Monday, 04 March 2013
With Pope Benedict XVI's recent resignation, I cringed. I always cringe when I see anything in the headlines concerning the Catholic Church. It's not just because it all tends to be negative as of late or because it calls to question my Catholic past -- because I'm not ashamed of it or try to hide it. I always get asked by someone, "Are you still Catholic?" My response to the question always brings on additional questions: "Yes and no."
My history with the Catholic Church started before my conception. My parents were introduced via an early 1980's equivalent of a Catholic "Christian Mingle" pen pal program. My dad had immigrated from Nigeria almost 10 years prior and was living in Boston; my mom was a well established registered nurse in Chicago. In 1984 they were married and in 1986 yours truly popped out.
In line with Catholic tradition, I was baptized as an infant by sprinkling. I attended Catholic schools and continued with taking sacraments -- for non-Catholics, the seven are Baptism, Eucharist, Penance, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination, Last Rites. Also in line with Catholic tradition, I was taught to listen to priests, but was never encouraged to read the Bible. Even though I went to a Catholic school, not once do I remember ever opening a Bible there. We had texts and workbooks created by the Catholic Church with verses and concepts in it. Words like "devotionals," "relationship," "discipling," "scripture memorization," "seminary," "fellowshipping" and "vocational bible school" weren't even in my vocabulary.
When I turned 13, I started to question my allegiance to the denomination that my family clung to. I vividly remember having questions about my faith and the doctrine of the church that I wanted answered but, due to the lack of a properly trained and patient apologists in my social circle or parish at the time, I rebelled and decided to take a break from partaking in further Catholic sacraments until I felt rooted in the whole religion thing.
I'm beyond grateful to my mom for letting me figure it all out myself and not imposing her beliefs onto me. I'll totally admit I went into the whole situation blindly. I didn't really have someone to guide me on such a journey. A lot of church-hopping and denomination exploration later, I found myself in a series of churches that taught me how to establish my own relationship with God and not adhere to what was dictated by a man in another country or the Pope.
Being a "recovering Catholic" is an on-going process. Technically I'm still a Catholic and I have no intentions of going through the entire process of even trying to get officially excommunicated, because it isn't that important to me or my relationship. I am still learning new "Christian" vocabulary and concepts that I wasn't exposed to as a youth. I'm gaining new "recovering Catholic" and Christian friends and fellowshipping regularly.
When it comes to my family, for the most part they are aware of my "recovering Catholic" status and they respect it. Out of respect to my staunch Catholic father, I don't publish my non-Catholic status. I will still go to a mass for special occasions, like funerals. When I go, I even take communion, though I don't adhere doctrinal to the transformation of the wine and host. Rituals like "Ash Wednesday" and "Lent" I do incorporate into my "relationship" and use the times to remember my physical mortality and fast.
If anything, taking a "break" from Catholicism helped me to appreciate the ritualistic components of the very traditional faith. Some churches outside of the denomination even call to question my baptism and it's validity. I know recovering Catholics and other people who have changed denominations that were baptized as children seek another baptism as an adult and I feel it's fine personally. Do whatever you need to do for your relationship. For me, I'm perfectly ok with the idea of "one baptism for the forgiveness of sins."
As I get older and will eventually get married, I'm sure I'll be faced with the idea of if I'll raise my kids in a Catholic church. While I'm not opposed to the idea, I've decided to cross that bridge when I get there. I feel as if my mom did what was best. She made the introduction and let me figure out the whole relationship for myself. What more could I have asked for?
Have you ever heard of the term "recovering Catholic"? Have you ever switched Christian denominations or done a religious conversion? Were you raised Catholic but currently practice something else? How do you reconcile your religious past with your present beliefs and circumstances? What is the best way to respect your spiritual upbringing if you've chosen to go on a different path?