose mum handed out the Eucharist so it meant time drooling at him across the pews, and also lent me the chance to show off my rad gears (my knee high boots from Hannahs had a Velcro pocket the ideal size for storing the weekly Mustard Seed, and it was a choice opportunity to let the pale blue Hawaiian shirt venture out). (Must state: said shirt and boots were not worn in unison).
But did I actually listen to the lessons in children’s liturgy? Did I think about what the bread and wine symbolised as I gulped them down? I don’t know. I can’t remember. I know I prayed, but I don’t think I actually thought about who to or what the readings meant. I remember my go-to line was: “Dear God, please look over the sick, the poor and the hungry.” But I don’t think I even noted what these words represented. They’d just been drummed in and I dully recited them through duty.
I remember as a kid the terror I felt at thinking about God not being real. I so vividly recall lying in bed imagining dying and just being dead. No afterlife, no Heaven, just gone. I used to get myself worked up into such a panic, and this led me to completely avoid reading about or learning about any other religions that contradicted my own worldview.
The idea of reincarnation was one that really bothered me. I didn’t want to be reborn! I wanted to be me and only me. I felt wretched at the thought that in another life Deb might not be my mum or Hank not my dad. I couldn’t bear to think about Michael and James not being my brothers, or not coming from the ancestry I have. It made me sick to my stomach.
I didn’t really take the Religious Education lessons at school into account. At primary RE meant cool books to colour in in and nativity plays each Christmas with me fighting to be Mary; at college it meant hour-long lessons with the airy-fairy teacher Mrs McGeever, who gave me and my best friends all the answers so we’d pass the internals. I remember her letting us watch a film about King Henry VIII to learn about the birth of Protestant faith; Christina and I just hid the remote and kept replaying the rape scene (poor Mrs McGeever, she had no idea why it kept repeating over and over). I never actually took into account what I was learning.
When The Invention of Lying movie came out in 2009, I hired it without any idea what it was about (bit of a Jennifer Garner fan at the time). The storyline follows a man who makes up the idea of a God and an afterlife. I felt sick to my stomach. All my little girl worries and sense of dread started rising back up in me. It was awful.
It’s only been in the last six months or so that I’ve been able to actually consider other religions. Isn’t that silly? I don’t even embrace the Catholic faith as the bee all; there is so much I don’t partake in or find solace with. I do pray everyday, all throughout the day to be honest, but I more direct it at my late grandparents and people close to me that have passed rather than an Almighty Father Figure. I do believe there is a higher power and something more, I just haven’t quite figured out what I believe that to be.
But I read about Buddhism. Hinduism. Christianity. Scientific theories about how the world came into being. And you know what I realised? The approaches were different, the terminology was different, the speculations were different. But the all encompassing idea? Hell, (inappropriate use of the word here or most fitting circumstance ever?) exactly the same.
I was in the markets the other day when I came across this beautiful scroll which declared the following:
I like that. No, I love that. Be you Catholic, Christian, atheist, whatever…. Love is the Universal Religion.
So maybe I tend to sway towards the Catholic faith; it’s more as a byproduct of upbringing and an emotional tie to my grandparents. But I mainly associate and reasonate with the religion of love.
And just because I link everything possible back to HP:
Unless it’s love of course. Then waggle away.