One of the Catholic Church’s favorite things to play is the waiting game…we have Advent, the four weeks prior to Christmas, and then we have Lent, the 6 weeks before Easter.
We. I still, automatically, type the word “we.” I mentioned to Mark this morning that Catholicism is very much still a part of me even though I have shirked the religious aspect. I suppose I am still a cultural Catholic in many ways, all due to my indoctrination into the church at a very young age. For instance, during Lent one is supposed to observe abstinence from meat on Friday’s. Even now, more than a decade after leaving the church, I feel guilty eating a pepperoni pizza on a Friday in March. The whole shebang starts with Ash Wednesday, which was yesterday, wherein the faithful get a cross made of ashes upon their forehead. From dust you come, to dust you shall return. It is a symbol of repentance and belief as well as mortality. It is to symbolize beginning of the 40 days Jesus spent wandering the desert.
The ashes are made from burnt Palms from the previous years Palm Sunday, and you are not supposed to wipe them away. So it was completely normal, you see, for me to be in a school full of children with dirt on their foreheads one day a year.
And oh! Then there’s the activity of Lent, and not just of the food variety. During Lent, one is asked to give up a pleasure or a vice as a sacrifice and act of repentance. So, every year we all had to give something up. I remember one year when a schoolmate of mine’s mother moved their television set out to garage for the entire 40 days, forcing her kids to give up TV. I routinely gave up candy, which was simple because I wasn’t allowed candy in the first place. I don’t think my mother ever took this into consideration, she was always just happy that I was “working on my weight.” When I was in high school, there was a girl who gave up Lent for Lent, as she was Pentecostal and attending a Catholic School. I recall her getting some heat for this comment, which I found to be brave and bold and intriguing. When I left school though, I stopped giving things up. I stopped eating fish on Friday’s, and I stopped getting ashes on my forehead.
Obviously, if you are a regular reader, you know that I am a bit of a pagan nowadays. So, it probably surprises you none at all that I am going to tell you that the Christian’s stole Easter from the pagan’s Spring Equinox festival. Much like the feast of Saint Brigid, which I recently wrote about, Easter was appropriated from the pagans. Shocking turn of events, am I right?
This morning Carey asked me about Ash Wednesday. She thinks she noticed more crosses on people’s foreheads this year than ever before. Myself, I didn’t see a single one. But that’s probably a good thing because I was still triggered all damn day.
As soon as I realize it was Ash Wednesday, I thought of years of arguments with my mother, starting from when I was 16 and taking confirmation class. Her and I were so close, finally, to seeing eye to eye spiritually, but I knew I would never truly take her away from her home, which was the Church. When we had her funeral, it was a great big Catholic Mass at a great big Catholic Church, attended by girls who went to Catholic School with her, and many Catholic nuns who knew her well. When Father Bill, a former priest at my elementary school, invited everyone up for communion, my father rose and accepted it. I looked behind me and I realized no one else got up. Not me or my sister; certainly not my husband or kids, none of whom were eligible to receive it anyway. I don’t even think I saw any of my friends move, and it reminded me of an article I read once about a spiritual awakening supposed to occur on planet Earth in the early to mid 2000s. I made a note in my phone to write a blog about this observation, but of course that was in between the funeral Mass and breakfast, so the note kind of got lost in the shuffle. But the article expressly said that we would throw off the shackles of religion. We would learn to live spiritually and harmoniously without it. Future generations would be taught that it was a general mistake, which only brought about greater division, and kept us as humans from reaching our greatest potential. Geez, do I wish I could cite this article for you, but I got it off MySpace in 2004. Anyway, I think that’s happening now.
This blog is kind of all over the place today, huh? It’s because I’m all messed up in the brain over the Catholicism, and while I quit the church in my twenties, it has taken until my late 30s to really start my deconstruction. And honestly, with my mother’s passing, I feel very little guilt regarding my spiritual path. All of that washed away when I stepped out of that church, knowing that I would never have to set foot in one again if I didn’t want to. Of course, I will attend a wedding or funeral, but no one is ever going to force me to go to church again. This brings us to a bittersweet silver lining, but I truly feel in my gut that when mom died, her soul looked around and said “oh, Brig was right,” because I have more freedom spiritually since her passing then I have ever felt, and I do believe she gave that to me.