Living in the Midwest was an...experience. I moved there when I was 10, and didn't leave until college. It was the longest I'd ever lived in one place. Hell...still is. I loved the smell of wet grass, the chirp of the birds and the sounds of buggy wheels coming down the road. I loved living in a big old Victorian house that we were convinced was haunted with the soul of the wife of the builder. I still dream about that house, frequently. I wonder if I'm dreaming about that house because of this blog, and all the memories and feeling it is bringing to the surface.
When I was introduced to the Catholic faith, we were living in New York state, about 90 minutes upstate of the city, in a very Catholic area. Along with acquiring a rather strong New York accent (caawfee anyone?) I absorbed the culture around the church. Our community lived, worked, and went to school together. We had a great base, a great foundation that we really lost when we moved. When you go to a church school those people are your family, your friends and your community. In the days before the internet, and skype it was a lot harder to stay in touch.
My mom talks about how our family changed when we moved, and how happiness left us. It was really excruciatingly difficult for her to give up this community that supported her during her sobriety and learning to be a good parent. She credits the St. James community for teaching her how to be a good parent. We struggled both individually and as a family unit to cope with the changes that we were faced with.
We joined the local Catholic church, but the community there wasn't terribly strong. It was established and loathe to let new people in, plus we got a new priest right after we arrived. Fr. P wasn't a very good Priest. In fact, he was a pretty awful priest that didn't know what he was doing, since he was a Friar that they hooked into becoming a Pastor. He just wanted to cook, and study and all of the sudden he was in charge of an entire parish. I can only imagine how daunting that task was and how relieved he was when he was able to retire.
When we lived in New York we had Priests that would give homilies (or sermons) on a level that children could understand. They would tell stories to illustrate their points, and make it interesting and short enough that we didn't completely lose interest. Someone forgot to tell Fr. P that this was a good idea. My grandfather told me when he was in seminary they were taught to keep Sunday homilies between 5-7 minutes and weekday homilies to 3. This is exactly my attention span as it so happens (since I've never lost interest in one of his homilies). Fr. P however would ramble on for a half an hour it seemed like and in the end I would have no idea what was said. This is an important point since the next step in my journey is to attend a ton of different Protestant churches which are all sermon based, not worship based. The main difference between those sermon's and our weekly homilies was exactly the issue I had between parishes--I couldn't relate to the homilies. I could relate to the sermons, and the spiffy handouts with outlines and power points to illustrate points really helped. Perhaps there was also the element of just wanting to get through it. Going to Church was about going it wasn't exactly demanded that we get something out of it. When I decided on my own to go to other churches, I wanted to go and therefore I had more of a vested interest in it.
What created this interest? It was meeting people who truly had faith. They had this aura of peace around them. They have 'noor' which means God's light emanating from them, and I was jealous. I want that! I want to feel at peace in this crazy world, safe in the knowledge that it will all be alright. I wanted that noor and so I went out looking for it. I really think that I thought that I would hear some sermon one day and all the sudden, BOOM there it would be. I would just...get it. Sadly, it doesn't work like that.
I remember the moment when I really started questioning what I was taught. I was in the car with a friend and she was describing the idea of being 'saved' and that people that weren't saved weren't going to go to heaven. "What about people that don't know about Christianity?" I'd asked.
"Well, if they truly honestly don't know about Christianity because they live in some remote place then maybe they will be able to, but there aren't many places like that now."
This didn't sit well with me. Religious exclusivity never has. What makes one group convinced that their way, the definitively the 'right' way? I know a lot of it has to do with faith, but as you will read...I never felt that connection to faith.
When I was in high school I, like every other high schooler in the world, just wanted more than anything else to fit in. I joined campus ministry and student leadership (another campus for Christ organization), went to prayer circles in the morning, and religiously read my bible (haha nice pun, right?). I wanted to find a place where I fit in, belonged, and a place that I could feel trust and trusted. The 'religious' kids were nice to me. They didn't ask me to lie, cheat or steal and didn't make fun of me. I still felt like I was an outcast though.
It was during this search that I started to go to every church I could, and learn as much as I could. Living where I did, my resources were limited to attend or learn about any faith outside of Christianity. That didn't really happen until college.
Up next...church shopping, or hopping