Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bad Catholic Confessional


So the Christmas season is REALLY over. This past Sunday we celebrated the wrap up with a trip to church for the post-Ukrainian Christmas-Parish Supper.

I think I cried 3 times?

Yep. Church has been a tough go for me since the kids were born. Mostly because my kids are not baptised and here's why. I am not Catholic enough for our parish priest. I believe what he said when I brought in my secular-spouse and asked for a baptism for my first baby was wweeelllll. We let you in but what have you done with that? And, so it has gone.

About 16 years ago I was largely estranged from my sainted mother. One thing I managed to negotiate with her was that it would be nice for us to go 'as a family' to a Ukrainian Catholic Church near my apartment in town. The parish was small then and the windows were just clear as money still needed to be found for paintings and icons and stained glass. At that time there was little my mother and I could manage together without vitriol but sitting in church on Easter Sunday or Ukrainian Christmas, those things were doable.

In the years following I have been an itinerant parishioner. I loved the place in a manner not unlike others. It tied me to a faith that was deep and grand of course but mostly it linked me through the mass to the rituals of generations of my ancestors. The graceful ways of my Ukrainian-Canadian aunties, the humble wisdom of my maternal grandmother, the wit of my uncles. In my romantic mind it even tied me to the sacrafice of those I never knew those brave relations who, unlike my grandfather and great-granparents, never escaped the horrors one might find in 20th century Ukraine.

When it came time to marry I was lucky to have a most generous and jovial priest to agree to 'let me in'. You see I had never been baptised myself. This will an even longer story if I go into it let's just say.. my Mom married a heretic, too. But Father P. he helped me out. He encouraged me to be a part of the church as a part of my marriage. Though it should not be overlooked that the considerable wit of p-man was never lost on Father either. He got us dispensation to wed. But he is gone now.

I guess I attend mass maybe a dozen times in a good year. Does that make me a good parishioner? A mid-grade Catholic? What is the standard? Well, it seems that membership is optional for weddings and burials but come baptism time you better have your missal in order. While membership seems to be key here. I have -- likely in response -- dug in that faith and membership should not be dealt as synonymous. I'll let you in on this little sermon gem of Father's that he hates when people use the phrase 'take communion'. I have a similar response to drive at our parish for membership.

Basically, it seems that the Church would rather have 12 pious widows in the pews than one more Cafeteria Catholic like me ... and my family. That is what hurts most, what makes me tearful. Certainly my own alienation stings.. but it is the dismissal of my children who seem so naturally dear to everything I envision of God. I want my family to be a part of this Church but they are not. Where we might be encouraged to be a part of the church as a part of our children's births we are not. I have been told repeatedly, to my face, via my mother and most recently with a digusted head shaking in the parking lot last Sunday to step up my game for them to count.

Part of me thinks I should I pack up my tenous affiliation and move on. Baptism seems a challenge that has galvanized my fringe status. Where am I realistically going to find godparents even? Besides I don't need this anymore. When I was a kid I went to church with my Mom. I wasn't quite Catholic back then either. I never shared communion as I was -- guess what -- unbaptised, I was an observer not a participant. I remember how it was something 'for my mom'.. the mother-churchgoer dragging her husband along for high holidays. My dad used to snicker and trot out the same lame jokes every year, "hey padre your purse is on fire" can destroy solemnity right quick. Do I want that for the kids?

I went last week thanks to a call from a friend; of whom I have 2 at this church. My heart sang when I saw my two-year-old bend to pray; her chubby fingers folded in prayer her eyes darting at the majesty of the windows full of pictures today. The sun streamed in and encased us all in kaliedscopic colours. It is a good feeling the sight of your child with God. She met the task I set her and easily picked out Mary, the mother, who she took to most happily in her Christmas stories last month.

I don't know how this will turn out but I will try to keep trying. Father you say I need to learn more about the church. True. Let my children teach me. As my friend said at the supper -- kids just get it. Well, yes.

2 Comments:

Blogger Crunchy Carpets said...

I am not Catholic...so I don't really understand the power of that church..but was christened into the Church of Scotland and married in a United Church over here because that is what Scottish people do...even if they don't attend church, they get baptized, married, buried in one.

So my kids are not christened because I could not baptize them into a church that I am not a part of.

It made me a bit sad and crushed my mom...but what do I do? Church for me is more about tradition than faith.

My Catholic friend married (in an Anglican Church) to a no Catholic has searched far and wide for a church that would accept her....but they after 30 years of divorce (gasp) have never accepted that and need her to have letters from family and friends to the POPE telling him that indeed the first marriage no longer exists.....this is crazy.

I can see why people join the Unitarians.

11:04 AM  
Blogger L. said...

The priest who finally baptized our kids told me, "I always err on the side of generosity. I give money to beggers even if I think they`ll just spend it on drugs, and never refuse to baptize anyone."
Remember that Catholic means "universal." We`re not supposed to let humans come between us and God -- God`s hard enough for some of us to find, even without all the interference.

I would say, go overseas and find some nice Franciscan missionaries, but it might be easier just to do what I did: what until the time is right. Big Son was NINE by the time I found someone to baptize him!

9:50 PM  

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