Monday, July 4, 2011

A new kind of Catholic

It was a great visit in Detroit. Two days of hanging out at Nonna's; Steve working with his brother, kids playing with their cousins, and me trying to stay productive. Forgive the following rant - I'm struggling with the extraction of circulating thoughts.....

On our way to the visit, we read an email that told us to prepare our kids for a more progressed stage of Nonna. The kids haven't encountered death in any meaningful way - except to understand that Grandpa and Papa have already died, and many other relatives, our ancestors have also died. Oh, and I shouldn't forget the cat, Harley. He died when they were two. They don't really remember him, but there is evidence of his existence in photographs.

When we got to Rose's house, she was already asleep. It was also a new health care professional, and we were told that she's kind of cracky, so we snuck up to our room to claim the lumpy old mattress and patch of floor in our room. Next morning, we slowly got going; deciding on breakfast and trying to plan for manageable house hold tasks. We all ignored the potential trauma of engaging with Rose until later that afternoon.

The kids peaked into Nonna's room. They were looking hard for something that was a sign of her dying. She looked just like she did last time we visited. Her mouth was a little more slack, and it was a little more challenging to get her to respond. But all told, she didn't "look" like she is dying.

Alzheimer's is a terrible way to go. Hard on the family; hardest on those that are the primary caregivers. We wanted to prepare our kids for this possibly being the last time they would see Nonna alive. She's had pneumonia for a couple of weeks - and some of Steve's siblings are convinced she will pass this summer. But this waiting has been going on for a few years now. We've often made the car trip to Detroit for Nonna's last Thanksgiving, last Christmas, last Easter, at least for the last 3 years. It's the respect this woman deserves.

At the same time Nonna is reaching the end of her life, we have friends who are expecting their first child. Their curiosity at how babies grow inside the mommy were triggered when the expectant mother requested extra Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies. I told them that when they were inside me, they always asked for cake donuts, orange juice and bananas. I told them babies have a way of telling their mom what they want. I showed them all the pictures I had from the various ultrasounds. They see our friend's belly growing. I showed them with dolls how they were positioned inside. They see our friend react when the baby kicks. I tell them they learned how to wrestle before they were born.

They love the story of the day they were born. I've also told them that when they were ready to come into this world, they picked me to be their mommy. They share the responsibility of this relationship. I'm just glad they haven't yet asked how they got into my womb exactly yet. No doubt, that will come soon.

A while back my son had a good understanding of the cycle of life. "You're born. You live. Then you die. That's it." It was during a time we thought our cat was on her last life. Well she's still around too. Apparently, all she needed was a change in diet. She'll probably last another 5 years.

Last year, the kids had more discussion about death in their religion class. In second grade, their lessons were more about the details of the Catholic holy days and the parts of the mass. It was more about labels and definitions. One day, my son came home with a low score on a religion test because his answers didn't match exactly the correct answers. As I read the options, I could argue for his choices. That is when it hit me.

I am a Catholic. Raised with strong values in the faith of Catholicism, but not necessarily the dogma of the church doctrine, definitely not of the sanctity of the pope. I went through 12 years of Catholic school. I believe that staying in this environment protected me from myself during the toughest parts of being a teenager.

I had one priest take me under his wing after my dad died by bringing me to breakfast once a month. He's ask me about my boyfriend - but didn't pry too much. He'd ask me how I was practicing music, how my studies were going, if I was helping out at home. He really became a surrogate father. My senior year in high school, he was transferred to Marquette University, where he still teaches today. I really wished he had stayed at the high school during my senior year - when our religion class was focused on Death and Dying. I mean, I had already had enough of that my sophomore and junior year. Hell, I was the case study.

I spit back what I knew was expected to maintain my grades - but I didn't believe a word of it. "God only gives you what you can handle," was commonly said. Well I wasn't handling it. I was avoiding it. All the while my dad was sick, I thought, prayed and believed that he was going to get better. I was fooled. And pissed. Take those seven stages of grief and put them back in the library, than you very much, Elizabeth K├╝ble- Ross. (damn if I knew that before checking on Google)

The one thing that drew me back to church was being paid to be there as a musician. I still couldn't hear the sermons. They were lies.

Until I moved to Rochester, NY and heard an amazing priest at the Corpus Christi church. I couldn't help but listen to his sermon during the high mass for which I volunteered my musical talents.This guy was a humanist. And he had an amazing female priest - yes, that's right a female - serving the people of the church along side him. Of course the church leaders eventually "fired him" and also requested she stop serving. They were both doing amazing work - and it was the closest kind of work to what I read in the Bible.

Once again, the church lied. I don't believe in non-married male priests. It simply doesn't make sense.

Fast forward ten years. I'm now sending my kids to a Catholic school.

It's not because of the doctrine. It's because of the people. I have a lot of unanswered questions. And if there is nothing that teaches a person critical thinking; it's their faith in structured religion.

I am not a lapsed Catholic, or a Chreaster Catholic (only goes to church on Christmas and Easter), I do go to mass occasionally, but I prefer going to church when there is no service. I'd rather sit in silence and have my own discussions with G-d. I'll go to mass with family - only to make my mom happy, or to show my kids that they'll meet others who share in SOME of their values. But as soon as the church starts ranting on politics - I'm out. There's even one line in the Apostle's Creed that I won't say. Because I simply don't believe in "one apostolic church."

The Catholic church is turning ever more conservative. Much of the dogma seems to negate the Golden Rule. I simply don't see how some Christians can distort the message - especially the literalists. They are such haters. I love talking with bible scholars who study the writings within a context of culture and history. That's when my faith is renewed in people who gave their lives to serve others.

I get a daily email from a service I like to call, "Catholics are us." It's the Saint of the Day. Some of the stories are inspiring. Some aren't as much. I love the Gnostic Gospels. I love the teachings of other religious leaders; Ghandi, HHDL, Buddha. I'm more inspired by the words of The Elders than I am of the Pope. I'm still pissed that the church hasn't really dealt with all of it's dirty secrets. Holy Wars, The Spanish Inquisition, the current scandals and pain they've cost thousands of people....

I'm sending my kids to Catholic school because I believe in the values and the principles of the environment. Religion is more of a cultural study. Faith is about relationships with people; alive, dead or myth. I'll never agree to testing scores on faith. But I believe there are good people in this community. The two nuns that run the school are as good as people get. And the priest of our parish is a gentle soul. They are all dedicated to loving the world they are given - they renew my faith in people.

I am a new kind of Catholic. I'm a questioning, argumentative and demanding Catholic. And I pray my children are able to make their own decisions because they value the principles of love, respect, and justice for humanity. Because if they embrace these values - they will find the support they need in death - and truly understand the miracle that is life.


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#18 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe

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