The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

January 26, 2008

Same Old, Same Old


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 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.


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 far as I'm concerned, the religious tenets it was founded on in the first place.