zen shit

catholic spice

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).

The first half of 1998 was also the height of the spice girls craze (the initial one, anyway) so we, the interns, gave each other spice names.

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.

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  • i just always love the tag “zenshit.” especially as it relates to this. =)

  • thanks laurs. is it true about primus? brilliant!

    Forming a new world religion is difficult and not particularly desirable. However, in that love is essential to all religions, one could speak of the universal religion of love.

    -His Holiness the Dalai Lama

  • I would have pegged you as Sporty Spice.

    I’m an atheist and I’m also my brother’s confirmation sponsor. I see it as a role that’s similar to the AA sponsorship program.

    I asked my brother to do me a solid and pick PRIMUS as his confirmation name. The bishop initially objected, but this punk rock atheist and her brother could prove that Primus is a Catholic saint. Thank you, interwebs.

    The bishop’s objection was the icing on the cake. I was in & I haven’t looked back.

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