I don’t go to church. I was raised Catholic and find many good virtues in the religion. I get comfort from many of the traditions and have been blessed with a strong sense of Catholic guilt. I lapsed a bit in college, high on my new found freedom to do what I want, going only when I felt lost and needed a sense of community. In grad school I left the church completely after attending a neighborhood church. Reading their bulletin, I realized they were the ones picketing the Planned parenthood down the street. Regardless of my views on abortion, I resented those picketers. They scared off people who were going for cervical screening, treatment for STDs and birth control to protect against unwanted pregnancies. My political ideology and views on women in general were never quite in line with the interpretations of Catholicism, but I ignored them for the general good values I respected- things like being kind to others.
I like the idea of religion. I enjoy the community it brings and I think most religions all share the most basic core beliefs. Some sort of spirituality and belief that we should be good, kind people. I dabbled a little bit with Unitarian Universalism. I still feel like it is the closest to my beliefs, with its welcoming of all walks of people and its liberal views. I still go to Catholic church when I am with my family for holidays like Christmas and Easter. It pleases my father. But I respect the religion enough to stop taking communion, something reserved for believers.
When I was pregnant I tried to reestablish a connection with a church. I thought I could use some community support and religious guidance when we learned Mabel would have Down Syndrome. My friend took me to her childhood Episcopal church in my neighborhood. It was very reminiscent of a Catholic service- similar prayers and structure, but more liberal in some of their views. I sat there watching the small children’s choir, trying to picture my unborn child in years to come, up there singing with them. The service was nice, but it didn’t feel right. I returned to the Unitarian church I had tried in the past. I was enjoying the service and was joining in song with the congregation, when a wave of sadness overtook me. I grabbed my things and ran to the parking lot, trying to hide my tears. I couldn’t get myself under enough control to return inside. I went again a few weeks later and had a replay of what had happened the last time- uncontrollable waterworks.
After we learned that I had low fluid, making Mabel’s prognosis poor, my work was kind enough to give me some time off to adjust. That time coincided with Christmas, so we visited my parents. As tradition dictated we all bundled up to go to mass on Christmas Eve. I walked in with my brothers and aunt, while Chris and my dad parked the car. I picked up the hymnal and started singing some Christmas carols with the rest of the church. I’m unsure whether it was the words of the songs, the rejoicing in God or the act of being in a church for the holiday-something that brings up childhood memories, but tears came on suddenly. I was pregnant with a child I wanted so badly and that child would likely be taken from me. I couldn’t understand how this God that we were celebrating would let that happen. I hurried out of the church grabbing Chris along the way. We spent the rest of the time walking around the neighborhood.
I haven’t been to church since. We had Mabel baptized by the hospital chaplain at my father’s request. We had a Methodist minister preside at her funeral, not realizing how Christian a non-denominational service would be. In retrospect I wish I had contacted the Unitarian Church for her graveside service. We wanted some structure and the Unitarian minister could have provided that with words more aligned with our beliefs.
I don’t know what I believe now. I wonder at how this is just in any God’s eyes. I don’t take comfort in God needing another angel or having a higher plan. I suppose I would have needed to already have some sort of strong belief before anything bad happened to receive solace and guidance.
This I know: I need to believe that there is good in the world and if I continue to be a good person, good will happen to me too.