I envy those who have a deeply rooted and unshakable confidence in their faith. Once upon a time, that was me. It has not been for a very long time. I cannot get back there, and despite my discontent, I would not want to pursue my faith in the same way I did when I was a much younger woman. That said, you can never truly abandon your raising. While I am no longer a practicing Catholic, I have remained, well, a cultural Catholic. The Church cuts through my life in a way that can never be removed. I’m steeped in its ceremonies, traditions, dogma, and guilt.
As much as my mother would will it otherwise, I will never be the kind of Catholic she was at my age. My parents raised me well and faithfully, but I have lived a different life than they did. I didn’t meet and marry the good Catholic boy in my early twenties. I didn’t cling staunchly to my faith while I buried two children and raised another three. Instead, I met the good Church of Christ boy and banged my head against that wall for far longer than I like to admit. I also joined an honors college program in which questions came at you like dodge balls in a game where you were always “it.” Neither of those experiences were bad, but they were certainly far from neutral.
I remain stuck in the narthex. I am neither in the Church nor all the way out of it. My mind will not let me go one way, and my heart won’t let me go the other. Is it odd that it is only my soul that seems indifferent or, more optimistically, content with either direction? When I see myself in church, it is not week by week and with dogged devotion. I see myself standing with hope at an altar where my mother got married. I see my nephew’s head bathed in water and chrism as I promise to be godmother to him. I see my tears catch sunlight and land on a scuffed wooden floor as my grandmother’s coffin is carried up the aisle. To be Catholic in the family in which I was raised is like breathing. These are the ties which bind me and, sometimes, strangle.