I do not consider myself a religious person, but rather a spiritual one. I started life being baptized Catholic, and by the church’s standards that means I am always Catholic. I went to Catholic school my entire life. My aunt was a Sister of Mercy and my mother herself was a former nun. Simply put, there was no escaping the Catholic church for me, and of course I believed everything I was taught at a young age. Some bits started to trouble me as I got older. It began at ten, when my church finally allowed girl altar servers and I realized that women could not be priests. It progressed at seventeen, as I was told during a homily that my friend Sahar would not be in heaven, as she was Muslim. Or my friend Mike, for that matter, who was gay. It ended at my sister’s First Communion when I was in my early 20s, and prior to the ceremony, as families were gathering in the church and greeting each other, the priest came out and actually yelled at us, citing that God could only be heard in silence. This was supposed to be a joyful celebration, and Mass had not even started. I consider this to be the straw that broke the Catholic camel’s back.
Now, I’ve always been open to other religions. So far as branches of Christianity go, I attended several youth groups as a child, and none of them were Catholic. I went to a Lutheran one, a Born-Again one, and a Baptist one, the latter being my favorite and the one I stuck with longest. I knew the Baptists weren’t for me in the same way I knew the Catholics probably weren’t, but their focus on Jesus was something I was not finding at my school, where they were already indoctrinating us with church dogma. I found a deeper connection to God through them and am eternally grateful. Also, this taught me that there were options.
When we learned about world religions, which was quite progressive for a Catholic school. I was enthralled. I found Buddhism and Hinduism to be the most interesting, with Islam a close second. I also looked at them through the same lens I had examined Catholicism, finding the bits I liked and felt were true to my core, and dismissing the parts I found to be out of date or restricting to the global community. I developed an interest in cults that I carry with me today. Seriously, one of my dream jobs is to be one of those people that pull others from cults and deprogram them. I find peoples blind faith to be fascinating. I studied other religions on my own time, learning about different world religions and specifically the assorted Christian sects. I have never found a “church” for me, and I don’t expect to, and so I make my own religion, my own set of morals and beliefs, and I have felt closer to God in this time than I ever did when I was younger.
I write all this because it is Good Friday. This is probably the one day a year I hold with some reverence. Christmas does not remind me of Jesus anymore, but rather the friends and family that we love and want to spend our time with. Easter makes me think of the rebirth of our planet, as spring pokes its head out from the ground. But Good Friday makes me think of all those years of Catholicism.
When I was young we had a tradition. My mother and I would go over to her friend Patty’s church for Stations of the Cross. Afterwards we would go to Patty’s for lunch, and then we had to play quietly from noon until three. Her sons would listen to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack; her daughter and I usually hid in her room, biding our time. Afterwards we would usually dye Easter eggs, and then head home. It was a day I looked forward to, despite the church-going and the having to be quiet while Jesus died. I still think of Patty and her family every Good Friday, and I probably always will.
One year M asked me what the deal was with it, and I whipped out a Bible and gave a short lesson. They’re unbaptized and attend church on occasion, but don’t go to religion class or anything, so I was happy to oblige his questions. The four of them sat rapt as I explained how Jesus was persecuted and crucified, in the kid-friendly way I used when I taught religious education classes. They thought it was a good story I thought that was the best I could hope for.
In some ways Good Friday is like New Years Eve for me. It’s two days before Easter, and I see Easter as the real beginning of the year, when everything starts anew, but Good Friday is it a solemn and spiritual day for me. Not how it used to be, but it holds a remembrance of the life I used to live, and I choose to remember the best parts in that moment. Whatever your spiritual leanings as an adult, it is the experiences of your childhood that shape you, and this is the day I remember that.