Monday, January 19, 2009

My Fall From Grace: Part 1 - The Beginning

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Gen-1:1

So as a process of my development over the years, one thing that has been notably defined and re-defined is my acceptance and perception of spirituality. Having grown up in a somewhat devout Roman Catholic family, there were elements of spirituality throughout my life, though on some level, they never gelled with me.

I remember learning to say my prayers before bed. As a child, I understood that the idea was that I was supposed to be talking to God to praise him, rejoice in him, and humbly ask for his forgiveness and his assistance in my day-to-day life. However, as the Catholics we were, my prayers consisted of a rigid set of prayers that supposedly served various purposes, but generally took the personalization out of it. I remember Hail Mary's. Our Father's. There were others, but I don't recall them now. But I do remember a sense of solitude in the ritual. I later learned that it was not uncommon in other religious Christian families to say the evening prayers together as a family. We didn't do much of anything together as a family. But thats a whole other post regarding a whole other topic.

I certainly remember going to church. We went every Sunday for as long as I can remember. And I remember my Dad helping out in one capacity or another.

He grew up in the church, and as a young man, once considered life as a priest. He entered the seminary and studied for some time before he realized it was not to be the lifestyle for him. This didn't change his devotion to the church any. He would often "serve mass", which for those of you not familiar with a Catholic mass is the role where you assist the priest up at the altar. This is commonly done by altar boys and girls, but depending on your community, and their interest, there may not be enough kids to provide for the role, so adults who are trained for the roles are welcome to help out. He would also help out with the ushers both in seating as necessary (our church was almost never full enough at the masses we attended to require help seating) or the passing of the collection baskets. This particular role is one I would later learn and help with, but more about that later.

I didn't have much other familial religious influence. My family was not close to most of the rest of our extended family except for our living grandparents.

My father's mother, much like he, was also a rather devout Catholic. She had also grown up in the church, and had very strong feelings about religion and the role of the church in her life. She, more than my parents, was one to ensure I knew what prayers to say and when, and she, unlike my parents, would pray with me and make efforts to nurture that part of my life. She tended to be strict and unyielding in many ways, and I imagine this speaks a lot as to why her influence, as strong as it was, did not have its intended effect on me.

My mother's mother was quite a different sort. Having come from Mexican descent, she believed, as many do, in this cross-breed form of Christianity that has a Catholic influence along with a pagan-ish influence from the native ancient peoples such as the Mayans and the Aztecs. She did not attend church with any regularity unless it was with our family, and she had not grown up or live with a specific religious sense of being. She did, however, live within the influence of various superstitions and things of that nature. And this influence was something that was prevailent in her ancestory. It was once said that her sister, my great aunt, had the "evil eye" and that strange things happened whenever she was unhappy from the time she was a young child. These stories and experiences were my first taste of spirituality outside of my home, and in this case, alternative spirituality.

Oddly, when I was young, religion was not something that kids talked a lot about. I remember knowing that people did different things, although I don't think I encountered much out of the mainstream Catholic and Protestant sects until much later in life. People went to church, they did their thing, and almost nobody ever talked about it, or it seems thought much about it beyond that. I don't recall the school going out of its way to discourage us. I just don't recall it being something of interest.

So with this hodge podge of experience, my toe-dips into religion were, in my mind, tentative at best. There was always the "face" I put on, however. My father was strict and controlling, and of course that meant that things important to him were, by extension, "important to me".

So my beginnings of religion and spirituality were in large part to satisfy my family. I don't recall any particularly interesting personal experiences. I prayed for things, and my prayers didn't seem to have any particular effect one way or another. Things seemed to happen however things were going to happen. I didn't feel as though my spiritual efforts afforded me anything other than a measure of peace in the family. And given how things would go later, I have mixed feelings about what that peace cost me.

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