The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

January 26, 2008

Same Old, Same Old


I THINK I'VE SAID BEFORE ON HERE THAT I USED TO BE AN ALTAR BOY.

That's right. In fact, the Roman Catholic church used to be a very significant part of my life.

I was born into the religion, was baptized, was confirmed, attended Sunday School, went to church most Sundays and, when I was old enough, became an altar boy, donning the black and white robes and all.

Ringing bells at spiritually crucial parts of the mass service itself. Carrying the cross to lead the priest into mass in front of hundreds in the congregation. Kneeling in deference, memorizing Our Father, the whole bit.
Later, as a teenager, I got more heavily involved by playing guitar and singing with other friends in what had evolved into folk masses in the early '70s.

And then even beyond that, working and calling bingos to raise money for the church and for the Catholic elementary school and high school that I attended, all of them closely linked to one another on one city block in my neighbourhood.
And I have not one regret about that.

Some of the most influential people in my life were priests and nuns. One priest, a guy I'll always call Max, came to our church from Montreal, a young man with progressive ideas who taught me how to be me and not be the church's me.

Ironically, he eventually left the priesthood.

But not before he and I and some of my closest friends had taken two summer trips all the way to the East Coast, catching our own cod in a fisherman's dory in Newfoundland, body-surfing at Cape Breton, climbing what we called Mike's Mountain.

At my Catholic high school, there was Father John, as obviously flaming gay as you could be, but a positive, always smiling influence.
And Father Robert, an all-business religious man with great intuitiveness who steered me straight after I flunked Grade 10 French.

Religion had become a huge part of my life.

But somewhere along the way, I left most of it behind. I think it was when I realized that the church didn't want me to think on my own but when it wanted to do my thinking for me.

For example, when it imposed conditions on my wedding and forced me and my bride-to-be to take courses before it would give us its "blessing" and allow us to be married in its hallowed halls at all.

I think it was when I realized that the church said the same things, over and over again...
...And how eventually, I realized that belief system was flawed and was more intended to give me guilt than to somehow guarantee my life would be great.

When my parents split up I realized that, hell, we'd all gone to church all this time, had been the model Catholic family, and shit like this could happen to us after growing up listening to how the Christian way was the good way?

I'm not saying that it isn't for some and I don't mean to offend anyone.

But for me, it just didn't wash. I realized I had grown up learning to trust in something that really had no influence at all on what good or bad happened or didn't happen.

In fact, it was all a man-made diversion that filled me with more confusion, not less. More guilt, not less. More frustration and angst, not less of that either.

It had become a poor excuse for a crutch and the wood it was made of had rotted and couldn't support anything.

The Bible, the Ten Commandments, all that stuff...it rang true but in a very hollow, shallow, uninformed, unrealistic, outdated sense.

It didn't provide any answers. I ended up figuring out only I could do that myself.

And some Catholics might say that my abandonment of this doctrine or way of life is the sole reason I ended up getting divorced and all myself.

Bullshit.

None of that had any bearing on my parents or myself.

Nor would or will religion have any bearing on my kids, on Iraq, on Afghanistan or on the future of the world, in any sense, except to blind us to what's going on by tricking us into trusting in anything other than ourselves.

In fact, religion is a huge part of what's causing all this crap. There's no place for it, at least in my life. My spirituality is within, not without (no pun intended!); it's certainly not inside some so-called HOUSE OF GOD.
*****

For the first time in a long time this past week, I found myself inside a Roman Catholic church.

I was attending the funeral of the father of a workmate I really respect and am good friends with. It felt strangely odd. I was there for my friend, no one else, and sitting with a bunch of other workmates in the pews.

But my childhood came roaring back when I was in that church.

Adorning the walls were the stations of the cross, I think they're called, the images of Jesus Christ's stages of suffering where he supposedly died for our sins. (GUILT!)

