Religion is a sensitive subject. For some people their lives revolve around it whilst others disregard the whole idea of it. With a week to go until Easter Sunday, the most important festival in the Christian Church’s calendar, I found myself pondering my own religious experiences.
On paper I’m a pretty good Catholic girl from a strong religious family. My maternal grandparents have attended mass every Sunday for as long as I can remember, and have always had a very active role in their church’s community. My grandfather is of Irish Catholic heritage and I’m pretty sure one of his brothers became a priest – can’t get much holier than that. Children often inherit the beliefs and values of their parents and my mum certainly inherited many of hers from her parents. My paternal family aren’t religious, or at least aren’t practicing. The only time I’ve ever seen them in church is at weddings or funerals, and that doesn’t really count. My dad was baptised into the Catholic Church shortly before he married my mum; a pre-requisite for a sacramental marriage in the Church is that both parties be baptised.
My parents chose to bring up my brothers and I as Catholics. We were all baptised as babies, took our First Holy Communion at 8 and were confirmed at 15. These rights of passage first signify your parents’ choice to bring you up in the way of the church, the first time you receive the body and blood (bread and wine) of Jesus Christ and your choice as an adult to continue living in the way of the church; confirming your faith. We went to Catholic Primary School involving prayers three times a day, weekly hymn practice and numerous masses at our affiliated – and conveniently located down the road – church. When we were little prayers before bedtime were not unusual and we attended mass every Sunday morning until we were confirmed. My parents struck this deal when dragging three disgruntled and crabby pre-teens out of bed proved stressful for everyone involved.
As we all grew up and had dance classes or swimming lessons, or eventually a job, we stopped becoming as regular church visitors as we had been. My parents would go on their own but even now they rarely go. We still go every Christmas Day and Easter Sunday – non-negotiable with my mum – but not at other times.
Despite not regularly attending mass and ‘practicing’ my faith I would still describe myself as a Catholic if asked. I do disagree with the Catholic’s Church stance on many issues, abortion and homosexuality to name a few. If the church is going to survive they need to update their official opinions on countless topics to prevent alienating vast numbers of their prospective followers. Yet I can’t deny I feel very comfortable in church. I like the tradition of it, the spectacle. The order of service is etched in my brain and I still know the words to far too many hymns. What’s wrong with a bit of familiarity? It’s comforting and yes I do feel safe. The sound of church bells when I walk to work on a Sunday morning is comforting, and no matter how infrequently I attend I know I am always welcome.
I still haven’t decided if I believe in God. Part of me likes the idea of being part of a greater plan, of everything being decided for me regardless of my actions. The independent, free-spirit part of me on the other hand hates the idea of some bloke in the sky taking away all my choices. I find it hard to believe in something I can’t prove, and yes I know this one of the stories in the bible – Thomas the Doubter was one of Jesus’ aspostles who is best known for doubting Jesus’ resurrection. I’m not going to enter the great Science versus Religion debate here, I don’t know enough about either to give the argument enough credit so I’ll just say my twopence and leave it. There have been countless theories discounting stories of the Bible and there is no doubting the evidence of them. The logical part of my brain finds it hard to discount this evidence and yet the other part of my brain likes the idea of a sandal wearing, long haired Son of God coming down and saving lives. Catholics believe that when he is needed, Jesus will come again and who can deny that’s not a nice idea? If some guy could take away all the bad stuff and take away all our sins? Clean slate for the world would be quite nice.
Whilst I’m on the fence with the whole God debate, I will still be at church on Easter Sunday. Can’t quite shake off the Catholic girl in me yet.