I was an intern at The Nation magazine in 1998, at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. To get the internship, I sold myself as a radical Oscar-Romero-ish liberation theology Catholic. (I am sure it was an article I had written during my undergraduate days at Notre Dame about my independent study in El Salvador that got the Nation editors’ attention).
They called me Catholic spice. And though I didn’t really think of myself as a “good” Catholic (whatever that is), I hung my hat on owning the niche because it set me apart. I made it a pet project to counteract those who were patently dismissive of religion and spirituality … who likened these hugely important forces to mere coercion and superstition. Nota Bene: Christoper Hitchens was one of the magazine’s columnists at the time.
That was the beginning of the end of me identifying myself as a Catholic. I moved to North Carolina shortly after that internship and to begin a Master’s program in Mass Communication. The more I learned, the longer I was away from the home I had grown up in and the Irish-Catholic culture I had been nurtured in though college, the less palatable the system seemed for me. I understood the role it played for others, and how meaningful and important it had been in shaping me … but the negative baggage weighed me down too much so I decided to opt out.
Recently, my brother and his wife asked me to be the Godmother of their son. Naturally I am thrilled to play the role of spiritual guide and protector for my beloved nudgie nephew, and I believe I can play this role well. Although I have willfully disassociated myself from the institution, I am still very much on a spiritual path.
And naturally the Catholic Church has used this opportunity to deepen my feelings of alienation. Although my nephew is being baptized in the church I was baptized in and had all my sacraments in, the church my parents were married in and that all my family births, deaths, and weddings have occurred in … the church I taught CCD in for years … they are STILL requiring that I obtain a letter from my local parish attesting to the fact that I am a registered member of a Catholic Church. Call it Catholic “quality control.”
Long story a little shorter … I went to church for the first time in a long time yesterday. And as it turned out, it was quite a moving experience for me. I was surprised. Though the monkey’s off my back, apparently the circus is still in town. Who knew. Avoiding something does not erase it from your consciousness. Some things will remain a part of you, like it or not. Best thing to do is to let it flow through you, I guess.