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What question do you hate to be asked? Why?

I married a Catholic man — about 43 years ago. We got married in the church and in fact, since his uncle, a priest, was performing the ceremony, he gave us all the bells and whistles. At that point, just a few years out of university, he wasn’t practicing his faith nor I mine — which was Lutheran.

When we had children, he began to search out Catholicism again, and church became a regular part of our Sunday agenda. The kids were all baptized Catholic, and I went to church with the rest of the family until the youngest was perhaps 7, when I knew they would behave without me being there. I preferred that my children be raised with a religious base, and had no quarrel with Catholicism.

Often during marriage, I have been asked why I don’t go to church, and in particular, why I haven’t converted to Catholicism.

Church was an important part of my family life as a child, and I learned all about my faith quite happily through high school, but already doubts and questions were creeping in. Why? Well, my father committed suicide and when the subject of his burial came up, there was actually talk that perhaps he shouldn’t have a Christian burial since suicide was a sin against God. The pastor, bless his heart, dismissed any talk of that, and the funeral went on as it should have.

My dad suffered from bipolar disorder, and after he began to get treatment with time in and out of the hospital’s psych unit, he became his earlier self again, and I saw the gentle, caring side of him. But it was also without zest or drive. Mental illness took its toll and I think because he believed in God, he decided to end his life to get the eternal peace that was eluding him on earth. He had very high expectations for himself; living a less than full life was too painful. So his desire to end his life and live with God raised questions for me. I began to lose my faith in religion, but never in God.

I believe I’ve never told my husband’s family of conservative Catholics that my dad died from suicide because I think they would see it as a failure on his part — despair is a sin. I wasn’t ashamed; I just didn’t want to hear judgment and criticism.

During college years I changed a lot, went through my own questioning and periods of depression (not in the clinical sense) and thought a lot about God, the hereafter, the fact that I was finite, and what my purpose in life was. Oddly enough (or perhaps appropriately), staring out at the sea from my residence window, helped me. It was infinite (or nearly), but I, like the generations of people who had walked on the strip of sand and sailed that sea, was not. I would pass like they did, a cog in the wheel of time, but even cogs are necessary and perform a function. I had to find mine.

The end of the story is the I have found my relationship with God, though I haven’t been able to extend it to accepting a set of religious beliefs. While I know the Bible and the tenets of faith very well and accept them for myself, I cannot in clear conscience adopt them and become a Catholic (or anything). Is it hardheadedness on my part, a holding back of myself, or just faith in the relationship I’ve developed with the God of my understanding? I’m comfortable with it.

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