My first Mass since 1991

jesus-and-dog    I decided that since I had this urge to find another person to discuss Catholic philosophy and lives of saints with, that my best possible source would emerge from connecting at Sunday mass. I looked up the local church in the small town I live in and found a parish that would be my first entry into a church in over 20 years.

The first thing I did was google the name of the priest, after all, I wanted to know whom I would be dealing with. Bam! Scandal! He had been accused of drugging a female teacher at a parochial school and trying to coerce her into sex! Ohhhhhhhhhh!!!! A thought occured to me that he might be just what a hedonist like me needs, someone who has possibly gotten past his sins and has come through to be a better person. Or not. I would judge his usefulness to me once I’d seen him perform mass. If mass is boring, he has learned nothing. If mass is actually speaking words of wisdom that are useful now, then maybe he’ll be a good starting point for me. I was relieved, in all honesty, that it wasn’t a crime involving a child, even though I was mortified that he drugged some poor woman and tried to rape her. He had once been in a more prominent parish, and was obviously demoted to the small, out of the way community I live in. The church paid off the victim and she hopefully went on to find solace and healing outside of the Catholic church. You might be asking why I still persisted once finding this out, I have to say, there are criminals, sinners, liars, HUMANS all around us. He could’ve done something with that pain and changed into someone better. Or not. I would see how I felt and if I didn’t like him, I would find another church.

I called ahead and got permission to bring my companion dog, and we attended mass on a Saturday evening. It was the feast of St Peter and Paul. Mass was boring. Booooo! And the church was filled with old people who were just going through the motions. I could tell, the priest was dead inside, and the parish was suffering. Worst of all, there was no choir or music of any kind. What desolate spiritual experience it was to be there, I was glad that my dog was with me and that I’d had a couple beers before the service started.

But I would not be stopped. This was just the first try, I would look for a larger, near by parish with more vitality. Surely the Catholic church isn’t dead everywhere!

Why I Stopped Being Catholic

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When I was younger I attended an all girls Catholic boarding school for a portion of my high school experience. The facility was run by nuns, and my teachers were a combination of nuns and non-nun types, and contrary to the popular idea that nuns are strict, in this case most of them were pretty soft on the students and certainly never rapped our fingers with rulers nor exposed us to any other arcane punishments. Usually if you did something wrong, you would loose certain privileges and at the worst, your parents were called.

It was in this setting that my mind was first opened to an understanding about world religions, not just my own religion. The school was not permitted to teach catechism as a required subject, since the law was pretty specific about that and instead the school required and taught comparative religion. You might groan to know that it was taught by a nun, but in truth she was a light in the darkness for me. She was brilliant, inspiring, and fun to learn from. At the age of 13 I was asking her all the questions about Catholicism that I had saved up, the questions that priests couldn’t or for whatever reason, wouldn’t answer. The questions that no one seemed to know the answers to! Of course, she in her wisdom would never answer my questions directly, but instead taught me to research my own answers from books written by Vatican scholars. This gave me a deeper, more connected understanding of my answers, and in a way, began to teach me out of my Catholic upbringing.

Once I hit my 20’s I had no time at all for religion, and was by then disgusted with the crimes and hypocrisy of the church. I didn’t like the way the priesthood was a magnet for sexual predators or the way the church dealt with those situations, and also the overall stance on birth control and women’s issues, the exclusion of gays, and the stale empty catch phrases of other Christians just upset me or at the least, was very off-putting.

“Do you take Jesus as your lord and savior? Do you accept that he died for your sins?” What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Is that supposed to mean something to me, in my life, in this moment, that speaks of anything worth while? It’s like listening to parrots, all just saying the same thing over and over again. It seems pretty meaningless and empty to me to hear someone in full worship mode. And so I left, because I wanted to be a hedonist, to dance through life, to make art and never restrain myself for any religious reasons. And most of all, I stopped believing in God. It seemed pointless to ‘worship’ a ‘god’, and that it is comparable to me believing in the tooth fairy and looking to Santa Claus for spiritual guidance.

