Recovery Takes A Lifetime

I had to take some time to think about what I would post, since I could write a book!  I was raised in a strict Catholic household, went to Catholic schools from K through college, then married a Catholic who had priests, nuns and even two bishops in the family!  My college years were spent as an atheist, and I was grateful that I wasn't forced to practice.  In high school we were forced to go to confession once a month during school hours.  This became a complete turn off to me once I had real sins to tell; not kid stuff like "I stuck my tongue out at the teacher".

I was turned off by having to stand in line with my classmates, and face the priest whom I didn't want to confess to.  There was also peer pressure.  If you took too long in the confessional, you'd be gossiped about; too little and they'd laugh at you for pretending to be a saint.

I also hated the rules, such as the fact that an early Mass on Saturday didn't count as your obligation, but a 5:00 PM Mass did.  I once attended a 2:00 PM Saturday wedding Mass, and the majority of attendees went promptly to 4:00 Mass while the bride was taking photographs.  I thought it was completely absurd. 

All of that was many years ago, since I am now 51.  I went from being an atheist, to an agnostic, then a spiritual seeker when I discovered I could experience the Divine directly.  What gave me my freedom was my belief that I should follow my conscience, which of course I learned from Catholics.  I feel that a merciful God could forgive doubt, and possibly aid in walking a path to the beat of a distant drummer.  And that maybe God wouldn't mind being called Goddess. I had many a sleepless night pondering the first commandment.

There are some aspects to the early training and guilt that never leave.  I find myself sometimes worrying if I will miss out on meeting my Catholic relatives in their special room in heaven - even though I don't believe in it.  I went through the heartache of a Catholic annulment, even though I was against it.  I really was married!  I was highly upset that it was claimed that there were overlooked impediments to our wedding, when there were none.  We succumbed to the stress and growing apart that happens to many long term relationships over time.

What really breaks my heart is that I see the young generation asking the exact same questions that I and my Catholic classmates did.  Why are there no women priests?  Why is the Church against condoms?  Why do they want you to have as many children as possible, then jack up the tuition at Catholic schools so the kids can't attend?  I have to ask - why hasn't the Church grown over the years?  Something is wrong if the kids of today have to struggle the same way I did.

I still feel the pull of the Church, and sometimes I want to go back.  But whenever I get close, I can't stand it.  I'm not willing to follow the rules or to change my way of thinking.  I get jealous of those who seem to be comfortable practicing the Catholic lifestyle.  I wonder how they can do it.  But when I talk to them, all they do is complain.

Such is the nature of recovery.  It takes a lifetime.  Instead of rebelling as I've done in the past, I'm trying to find peace and common ground.  That's why I'm writing here.  My non-Catholic friends don't understand, and think I should leave it all behind.  It's not easy!

Maybe you can give me some tips!

shaktimoonfeather shaktimoonfeather
51-55, F
4 Responses Feb 16, 2010

Thank you for your story. I have been doing a lot of reading on the early Christians, trying to find The Truth, trying to answer my unanswerable questions and an intelligent adult. My early Catholic programming won't seem to let up. Everything I know points me to atheism and I want so much to be free of my early Christian lessons but I still have those thoughts (maybe I'll miss out on Heaven, what if I go to Hell). Thank you for sharing. I know I'm not alone.

God as merciful - that's what they've said, as well as a cruel God who throws people into hell. Or worse, limbo for the unbaptized. The fact that I was an atheist and still needed permission from the merciful side of God shows the strong effect of early Catholic brainwashing.

A merciful God? I highly doubt that. I'm glad religion makes sense to you.

It is interesting to read your description of growing up Catholic. It was like reading my story and that of most of my classmates. We all call ourselves "recovering catholic". I too asked a lot questions and often spent time in a closet or the pricipals office for being "bad". I just refused to just going along with what the church told us to do blindly, with no explanation. Got tired of told we sinned because we had "mixed" parties or had the same feelings other kids had growing, being inquisitive about life. Lots of other little things that never added up to me. I am still not an organized religion person, I learned what I needed and practice it my own way. Never needed a fancy church or understood the reason I had to pay for that proviledge. I can sit on my swing or walk in the woods enjoying the beauty and talking with the person I feel created it.