I never thought of myself as someone who would end up struggling with my faith.
I was raised in the traditional Latin masses of the Catholic church- pre Vatican. It’s a very pious, righteous group of people, but as a priest from the church once said, “they can be like wolves.” They cling to their own, unfoundedly, and viciously. I’ve noticed this all of my life, but instead decided to see it as a group of people who fought for the truth. I still believe they do, and that’s what makes this issue all the more confusing.
When I was about 10, I had a piano teacher who was a Jehovah Witness. When my ADHD would kick in, the best way to get out of practicing was to ask her about Jehovah (I was such a little punk). Overtime I began a pretty controversial discussion in the house.
How could someone tell me definitively that this woman will go to Hell simply because she is not Catholic?
Now according to Baltimore Catechism, any (but ONLY) Christians who deviate from the Catholic church can still enter Heaven, if they truly believe in Christ. Technically, Jackie counted. But in a discussion with my family, they were convinced that she wouldn’t.
I fought with them for a while.
I have regrettably missed weddings, events, all things pertaining, throughout my childhood because I was brought up believing that immersing myself in “other’s sins” validates them, and participating is a mortal sin. Which if that happened and I committed a mortal sin, Jesus was not residing in my soul, and I have cut him out, and He wouldn’t be back until I went to confession. That is what a mortal sin does. It also means that if a train came by randomly and totally wrecked me and I died, I would be in Hell.
Imagine all of those times I sustained from masturbating just to end up in Hell?
Couldn’t risk it. All of that effort for nothing in the end.
However: I don’t blame the church. I don’t blame the priests- to be honest, I love all of those priests to this day. Considering the molestation that occurs within denominational religions and even some spiritualities, I’m very lucky that never have I or anyone else, from my understanding, ever experienced any abuse.
I find that people treat most religions, no matter how practicing they are, to be like a buffet. I used to find that annoying and too loose for my taste, though. I’m a 0 or 100% kind of girl. If you wore sandals to church, my blood would boil.
Most people take religion and pick out whatever they believe to be good, so they keep the lessons of hope, faith, and unconditional love.
It’s possible though, to still treat religion as a buffet, and pick out what they believe to be good, and still choose the harmful parts. The extremely harmful parts.
God Doesn’t like Plan B very much
Church has taught me humility, perseverance, and unconditional love. I needed those lessons.
But the extra lessons as a child that I picked up along the way were this: What seems to me white, I will believe black if the hierarchical Church so defines.
This is a quote by St. Ignatius Loyola, who I still do love to this day. But you can imagine, in the wrong context, this is a pretty damning lesson to learn if you are taught it the wrong way.
Many times in my life, I went against my own heart and judgement, because unfailingly I must stick to every part of the church (especially being a 100% kind of girl).
-I wore the veils over my head, which I still enjoy doing.
-I fasted, that was annoying but okay, it helped me with sins of the flesh.
-I didn’t go to my aunt and uncles wedding, because it wasn’t Catholic, and okay I really wanted to go and explain that I love them and that I’m trying to do what’s right but never got that chance to really say that.
–I had to verbally be against gay marriage because okay yes my best friends are gay but, idk guys God is REALLY telling me that that’s a really big deal but I also really do love you guys and I meant th-
–God is telling me to like Trump? Okay. Really trying to persevere with this one, they’re telling me that Hilary Clinton and Obama are deceiving the public so maybe I’m just missing something? look harder persevere look hareder prweurgwearser ok ill DO IT BUT I FEEL LIKE IF DEMOCRATS ARE DEVILS IN DISGUISE THEN TRUMP JUST IS A DEVIL THAT JUST CHOOSES NOT TO WEAR THE DISGUISE-
“Audrey, when Christ carried that cross, everyone hated HIM, remember?”
“Trump is like Christ?”
“Yes, and the democrats are the likeable nobles that sent Jesus to death.”
“So is Trump the anti-Christ?”
–God said I’m close to being EX-COMMUNICATED? Why?
I took the plan B pill once. I went to confession with one priest, and I had to do a decade of the rosary for it.
A few months later, I took it again. Different priest in the confessional. He went quiet. For what seemed like a long time, but was about 1 minute. Still a long time.
“Do you know what the plan B pill is?” He asked.
“…No.” I said pretty hesitantly. I mean I THOUGHT I did but I guess not, since there’s a bit of tension in here.