Behind the altar, of course, the familiar life-sized sculpture of J.C. crucified on the cross. (GUILT!) In front of the altar was the ceramic container that had the ashes of my friend's father inside it, with his picture right next to it.

We were there to honour this man I never met and to be with his family who loved him. I stood, sat and stand when the middle-aged priest urged us to do so, of course.

But nothing had changed from my childhood. Not the words, not the hymns, not the guilt-inducing message, not all the pap about salvation, not the need for sacrifice...nothing.

It really was the same old, same old. And I was shocked by that, but it also reaffirmed that I was right to leave it all behind.

Not the memories I have of it, mind you, because having that long-time first-hand experience was good; at least I'm an informed abstainer.

I don't want the crutch and would rather stand on my own, although if it works for you, great. It doesn't work for me any more. My sense of logic in a world filled with a lot of illogic doesn't permit it.

I do believe in some higher power, but not in the way we've figured it out with our own devices and forced contrition to ideals and conditions that just don't work and just aren't documented, trustworthy or which can pass my BS Meter Test.

To me, this whole thing is dubious. Kinda like this building near where I grew up, probably the most religious of shrines in our entire city or even in Western Canada, which burned when I was a young lad and which still stands as nothing but a shell today.

They won't tear it down, I guess it's part of our history. I concur, it's an historic building. But that's all that it is...as is, as far as I'm concerned, the religious tenets it was founded on in the first place.

26 comments:

  1. "I think it was when I realized that the church didn't want me to think on my own but when it wanted to do my thinking for me."

    A lot of my favourite thinkers are either former men of the cloth or extremely liberal religious figures. It's so hard to find that perfect marriage of wisdom and compassion and, most of all, perspective, from within the confines of the church, however the church plays a huge role in shaping these minds and their values/belief systems so they feel a real kinship to it, whether they reject it or not... i.e. It's interesting to see how they marry the ideals of religion to humanism. Some of them can do it as church leaders, some have to leave the church to do it.

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  2. Wow Andrea. I'm not sure I expected one person to actually attempt to comment on this.

    My friend Max was a one of a kind and obviously couldn't find that perfect marriage you talk about.

    But he's still very spiritual. I've often thought at some point he and will meet and connect again, but it hasn't really happened.

    That was then, this is now. I agree the church plays a huge role, regardless, in shaping minds.

    And hearts.

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  3. thank god you saw the light!

    (tee hee hee hee)

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  4. Ziggi:

    Thanks. I think it was the bolt of lightning that struck me. :-)

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  5. Its the fact that 'Jebus wants me for a sunbeam' I DONT WANNA be no sunbeam....

    I myself dont get all the god stuff.... I dont do god.... that dont make me a bad person, in fact, Im a nicer person then many of my so called christian maties.... each to their own of course, and everyone has there own throughts and opinions and beliefs....

    I just know that I am my own person, I like to think for myself and not by what some book or person tells me to think or act.....

    I KNOW right from wrong and I have very strong morals and beliefs in things in me life.... I dont need to be filled with guilt etc on a sunday....

    on saying that, I LOVE going inside churches, not for the god bit, but for the beautiful architecture etc.....

    I had a go at the god stuff, I sat at the back of the tiny 90 year old baptist chapel almost opposite me house, Ive sat at the back of our 125 year old flint church in the middle of our village, where I was married and YES where all 4 of me lads were christened... and Ive sat at the back of the mormon church in town, and Ive been with me matie to her cathelic church.....

    I just DONT GET IT..... I felt nothing but 'same ole samle ole'.... maybe Im just to much of a challenge for any so called 'god' to bother with..... least I dont have to be a sunbeam......

    I did get to carry the tall flag with our girlguide banner on once in church as a kid..... but I forgot to lower it as we got to the bit uptop where the choir sat, and it hit it and not only knocked me off me feet but it crashed down on the lady playing the church organ lol...... I will also confess to nicking a church candle once as a kid, to wax the slide in the park so we could whiz down faster :( - church thief thats me....

    sorry, just waffling here.... I can go on and on and on sometimes, sorry :)

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  6. ps........ our village church does much good in our community and I know that even though they know I dont do god, if I needed someone to talk to or help in anyway, they would come a running....