I spent a great deal of time continuing to search out new religions, or old ones as the case may be, and learning from what the rest of the world had to show me. Over time I realized, all religions are saying, basically, the same exact things. They just frame it with different gods and use different books, but are describing the same ideals. In some cases, the religions I was studying were more restrictive than Catholicism, and so I became an agnostic who strongly bordered on atheism. I pursued happiness and success without the community of the church. And that went pretty well, so far.

The worst of all the religions I studied, and the one thing I strive to avoid at all costs is the collective knowledge of the ‘New Age’. New agers, as I call them, are a bunch of seriously misguided hippies who want money for ‘energy healing’ and other snake oil cures for whatever spiritual or physical ailment you may have. Would they ever go into the parks of Oakland and try to heal those who really need it, like the drug dealers and homeless people? Oh no, never! They do absolutely no charity work from what I can tell. Among no other religions that I experienced did I feel such a huge sense of entitlement and hypocrisy. They would wax poetic about how everyone is a spiritual being… except for people they don’t like, of course. Like yuppies, or whomever is generally not liked by hippies for whatever reason. They are not spiritual beings, apparently. And the number of people in new age religions who are self proclaimed shamen is strikingly annoyingly high. I don’t need some white dude who grew up in California to be my guru shaman, I’m just not into that. Besides, most of the time it’s a creepy move to get into the pants of ‘goddesses’ (hippie women).

There are also a lot of self proclaimed witches and magic users, people whom in my opinion are seeking power over others more than the discipline of the self and they seek spiritualism though mechanics outside of their inner knowledge. They rarely take responsibility for themselves though.

And so throughout this journey, I’ve noticed that I miss those days when I could talk pure spiritual philosophy, and came to realize that while I don’t believe in god in the way I used to when I was a girl, I miss a lot of the lessons of the Catholic church. I decided out of the blue, I’m going back. No one can convince me god exists, but the lessons and community is something I desire, and being able to reach out to another like mind is very appealing. Maybe I’ll find another person like the nun from my old school who is just as excited to talk with me!!! I do hope so!

And in the begining….

All stories have a beginning, all journeys, all quests, all ideas and motivations start somewhere. I’ve been having this crazy notion that I want to return to my Catholic roots, which is strange because I have been an atheist for 20 years and am unlikely to believe in a god ever again (not as I once did when I was a child). I’ve decided to write about this experience, and catalog my path along this twisted quest to discover religious philosophy and engage it for the betterment of my self and a deepening of wisdom through ancient teachings and understandings. I am looking to do this WITHOUT worshiping a god I can’t even begin to believe in! And so if you are reading this and following along, then in a sense you are holding my hand as I experience religion again after 20 years of other pursuits.

I named the blog after a Monty Python song, “Every Sperm is Sacred”, which is famous from a scene in their movie “The meaning of Life.” Please, let me explain…. I was raised Roman Catholic, I went to parochial schools, including an all girls boarding school run by nuns. I was very, very Catholic as a young lady, and seemed to outgrow it as I aged. I always thought this song was hilarious, since I’m pro-choice, pro gay marriage, pro-do-whatever-you-want-just-do-it-with-adult-consent has been my motto for a long time, even while Catholic I still believed in feminism, birth control, abortion, gay and trans rights, and lots of other things that don’t jibe well with the church. I was in some ways a rebellious Catholic, but I know that I wasn’t the only one and still am not. At some point, I decided the church was too full of hypocrisy, and I stepped away for good.

Now that I’m 41 years old, I know for a fact that any time people organize, there is hypocrisy. The church doesn’t scare me anymore as it once did. And god is now totally demystified and holds no power over my ‘after life’ or whatever, I just plain don’t believe in any gods as anthropomorphized beings really deciding my fate, or having anything to do with my life at all. I don’t believe in hoo doo from other religions either, but I do enjoy good philosophy and am always looking to improve my life with special people and ideas. So, I thought, I’m going to check this out again, I’m going to return to the Catholic church! I have no idea what lays waiting for me, and I feel certain that I won’t be susseptable to any sort of religious brainwashing, and so I will explore this part of my youth again, as a mature woman, and for the first time, share my story through a blog. I thank you for joining me on this path, I hope my story will inspire you to dig into your own roots and rediscover that everything old is new again!