“The plan B pill is a form of contraception that kills the egg after inception. If you take it again, this is considered an abortion, and you will be ex-communicated. Since you didn’t know this time, it doesn’t make it a mortal sin. But you cannot take it again.”
And I burst into a panic attack in the confessional. That was a very hard day for me and the priest, and an uncomfortable day for everyone in the pews and on the confession line.
If you can imagine, it was VERY hard to be this type of Catholic while also being a theatre nerd.
The Soldiers, and a very confused lieutenant
Balancing the line between being loving and being righteous wasn’t always easy when trying to be “a soldier of Jesus Christ.” But if you’re a Catholic, that’s what you are.
The term Spiritual Warfare is still spoken about a lot, and it warns us of those who disguise themselves. There is a war going on for our souls, and the devil will do anything to trick and deceive you. This is why if the church says something we listen- because we as these natural humans, could never see what is supernaturally known.
But. If you find your soul wrestling, persevere. Even if you don’t know what is right, persevere for the truth. That is the one thing I always took wholly from the church.
And so I persevered.
I became very acquainted with a church that was “Novus ordo,” meaning the new order. Pretty different from traditional Latin masses. There was singing, people wore sandals, we actually touched the eucharist, guitars and tambourines, forty minutes tops, and the priests seemed to be more integrated with the parishioners. And I knew that as a Catholic, Latin and non-Latin are both gucci. (If anything, the Vatican is implementing that no more Latin masses are created, although many Latin-goers are not exactly happy about that. There’s a bit of a feud between the two.)
I offered to become a catechism teacher- not because I felt like I knew everything I needed to know, but because of three main reasons:
1) They DESPERATELY needed help, and particularly wanted teachers who were younger and could relate more to the students.
2) I believed that through teaching, I’d learn more about the church teachings for myself.
3) I’m good with kids!
It was extremely exciting and uplifting for me to do this, even with my doubts. Because I was teaching the things I knew well- unconditional love. The rosary. I taught them to persevere, even though I hadn’t quite figured that out yet myself. I got to remind them that when life gets hard, there will ALWAYS be someone in your corner there for you. God! Mary! Jesus! Joseph! All the saints! We love you! That meant a lot to me, being able to teach that.
And then, one of our children asked a question privately outside of class to the Deacon, about how the church felt about those that were transgender.
The Deacon, who I always have admired, said to love all people, but that it is a sin. I did not answer. That cracked my heart, and I remember feeling a rush in my chest and in my head.
I had taught for one more year.
I taught unconventionally, and I taught them that I don’t know everything. But to persevere anyways for the truth and the answers.
I would ask them why they wanted to be Catholic, and that they can only answer that themselves with their heart. Without their own love, the teachings are for nothing.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
The truth is looking back, this might have been all I knew how to teach. Just this lesson. That and maybe like, the rosary, how to genuflect, etc. To never be lukewarm, to look for the truth and if you do that, you’ll find it, in your own way.
And then, when Grandma died, I had to reflect a lot on that.
every spiritual warefare needs a tank
My grandma was legitimately, a tank of the Latin-mass. Her Irish blood, prickly face and her chunky glasses made her quite the firecracker. Her righteousness could not be waivered. Neither could her love.
Every job I ever worked, she would call them up and tell them I was quitting to work a safer job, usually at like a pizza place or something.
One time she was dropped off at the Palisades Mall because she heard I started working there. She just didn’t know in what store. That mall is the 11th largest mall in America. She walked into every fucking store in a row, from bottom to top, just asking if I was in there. Grandma was 83 years old when she did this.
At this point I’m sure you think she might have a disorder of some kind, she doesn’t. She’s just very spirited.
After two hours of roaming, she finally got to the third floor, found my workplace, but I wasn’t there. So she told them I was quitting, and that she wanted to know when I would be in next. Being that they had no idea who this angry, out-of-breath woman was, they called security, who had to carry her out, and she was permanently banned from the Palisades mall.
This isn’t even the only story of her. A woman like this does not just accidentally get banned once and then you never see her act that way again. This was a consistent thing.
Anyways, the point I’m getting at is that she paralleled a lot about being a Latin-mass Catholic. The was pious and vigorous, the same way a parishioner of the faith would have to be. Unwavering. Cuts through the fluff and does the hard stuff that no one else likes, like confession, fasting, walking to three floors of stores.
