Thursday, 14 May 2015

A Reversion Story, Part 1 : Growing Up Pick&Choose

Recently, some wonderful bloggers (Kendra and Molly) came up with a button so that people coming to visit our blogs and curious about the Faith may find information easily. Obviously, I added it (it's the pretty "Credo, I believe" button on the right), but it also made me think that it was probably about time I talked more about my faith here. I know that many people do not understand how we, reasonably intelligent and educated people, come to be Catholics, since the consensus is that it is an outdated, archaic Church which refuses to "catch up with the times".

I figured I better start explaining from the beginning. 

I grew up "Pick&Choose" Catholic. Where people follow the parts of the Church teachings they like, and simply ignore the uncomfortable rest, branding it as "due-to-change-soon/irrelevant". 

Pick and Mix!
I went through Baptism, First Holy Communion, Profession of Faith and Confirmation (more or less halfheartedly, but hey! Party! And presents!), and went to Church many Sundays for the first ten years of my life or so. Then we went less and less (I suspect that battling teenagers was one hurdle too many for my parents).

I always loved the stories. Especially the Old Testament ones, as presented in my Illustrated Children's Bible (which skipped all the difficult passages). I liked the lives of the saints as well, which were the only thing I read in my Grain de Soleil, a religious magazine aimed at pre-teens. So from the outside, I suppose it looked like I was a catechesis success story.

I wanted to add sarcastic comments on the cover, then realised it really wouldn't be helpful

knew all the stories. What more could you ask?

I didn't pay any attention to the actual teachings, and didn't let them have any influence on how I lived my life.

If you'd asked me at age 15, as I had just gone through my Confirmation, about the Eucharist, I would have confidently explained that it was a symbol. I probably would have gone on to say that the Church's refusal of condoms was spreading AIDS (that's all I knew about the teachings on contraception), how THEY were ridiculous not to let divorced people come to Church (no-one corrected me on that one either), and how the all-male priesthood made no sense. 

One young priest actually tried to debate with me on that last one, but I was not listening.

So, I was happily going about, knowing next to nothing about what the Church believed but condemning it all in bulk. 

As I was preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation, I told my parents I did not want to do it, since  I didn't think I believed in God. I didn't think I ever had. They told me to go through it anyway, and I didn't push it, because party! And presents!

Then I demanded to stop going to Church.

For a very long time, that was it for me. I was left with a vague belief in Something Bigger, because a universe which spontaneously started itself made no sense, but I didn't let myself push the thought any further. 
I also kept a fondness for what the Church could have been and I mourned its demise. Always a historian at heart, I loved the old Church, when it held sway in the Culture. When people had to be moral or Society would condemn them. When what people did mattered to more than just themselves. When there were some Principles and Absolutes.
As a result, I never joined the ranks of the Church-Bashers, who think themselves controversial by howling with the wolves of the majority in ridiculing believers. For me it always felt like shooting at the already wounded, the easy prey (the French expression is "shooting at the ambulance").

I also still loved the pageantry

Of course, I can see MANY things that were wrong in the way I was taught. And I sometimes feel slightly resentful of the adults who failed me, one after the other.

Why was I never told of the Real Presence?
Why didn't I know what was actually happening at the Mass?
How was I to think that sins mattered when no-one I knew ever went to Confession?
Why were my silly, ill-informed, juvenile arguments never met with the answers the Church already provides?
Why did I go through the Sacraments, not knowing what they were?
How was I to think that God really was involved in our daily lives, if no-one ever prayed in front of me?

There are indeed, many lessons to be drawn here, on how we are failing in our catechesis of the young, and how the dumbing-down of the mysteries of our Faith is really a disservice to our children.

However, I do not want to accuse, because I already know who the real culprit is.


One cannot teach a headstrong girl who does not want to listen.

Of course, had I met with confident teachers at the very beginning, rather than a motley crew of my friends' mums who did not really know much themselves, I might have taken a different path. I might have taken matters into my own hands, as I had done with books and history. I might have listened to the teachings beyond the stories. Perhaps. But it was still mainly my own fault.

This state of affairs carried on, trapped in a vague agnosticism, whilst I longed for the moral values of earlier times and tried to lead a selfless life for no discernible reason. I also wished the Church had better advocates than the ones I saw ridiculed on a daily basis for believing in Its irrational teachings.

Then I turned 21 and moved to England.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your catholic childhood so nicely, it reminds me of some of my own path as a catholic... I can't wait to read the end !