I am a Catholic and a feminist. This first post explains a bit of how I got there. I will explain more of how I’ve managed to stay there in another post.
I was raised in a religious family and attended church every Sunday for the first 15 years of my life. My internal conflict with Catholicism began long before my rebellious teenage years. I was raised to believe that if I worked hard I could be whatever I wanted when I grew up. Well, when I was about 3 or 4 years old, I wanted to be a priest, and the eventual realization that I couldn’t was officially the first crack in my Catholic identity.
Many years later I entered my teenage years and that was when my religious identity was shattered. It was the beginning of my feminist awakening, and I was already starting to revise my opinions on a number of issues, where I had previously just taken my parents’ opinions. Then I read an interview in Sassy magazine with a woman named Laurie Cabot. I convinced my mother to let me buy Cabot’s book The Power of the Witch: The Earth, the Moon, and the Magical Path to Enlightenment, and my life was never the same.
After Confirmation, I convinced my parents to let me take a much needed break from church in order to do some serious soul-searching. Over the next ten years, I literally walked through my beliefs, one at a time. I started with the question of whether I believed in a higher power at all, and worked my way through. Some things I felt instantly in my gut, others required months of reading, thought and meditation. By my early 20s, I was reasonably comfortable calling myself a Christian. I was still hesitant of the Catholic label because of the conservative nature of the religion, and then two things happened that caused me to reclaim my identity as a Catholic. The first was a book about Mary (I wish I could recall the title, but I had borrowed it from a family member), followed by a discussion with my mother about Mary’s role within the Church. From an intellectual point of view, I appreciated the unique role that Mary has in the Catholic church, as compared to other Christian religions. It didn’t make up for not being allowed to be a priest, but it was something. On a broader level, it gave me a way to relate these beliefs to my continued (intellectual) study of Wicca. Witchcraft as my religious belief system was ruled out very early in my search (due to the fact that they do not believe in a Satan/source of pure evil), but I remained fascinated by the history and the ways in which parts of old pagan religions have been incorporated into modern day Christianity.
The second event had nothing to do with research or studying. Although I stopped receiving Eucharist a number of years earlier, I had started going to church with my parents on weekends when I stayed with them, primarily out of respect for them and their beliefs. It was Palm Sunday, 2002. My grandmother (my mother’s mother) had passed away about a year earlier (the Monday during Holy Week in 2001) from pancreatic cancer. My uncle (my mother’s brother) had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, himself. Communion had just finished and the choir was singing a meditation piece, “Were You There.” All of a sudden I broke down sobbing. Despite the overwhelming despair, I also began to feel the smallest sliver of peace.
I have no doubt that part of it was the comfort of the familiar, but this was the feeling I had been seeking for the last 10 years. Since that day I’ve once again referred to myself as a practicing Catholic (as opposed to “recovering Catholic,” which is the label I had previously been using).