Anyone hearing of this woman would be like “Wow, she is something. Don’t mess with her. She’s crazy. And mean.”
It’s totally true, she was, and she didn’t care at all. She would do anything, out of love. Real love.
I knew this, because in those calm moments that no one else saw from the outside, she taught me empathy, and to think of being in others shoes.
Not to judge so quickly, although she did also teach that judgment is important. That’s how we learn and make decisions. Important decisions.
And as a child, she always gave me the wisest advice. You wouldn’t guess it from someone so fiery, but she was sharp, and she learned to be that way by always taking things to the max.
Of course, sometimes she was wrong- but when she was, she would apologize the way I’ve never seen anyone apologize before. So heartfelt, regretful, she meant everything she did. She was a woman of action and taught me that love was like that, too. We must act on our love, and what we believe to be right. And doing that, we will get to where we need to be.
When she passed, I kept praying to her, trying to talk to her.|
If she was right about Catholicism being the one true church, then she was certainly okay. But that also meant a lot of gay people would be in trouble.
If she was wrong, which hurt my heart to think that, where was she? Is she regretful of the life she lived? I knew that her heart wouldn’t be able to handle that. Maybe it could in this afterlife. I just didn’t know. But I wanted her to be okay.
I looked for signs everywhere. I was hoping that God could please tell me if she was okay, and I started having dreams.
The first dream I saw her in the hospital bed, where she died. But she was okay, and happy, and trying to reassure me that she was okay. I wasn’t there when she passed, and she told me not to feel guilty.
The second dream I had was after the funeral. She was there with me, looking at her casket, and she told me how proud she was.
For the actual funeral, my sister and I dressed her body and did her hair and makeup, and left notes in her pocket. It was our way of saying goodbye, in the truest way that we could. We knew Grandma did everything 100% and we were going to, too.
While I cherished these, I wasn’t sure what I was meant to do now. Especially after all of this time persevering as a Catholic, I wanted to ask her how I was supposed to live my life- what was right.
I may have caved, and went to a psychic. That’s a seriously bad Catholic right there.
I still did not get the resolve I want- although the psychic was able to predict my two dreams. She also told me that she had no regret about being Catholic. And then she told me to practice my third-eye stuff and that’s what she talked about for the remainder of the session, so I don’t know.
Admittingly, I felt like I gained nothing. For a woman who had so much to say, you would think she’d find a way after death to make sure I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.
I still can’t read this damn compass
I knew that as a Catholic, your faith could not be built on always getting the answers you’re looking for in the way you want them. So I could have kept persevering in the faith- though, I was getting something a bit different. Through that lesson of persevering, I realized that I’ll figure this out, if I start doing what I truly believe is right.
If my grandma needed Catholicism to make her the person she was, then that’s the takeaway. She got what she needed from the church. I did, too. But I’m able to realize that in the way my grandma wasn’t black and white, neither was the church, or my journey, and I was able to separate from what didn’t feel right while keeping the things that did. So I’ll keep persevering, and being true to that. Doing so will get me where I need to be eventually.
It all came very clearly after she passed. For the years and months before, it felt as if that seed was planted somewhere, I just didn’t know what to do with it.
All those years I did look at everything so black and white- the way the church does. In order to create understanding of things, sometimes looking at the world in black and white helps with that. This is wrong, this is right. These types of things are good, these are not. But that isn’t the full picture, and that isn’t the end of the story.
Being a fiery old lady was not the full picture of my grandma. Not every church supported Trump, and the majority of priests are gay!
The journey I need isn’t black and white anymore. Maybe for a time it needed to be, I suppose.
But I realize that, I need to have that better sense of what I’m feeling, and what I need to do. I know that thanks to Grandma, and even the church. Use your love to find that truth, and do it 100%.
So my pact with God is that I have to leave Catholicism to figure out my own moral compass, and help myself heal and learn more about the person I am. I’m following myself in the here and now and know that my intentions are always good. Truly good. If I make mistakes along the way, or like if it turns out that yea pre-marital sex actually does mean Hell, I’ll find that out too. Because I want that truth.
I want to be a good person. If I’m wrong I’ll learn. I think that anyone who is willing to learn, will learn.
And I told God that, if I’m wrong, tell me.
For now, it looks like I’m doing okay.