    And........ our local village village wears them long black frocks :) NEVER trust a man wearing a frock LOL

    x

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  7. village village???? duh!!! meant 'village vicar' :)

    x

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  8. I was raised southern baptist, but married a man that was catholic. Maye I was confused. I left all of the above. Maybe I am the one with the issue.

    Either way, God, or whatever you may call him is out there and those that seek to force you to do things only their way will have the room to the left with a view of the parking lot.

    be well,
    T

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  9. Toasty:

    I don't know if that big, larger-than-life spirit of yours could be captured in a sunbeam!

    You weren't waffling, not at all. And all those village vicars wear long black frocks...never trust 'em would be a good idea...

    Inside Our Hearts...

    Nice to see you again. I don't think you're the one with the issues.

    Parking lot view -- that's kinda what I figure...

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  10. I like the crutch with rotten wood analogy.
    I have friends who are wholly committed to their "belief systems" yet are still able to connect with others.
    And I have met far too many who cannot accept that some of us are different and who are hell-bent on stamping their brand on us.
    You were fortunate in knowing those good priests.
    (For those who may be interested, I made my personal choice to abstain a long time ago. )

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  11. Who Let The Dogma Out
    Woof Woof Woof!

    As a former PROUD PROTESTANT (Lutheran and Pent-accost-ile) I spent countless hours ridiculing the dogmatic stranglehold that the Church of Rome terrorised the great unwashed with....

    now in my twilight years I flit about spiritually untethered by even the faintest trace of the vastly superior Protestant dogma that made me so much f*cking smarter than the great unwarshed!

    Except for all of the gawdam GUILT! AArrgghh!

    I must 'CONFESS' that I have never felt closer to being the Creation that the Creator intended me to be.
    Free at last etc.

    btw:
    You're going straight to hell by the way.

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  12. Dinahmow:

    Yes, I know some who can connect with those outside the religious realm, and that's great.

    My feeling is, You don't try to sell me on your beliefs, I won't try to tell you why you shouldn't believe.

    So I say we can all believe what we want, as long as any individual's belief doesn't start harming all others.

    I still think it's all the same old, same old, but I can keep that to myself...except for when I want to say otherwise on the WWW!

    She-Wolf of the SS:

    I like to think of it as you lost your pent-up ability to accost but you maintained a higher intelligence.

    Free at last is a good thing, despite all that guilt. And I hear hell is quite nice in the springtime.

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  13. :) I dont know about 'larger then life spirit'.... I dont know how to be anyone but meself... I dont know sometimes if thats always good lol it can get me into a lot of trouble LMFAO

    x

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  14. jebus - I said 'I dont know' 3 times in that sentence LMFAO...

    I dont seem to know much lol

    x

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  15. Toasty:

    I don't know about you...

    I can only imagine that household of yours with you, four sons, chickens, goats, dead goldfish...

    :-)

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  16. :) I dont have a goat, but I would dearly love one if I had a little bit of land or a big garden....

    Oh my goodness, how did you know about the fish LOL

    x

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  17. I'm actually having a bit of a religious struggle these days. I was also raised catholic - catholic family, baptised, first communion, confession, confirmation, catholic wedding (even though J isn't catholic). Even after having gone through the motions, struggling to understand, trying to find truth in other religions, I still feel totally detached from catholicism.

    My issue these days is this: my dear, sweet 10 year old niece (whom I adore) is being raised catholic (or at least being made to go through the motions) and will be doing her confirmation this year. She has asked me to be her godmother. I felt honoured to be chosen by her - it means so much to me. So I couldn't say no. And now I'm going through the motions all over again just so I don't disappoint her. I feel like a horrible person. (GUILT!)

