Thursday, October 13, 2011

Back to the Catholic Guilt.

He said he wants his First Holy Communion!  What? I am struggling with our decision to.... I don’t even know!  I am not even sure what the decision was.  We are not going to church anymore, and I did not sign up my son for CCD this year.  If you need more of a backstory, go to my very first post on this blog. (  I still consider myself Catholic, only because that was how I was brought up and it still remains within me somewhere.  But I felt like a hypocrite going to church and not really believing in the Church anymore.  I want to instill a strong faith in our sons, but really have a tough time with some of the teachings of my childhood church.  And not just the remote controversial teachings, but the fundamental teachings of Transubstantiation, Reconciliation, and the church hierarchy. Not to mention the Church’s views on married priests, female priests, and homosexuality. Not to further mention it’s horrible handling of abusive priests and political moves it is making against legislation that will help victims of childhood sexual abuse.  
Please understand, I don’t in any way think that those that attend Catholic church and are devout to it’s teachings are bad, misguided or even wrong.  I commend them for finding that which has eluded me.  I am happy that they feel at peace and in harmony within the Church.  I wish that for everyone.  Personally, I don’t want to be a hypocrite and go to church out of some fear that if I don’t, I will go to hell.  That if I don’t attend church and be an active member of the church community I am bad person.  Honestly, I just want to live my life and be good to others and raise my boys to be loving and caring adults.  
So back to my dilemma, my son wanting his First Holy Communion.  I asked him why and he said so that he can get the bread when we go to church.  I told him that we really don’t go to church and he said “but for when we do, I want to be able to go up and get the bread!”  Then I started thinking, why can’t he just go up and get the bread.  No one will stop him.   Instantly I thought, ‘But that is against the rules of our Church. It is sacrilegious, and I don’t want to be disrespectful to those that keep the Church’s teachings.’  Then think through the fact that my husband and I both got our First Holy Communions and it was a wonderful right of passage; a beautiful ceremony that brought us more fully into the fold of the Church.  But do I want my children in the fold of this Church?  It does not seem like the same Church I grew up with.   
My first and foremost thought is the health and happiness of my children, physically, mentally and spiritually.  How am I to know what their spiritual needs are?  I am not completely sure what mine are. There are certain things that I feel in my gut and know to be right.  I believe Jesus wants us to show love, tolerance and inclusion.  I think He was trying to tell us that we must find God within ourselves and those around us. By loving others we will find peace and happiness.  It seems that at the base some Catholic organizations, this is true.  I look at the wonderful work that Catholic Charities does for the poor, (without trying to convert.)  I look to Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and the Human Rights work the Franciscans do.  But when I see that Monsignor Lynn, who was arrested for protecting sexually abusive priests then suspended from ministry was APPLAUDED at an invitation-only dinner for Archbishop Chaput, who pointed out how difficult the ordeal has been on Msgr. Lynn.  My blood boils.  ( Msgr Lynn was arrested for shuffling pedophile priests and teachers around (Not alleged pedophiles but convicted abusers) and for covering it up. He was applauded!  Why is he not hanging his head in shame, even if he did not do what he was arrested for doing?  Wouldn’t you feel awful that your direct reports were abusing children on the job and you did not know about it? Wouldn’t you be doing all you can to help the victims and their families?  Not sitting at some exclusive dinner accepting applause!  
I have had this conversation with friends who feel the same way and are sending their children to Catholic school or to CCD, because they still believe in the sacraments.  I completely respect that.  I just don’t know what to do about my son now wanting his First Holy Communion.  My husband and I have not had a chance to revisit this subject since my son just asked this yesterday.  I am confused and conflicted. I had a long conversation with my son about Jesus and God and how we can commune with them anytime, not just at church.  I talked to him about how much he is loved not only by us but by God.  I explained how special and unique he is and to honor that by being a kind and loving person.  He had some insightful things to say like how all our ancestors were the stars in the sky and they were angels looking down on us.  He also told me that when you go to Heaven you can be whatever age you want at anytime explaining that Poppy-Pop (his great-grandfather who passed away last year at the age of 92,) can be 16 or 8 or 49 depending on his mood.  He also asked, why we don’t go to church anymore.  I was honest with him and told him that I did not have a really great reason.  I told him that it was stressful to go to church and we did not seem to like it too much anymore.  But just because we did not go, did not mean that church was not good.  It just meant that it is not what we are doing it right now.  It is all so confusing and frustrating.  I guess the question still remains - will I let him get his First Holy Communion and how do I get him into CCD now that the year has already started? More importantly do I want to?

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Michelle - I can totally relate to what you're feeling. After loosing both of my parents and my step sister in a 10 month span, I had to question God's plan. I was so angry that I stayed away from church for a long time. When I did return, I didn't get anything out of it. I was tired of hearing how the church needed money, how a priest who had no idea of what it takes to hold a marriage together give advice and said you never should get divorced, how a woman was not good enough to perform mass, but only good enough to give out communion (can you say hypocritcal?) Nicholas is finishing CCD this year after making his confirmation. I don't force them to go to church, but instead instill them values and morals to be a good person. Madison often goes with friends of ours (who converted from Catholic to Presbyterian) to their church. They belong to the Oxford Presbyterian Church in town. Many people said that she shouldn't go since it's not "our" religion. She often volunteer's there, so my answer to that is this - this particular church reaches out to the community - the whole community and doesn't try to "recruit" members but offers help the best they know how. Many times it's a hot meal, other times it's help with clothing or bills especially in the winter and for the elderly. They don't repeatedly tell you how much they need financial support. They welcome you and all that they ask in return is to respect one another and treat each other as you would like to be treated. In the end isn't what we should be doing regardless of our relgion affiliation? And not to mention Madison gets so much out of it helping others, she gets more in return than she gives out. She came home to me one time and said that the best part of her day was helping out at the Presbyterian church and meeting an elderly lady who held her hand and thanked Madison for helping her with her dinner. How can I deny my child that gift? At first I felt like I was betraying my catholic religion by participating in another church's program, but it's still the same message for me - live, love, serve, respect each other. I often find myself frustrated with the hypocritcal teachings of the church. Do I believe in heaven - I do, but not because the church says I have to make a choice between heaven and hell. I believe for the simple fact that I know some day I will be reuinted with my parents and other family members. Some times I feel the need to go to church just because I need to reconnect to my roots and my faith. Does it always work - no - but it reinforces my spirituality and my faith. And sometimes, just sometimes I feel connected to my parents because I can sit and reflect on the time that has passed. I often question my religion but feel strong with my spirituality, my faith is sometimes shaken, but I go back to the core; raise good kids, love my husband, and treat others as I want to be treated. It's a constant battle. I say it's safe to say that you're not alone in this dilemma. Lead by example, love to the fullest, listen often and keep the lines of communication open at all times. My children have taught me so much more than I could ever imagine, and your boys will do the same. You're an awesome mom for allowing your son to have his own opinion, point of view and the ability to talk about his thoughts of religion instead of making the choice for him with no explanation! Keep up the good work!