April 15, 2006


Today's Holy Saturday (Black Saturday in my country) and I have a confession to make.

I'm a lapsed Catholic.

I was born into and reared in the Catholic faith. I studied in a Catholic private school for girls until I reached university. I was even a member of the Liturgical Core Group that assists during Masses. Somewhere along the way, something changed.

Wikipedia defines a lapsed Catholic as "a person raised as a Catholic who no longer practices the religion...Some Catholics who still attend church services may still think of themselves as 'lapsed' if they do not have any real interest in the religion or if they only attend special masses, like Christmas and Easter."

I'm not writing this to give excuses. I'm stating a fact. Holy Week is the time for reflection. It's the time when you think of how Jesus' experience led to our salvation. So I'm confessing.

I still believe in the tenets of the Catholic faith. I haven't done anything against the Ten Commandments. When I was working in the city, I went to church practically every day before heading to work. Maybe I'm a closet Catholic?

I remember when things changed. I was in my early 20s and new to this country. I met up with a friend from high school. She told me we were going somewhere, though she didn't tell me where. She and her friends brought me to this meeting place with lots of people. It wasn't Mass, mind you. Thinking I was about to bolt, she and her friends surrounded me so I couldn't run away. Not that I'd get very far since I didn't have my own car, nor did I know my way around New Jersey.

How I was brought to the meeting was deceitful at best. They tried to change my mind by praying over me. Literally. They made me kneel down on the floor while they encircled me and then prayed that I would do the right thing. Said that I was sinful and a sinner until I joined them.

It wasn't as if they were doing something extra-special religiously. From what I heard from them, they were there because they were looking for possible boyfriends. After all the praying was over, some of the girls started crying. I don't know why. What I did notice was that the guys went to them and hugged them. I even saw one of the guys wink to his buddy while hugging a crying girl. What was that all about?

Here I was, being labeled a sinner, even if they didn't know me. Just because I didn't yell out "I want to join!", I was a sinner. Come to think of it, who isn't, really?

Bring out the rocks.

That's when it occurred to me, some people need the practices and rituals, customs and traditions to keep the religion going. Taking to heart what your religion teaches or what keeps you going is faith. Once you take away all of the rituals, you are left with your faith.

After that disastrous experience, I started meeting people who went to church, not out of a sincere desire to be close to God, but out of habit, out of routine. They found comfort and solace in the rituals of religion.

Now, here I am. Maybe you'd call me a lapsed Catholic. Or maybe you'd understand what I'm saying.

I have faith. I believe Somebody-Up-There is watching us and wanting us to live our lives fully. I find it sad when the mouth utters prayers, but the heart is hollow and feels nothing. It's liberating when I learned to accept things I do not like. Not everything matters. People can believe what they want to believe in, as long as you let me believe in what I believe in.

Along the way, I learned that them telling me that I'm a sinner doesn't matter. What matters is He knows I believe in Him. It doesn't matter what other people say.

Let he among us without sin be the first to condemn.


Lynn said...

Huh. I don't know WHAT sort I am. =D

Paige said...

Good morning! Glad to have ya join us. He is everywhere, all the time. Open your eyes, the light will shine forth! Live with love in all things, doesn't always mean letting wrong things overtake & overcome you. Now your mission, simple as it may seem is to be an example. You should not have to tell people, they should be seeing it in you, on you & because of you. Now thats a scary thought!