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  18. Wow. I think I just used your comment section as a confession booth.

    Forgive me, father, for I have sinned. It has been years and years and years (decades, even) since my last confession...

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  19. Toasty:

    The upside down, dead as a doornail goldfish is in one of your posts way back...

    Anna:

    First, on being asked by your niece to be her godmother...

    I'm sure big-time Catholics would have me stoned for this, but I don't consider that a religious honour alone.

    It's a beautiful thing that's important for your niece, religion aside in almost every context.

    Yes, it's a religious title bestowed in a religious ceremony, and I don't mean to disparage that.

    Beyond that, though, I think it's a special tie that binds for life, far beyond religion. It's special. And obviously your niece considers you special.

    I think that's the biggest part of it. You won't disappoint her if you just be you.

    Hope you don't mind my being a windbag on this.

    On your first thought, I think it's religion itself that is the problem, Catholicism or not.

    All religion demands belief in something unprovable and promises rewards that aren't provable.

    And most use guilt or fear to smack you over the head so you'll blindly and meekly fall in line.

    Personally, if anything, I'm more a Bhuddist nowadays, at least in mind if not in practice. :-)

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  20. Weren't you supposed to give me a penance of some sort? ;)

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  21. Anna:

    Uhh...say a thousand Hail Mary's?

    :-)

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  22. ur brother10:56 p.m.

    It's all superstiion based on ideas from people who lived before medieval time - need I say more?

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  23. Anonymous5:01 p.m.

    I had a similar experience as you,being brought up in a Christian family,singing in the church choir etc. However,when I left home at 19, I realised that whilst I still respected and admired the humanistic side of Christianity,I also very much needed to think for myself aswell. It was a few years after that,that I gained further clarity when working in psychiatary,and seeing the negative effects that guilt can cause a person. I realised at this point that Christianity always left me feeling guilty etc etc and probably was not the way forward for me completely.
    My youngest son is at a Catholic school now,so I often attend school masses. For me its very reassuring that its always the same though,that theres some constancy,and consistency,and I do enjoy the meditative,repetitive side of it all. I have to admit,possibly for the wrong reasons,but I figure it doesnt matter too much!
    A good,thoughtful post as ever Chris!

    Laura

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  24. Ur Brother:

    I agree to a large extent, but I don't think it's quite that simple.

    The thing is we can't say God DOESN'T exist and that Roman Catholics aren't correct. Or Muslims or any other religion.

    But logic dictates we can't say they ARE correct either.

    So it seems to me the middle ground is to go with what you know: what YOU feel and think and can rationalize based on what you feel and think, which is the only power that you have.

    If people want to believe in a God, in whatever form or under whatever religion, fine.

    I continue to think there's a higher power that created all this. But that's all I know.

    And in the absence of any other facts or feelings, I figure I'll just be the best person I can be.

    Laura:

    Interesting that you'd have that Catholic upbringing, more or less abandoning parts of it, and then raise your child in it.

    I understand completely. There is some peace to be found within the church or religion, a feeling of community and oneness.

    And there's a really good argument for giving children that exposure and letting them, once they get older, make their own decisions about whether it resonates with them.

    If you get good feelings from it, and if your little guy enjoys it, then fantastic. I agree that in the end, it probably doesn't matter too much, and that it's up to each and every person to decide what's best for them.

    :-)

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  25. Anonymous3:08 a.m.

    Just wanted to clarify Chris! It was actually a C OF E church I went to as a child,rather than a Catholic one!
    You know sometimes I just wish there werent all these different religions,divisions,faiths etc as I am sure they all lead to the same thing,and many of them have alot of essential similarities!

    Anyway,have a good day!

    Laura

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  26. Laura:

    Gotcha. Is the Church of England more or less Protestant or what? Or is it all unto itself?

    Anyway, doesn't matter...they all work on the same premise, really. Thanks.

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