How I overcame my Irish Catholic guilt
Learning the joy in my religion
I’ve just kissed my daughter on the cheek after drilling her on her Confirmation questions; I was shocked at how many of the answers I remember from my own Catholic rite of passage 31 years ago.
I’ve also never felt so distant from my faith. In fact, the last time I felt this way was about a year ago, when I was cradling my godson in my arms at the baptismal fountain. It seems these joyous times of marking significant events of our faith in my family’s offspring forces me to tell the truth about myself and the unworkability of my personal relationship with the Catholic church.
Sure, the scandals that have shaken our church to its core and my own inappropriate relationship with a clergy in my teens have taken their toll on the faith I put into my faith. When I peel back the visible scar tissue, however, I see how my animosity goes much deeper than that.
Being Irish and Catholic meant a double whammy that produced but a trickle of joy in life during my formative years. If you were lucky to get your hands on a decent girl in high school, there was hell to be paid in hell if you died before confessing the sin that next Saturday. Thanks to years of heavy-handed threats spun from misinterpretations of the Baltimore Cathecism in the 70s by repressed clergy, you had barely lit the proverbial post-coital cigarette before you looked up in the heavens and pleaded for your Maker not to strike you down with a bolt of lightning before you were able to scrub the blackness of your soul.
As I get older, I move further away from the notion of living my life under constant threat of eternal damnation and as the head of this Catholic household, I wish a life for my kids that is not shackled with guilt as a constant way of being.
When you’re not so busy making Mass some Sunday mornings, you can tune into what other faiths are offering these days. There is a part of me that is insanely jealous as I witness the inspiration, perspiration, and transformation emanating from the pulpits of the black churches on BET. Large women in silk hats waving handkerchiefs over their ample chests as they burn in their faith while men in mustard colored suits whip the worshipers into a sweaty frenzy--who doesn’t want in on that juicy conversation with the Lord? When was the last time a Catholic Mass galvanized you like that?
You don’t even have to go that far over the edge to find peace and inspiration. Turn the dial and you find any number of these mega-watt mega-church pastors that preach the power of positive thinking. Like lawyers, they make their case for a happy life by deftly weaving spiritual passages into sermons and presenting them as irrefutable proof that God wants us to be happy.
Against my better judgment, I can’t help but stare at Joel Osteen’s televised ministry in awe, like a deer in the headlights of a semi. He’s slick, sweet, and shiny, like the meniscus of jello, but I like what he says.
“God never created us to endure life,” Osteen chirped from the stage recently. “He made us so that we enjoy life. He made us to be the happiest species on earth. Some people go around with a long face. They go to church like they’re going to a funeral!”