Saturday, June 25, 2011

Searching for the Words

In the story of my life, my Catholic Confirmation was really the beginning of my honest-to-goodness questioning of what faith was and what was expected of me. I remember going through the whole religious process with not a whole lot of concern for the spiritual aspects of confirming my belief that I would be a Catholic for the rest of my life. I remember being concerned that this was far too large of a decision for a 10 year old to be making. I remember really wanting my confirmation name to be linked to my family some way. (I chose Theresa, my great grandmother’s name) I remember being upset that my aunt couldn’t understand why I would ask her to be my sponsor because she didn’t remember that she was my godmother. I remember giving far more consideration to my appearance and remembering things we had to repeat than I was about any relationship I was supposed to be developing with god or Jesus.

Part of the process was going on a “spiritual retreat” to the convent nearest to our school. Worst. School. Trip. Ever. We went to the convent at Mount St. Joseph for a full day of prayer and contemplation of our future life as “full patch” members of the Catholic faith. I recall a nun and a priest giving a speech to us. I don’t recall any of my classmates taking it all that seriously. I spent some time just wandering around the grounds trying to figure out what the nagging feeling was. It was a feeling that something wasn’t right, not necessarily that something was wrong, but just… not right. I don’t know that I could put my finger on it even now, but I found myself walking in circles around the garden path trying to figure something out, to no avail. I remember a classmate teasing me for taking all of “this god stuff” too seriously. Was I taking it too seriously? Probably, but not in the way that I was being teased about. I was not devout. I was sure I was not doing the right thing.

What I really wanted was to grab someone and beg them to help me find the language to put that feeling into words. But I was there in a convent, surrounded by people who’s job it was to make me a good Catholic and my peers who were just thrilled we weren’t at school. I just wasn’t sure that confirmation was right for me, but I knew that I didn’t really have a choice about it. My robe had been rented. My stole had been named and symbols of my Catholic faith dutifully glued to it. My aunt was coming to be my sponsor and family was coming from out of town. I even managed to score a new 10-speed bike in black and silver out of the deal. I was going to be Catholic for life because that’s what my parents were and as their child I was going to be Catholic too. Catholicism was the only religion available to me so I didn’t know that there were other options, other than the faiths that would go door to door trying to spread their faith. I didn’t know then that a few short years later I would increase my vocabulary when it came to all things of faith.

This entry is an edited excerpt from the as yet untitled memoir I have been writing this year.


  1. Wow. I am completely blown away by the honesty and transparency of this post. You and me? have some learning from each other to do!

  2. Visiting from TRDC and so glad I did. This speaks to me. I can't believe they had you doing Confirmation at 10! I remember being in high school...maybe 15, and I still felt like it was too early. I went through the full 16 weeks of required classes and then opted not to go through with it. Just wasn't feeling it. My Mom was annoyed (what about getting married in the Church?) but Confirmation is really supposed to be taking responsibility for your own faith--no one can make that decision for you. I told her I could always change my mind and do it when I was ready. Although that never happened!

    Great post!

  3. I also questioned a lot about what I was "expected" to be. In some ways it was liberating to make my own decisions as an adult. In other ways, it's still just as confusing. Very thoughtful post!

  4. What I remember from the year before as my classmates were "Confirming" was how jealous I was that I wasn't Catholic. I was shuffled to another classroom during the preparations for Confirmation to do "busy work" in my Religion book. Remember those? The scrap books with grey pages that we were allowed to draw pictures over the top of entries. Of course, that was why, as a non-religious, non-Catholic, that I loved that class.

    I did however get to go to Mount St. Joseph's. For me, it was the one and only time in my short life (and ever after) that I had the opportunity to taste "the body of Christ". I nearly peed my pants when I was told I would get to try a wafer. That tiny little thing everyone lined up to get. I was so stoked. And so let down to find that in the end it was anticlimactic to say the least. Moreover, it tasted like stale cardboard. I couldn't believe I had been so envious of all of you lining up for it during the monthly mass at St. Paul's. I would solemnly wait in line with my arms neatly crossed over my chest and just smile timidly at my turn and walk back to my seat a little sad.

    Funny, how we perceive things from the outside looking in. You desperately wanting out while I desperately wanted in - me for all the wrong reasons and you for all the right. And today, we both stand on the other side with similar points of view when it comes to religion and what that means to us, the people around us and the world at large.

    Once you're done this book, I most definitely need a copy. It will be interesting to see what your full perspective about our time at St. Paul's was and balance it against my own.

    Rock on!! Write on!!