My writer’s group was given the following prompt by one of our members. There are 3 questions, which I have endeavored to answer here.
- Are you a fallen Catholic (or any other religion)?
- Was there a particular event that caused your “fall”?
- Did you then join a different church, or steer away from any church?
I decided to post my answer as a question, because I would be very interested in hearing other people’s thoughts on this. I realize it’s a big question, and might involve long answers, but I’d appreciate hearing from you, as little or as much as you cared to share.
What does it mean to be a fallen Catholic? Is it like falling off a log, or the deck, or the boat, into the water and swimming? Is it as a tree falls in the forest, making a noise (or not)? Is it like falling….like when you fall down?
For me it was like falling off a safe platform, like a swim platform on a boat, and swimming away. I may have gone back and forth a few times, to touch the platform and reassure myself, but the call was too strong to stay on that safe platform. Besides there were too many variables which caused me to want to find solid ground somewhere.
I was raised protestant, in particular, Presbyterian. My youth involved Sunday School, church choirs, the church youth group, teaching Sunday School. I was ingrained, enmeshed in it. I took it for granted, that religious upbringing, kind of the way I took school for granted. I had neighbors who were Catholic, and one day I put one of my friends veil on and we went across the park to her church, and to my church, just to see what they looked like. I was always a little envious of her with her mystical saints, and holy cards and holy water, and that she was able to take communion, which I couldn’t do until I was confirmed. I was appalled when she told me that she was committing a mortal sin by entering my church. I’m sure I didn’t know what a mortal sin was, but my eyes were wide with fear at the age of 8 or 9 that she had done irreparable damage to herself.
Then, off to college at the University of Iowa. It’s a big school, I think it was 20,000 undergrads and 10,000 graduate students at the time, though really, I have no way of knowing. I just remember those numbers being thrown around. Immediately, once away from my family, I stopped church. Although, I did join the choir at a Lutheran church because the choir director was an accomplished composer, and I think ran the music deparment at U of I. I had sung for him with my high school choir when he directed us at a music festival, and loved singing for him. That was a short lived endeavor though. I found I much preferred to sleep in on Sunday mornings, after wild Saturday nights in college. But I digress.
I met my ex my freshman year, first semester. He was Catholic, and renewed my interest in that religion. I took a course at some point on Catholicism, after we’d become somewhat serious. I thought it would be a good to have one religion in our household should we get married and have children. I think what most attracted me to it were the traditions, the 2000 years of traditions in that church. When we did get engaged, I met once a week with the Monsignor of the church where we were to be married, and was confirmed sometime over that summer.
Looking back, I was never an all-in Catholic. I refused to do confession. I didn’t learn all the prayers, though I knew some of the words. Didn’t go to church much. But my joining the church did enable us to get married in the Catholic church. However, I didn’t think it was anybody’s business how much or how little of the dogma I followed. It also enable my son to attend CCD classes, and receive his first communion.
Fast forward to my divorce. At first I tried to find comfort in the church and actuallty attended, looking for some support and solace. Really though, I began to find what I needed elsewhere. Not surprising in a church where divorce is not allowed. In non-religious, but spiritual venues, books, teachings. I began to believe that what I needed was within me, not outside of me. I attended group meditations, and gong baths on a regular basis, and would love to still attend could I find those things here. I used to meditate every day, but have somewhat gotten out of the practice of daily meditation, although I probably still do it 2 or 3 times a week. And always when going through difficulties, I return to it.
As my interest grew in all things spiritual, my belief in Catholic dogma waned. I believe now that Jesus was a great teacher, a fully evolved, realized man. As was Buddha, as was probably Mohammed (though I know very little of his teachings). I discovered A Course in Miracles and over the course of a few years, read most of it. I devoured spiritual books, and even organized a spiritual book club with a few other women like myself. I used to say to people, “Once you know, you can’t go back.”
I guess I would have to say that my divorce precipitated my fall from the Catholic church. Not directly, because at no point did I ever lose faith that there was a creator, who had a grand design for all of us. But a few events in my life during that time helped me to see what I believe is amuch truer bigger picture, with some answers to the eternal questions of the mysteries of life. I do believe I would have found this path regardless of if I got divorced or not. Major changes and emotional trauma in our life can push us at a much faster clip into asking those questions, and actually seeking an answer that rings true for us. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Because my path led me to seek insight into my own psyche, my own spirit, the evolution of my own soul, it didn’t lead me to another external church. I have often said that there is not a church which encompasses all my beliefs. If any of them ring true to me, it would probably be Buddhism. Fact is, that’s not really a religion, it’s a philosophy. Be kind, be compassionate, be mindful.
In my living room is a simple alter. On it are a couple of Tibetan pink salt items, and a candleholder in which there is a candle given to me by a dear friend, who got it at her church with the instruction to give it away. The centerpiece of my alter is a statue of Quan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion which was sculpted and painted by hand, every detail, by one of my dearest (and most talented!) friends. It is one of my prized possessions. Quan Yin had earned the right to enter Nirvana, but refused until no more souls suffered.
Quan Yin reminds me daily of what’s important in life, as we move through this life time. I believe truly that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. I believe the purpose of my life here is to learn my lessons and evolve my soul. Quan Yin’s statue in my home reminds me of this.
The Buddhist prayer below is as close as I come to religion now.
May all beings be peaceful
May all beings happy
May all beings be safe
May all beings awaken to the light of their true nature.
May all beings be free.
Religion is a fascinating topic for me when discussed or explored with open minded people. I read a poem that mentioned Quan Yin in my Earth Prayers book and have been curious about her, so appreciated learning (or relearning) more about her compassion. As to your questions, my mother was raised Catholic and my first memories of church are in a Catholic church. I’ve always loved the red glow of the candles and drew pictures on paper with the liturgy as background. My dad was protestant and we went to various services on military bases. I stopped going to church in my teens and became agnostic in my early twenties, preferring science. The birth of my first child and a stressful job got me thinking about church and someone had told me I might like the Episcopal church because it was similar to Catholic but more open. I think Robin Williams called the Episcopal church, “Catholic Lite.” I’ve been a member of the Episcopal church since 1986. In struggling/exploring how to mesh my Christian beliefs with my love for nature, I found St. Francis to be my bridge. When it comes to religion, I like bridges. I like to explore spirituality that honors nature, Buddhism, new age, and of course Quan Yin. Thanks for asking!
I have a very dear friend who was part of my spiritual book club who is a very active member of the Episcopal church, calling it Catholic without the guilt. But she also belongs to an ashram. I know she struggled for a long time to reconcile her Christianity with her spiritual practices. She got to a place where she could accept both, and they actually each made the other richer for her. Thanks so much for sharing yourself here!
I love that she does both. I miss going to my drum circle which disbanded and the Kirtans we used to have with Hindu chants and some Native American songs. Some day I will get back into that as it was very nurturing.