Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Fall From Grace: Part 2 - School Daze

"Come! all ye, and learn the secret that hath not yet been revealed." Liber AL-2:2

So growing up in a semi-devout Catholic family means being semi-devout. Which in a Catholic family means Catechism. Most of the rest of you would refer to this as Sunday School.

One of the things that was interesting about our parish, and I think several others do this as well, is that Sunday School is held DURING the Mass which means the kids miss one of the central rituals to the dogma. I never quite understood how they justified that, and even though I'm sure other kids were perfectly oblivious, I couldn't help feeling like I was missing out on something going on at the Church.

The little kids learn about the fluffy good parts of being Catholic and Christian (don't want to scare them too early). The somewhat older kids learn about the fire and brimstone, and parents readily take advantage, as this is about the time that kids start thinking for themselves. Older still, you learn about your obligations as a Catholic and a Christian, and your preordained path including First Communion and Confirmation, as well as the other "degrees".

As a side note, looking back I realize how much Catholicism and even various other Christian groups have taken from old world secret orders. There are paths of progression that very much resemble degrees and rituals in other orders and groups. It's somewhat amusing.

Baptism is the entry ritual of bodily nature into the religion. Catholics don't typically believe in full-body immersion, but prefer a symbolic cleansing and anointing. This typically takes place long before any age of consent, and the expectation is that it confers a certain level of "protection" upon the infant, and it is expected to be done very soon after birth. As such, I don't recall mine, but I've seen pictures.

The next is what is called Holy Communion, or rather the First Communion. During mass, there is a Eucharistic celebration wherein those who are worthy may partake. Part of the process to becoming worthy is to go through your First Communion. This happens around the age of 8. It involves an extra set of Catechism classes to understand the symbology of the ritual. At least in as much as an 8 year old is expected to understand. Typically this is also the time wherein Catholics attend to their first confession as well. Confession as a Catholic concept is where you visit with a priest during a designated time and retell your transgressions and receive absolution for them with the understanding that if you are truly penitent, your sins will be forgiven.

I understand the psychology of confession. There is something very cathartic about releasing the tensions of guilt and frustration over things that we know we've done wrong. While at times it can be intimidating, it also can lift the spirit when you are told you are forgiven, and it can alter your mindset in such a way that you are made aware of the harm you caused, and work some level of penance in effort to fix what you have undone. However, Catholics view the ritual of confession as the sole means to be absolved of sins, and no matter how sorry we are, no matter how much we've prayed, no matter how much reconciliation we've enacted with those we've hurt, and no matter what we do to make things right, it doesn't count without a proper confession.

This brings me to the beginning of what later becomes a recurring point arising time after time after time. That is, if God is so powerful and so omnipotent, why does he need a celibate man in a dress to tell me if he has forgiven me or not? Is God incapable of expressing his own absolutions? Are we to believe that he's too busy to tend to the fallen of his flock? Is he so arrogant as to think that we are not worthy to interact with anyone but his underlings? This idea of needing a go-between seemed silly at best, and political elitest hierarchical bullshit at worst.

Anyways. Back to my First Communion, this I remember a bit. We all get dressed up, we all partake first, and then everybody coos and ahhs over us. That's about it. And thereafter, I'm eligible to follow with my parents in procession to receive Holy Communion assuming I remain worthy by attending confession regularly. And so it begins.

Most of the rest of my school-age experiences were mundane. My family celebrated the usual Catholic holidays and they often included lots of family, and the chaos and resentment that many family gatherings tend to bring. Beyond that, I can't say I had any particular religious experiences, but I did notice a distinct disconnect from what was the religious world of attending Mass on Sundays to the majority and remainder of the week. We would be regularly admonished to live our faith and yet I can't say that we brought it home. I don't remember the experience of noticing anybody that appeared to live their lives differently as a result of their faith. Did that mean they weren't living their faith, or did it mean that living their faith didn't amount to much anyways?

It took me a while, but later in my life, I finally saw a person that was living their faith, and I understood at that moment that people like them are rare.

In the meantime, I got great examples of those that weren't.

No comments: