What's My Religion?

So I went to mass on Sunday and boy, was that a mistake.

I am what you would call a "cafeteria Catholic", meaning, I pick and choose the beliefs that I hold near and dear to my heart, while still calling myself a Catholic. So basically, it's selective adherence to the standard Catholic teachings. To further explain, I am not against gay marriage, divorce, abortion, pre-marital sex, masturbation, and other issues the Catholic church is so vehemently opposed to. But I was born and raised Catholic, I was even a Sunday school teacher for a few years when I was younger and do hold a semblance of belief in God.

Do I go to mass every Sunday? Nope. Do I confess my sins regularly? Sure don't. Do I believe gay marriage is against the will of the Lord? No. Will I divorce my husband if I'm unhappy, as opposed to staying in a bad marriage, so as to not go against God's will? Sure, in a heartbeat. Abortion? As a form of birth control, nope. With good reason, I don't judge women who opt for it. Masturbation? Ha ha...yes, please. Pre-marital sex? Test drive the vehicle before you buy it, is what I say.

Do I believe there's a God up there? Yes. Do I talk to him daily? Yes. Do I believe he messes with me often in the scenarios and people he puts in my life? Absolutely. Do I feel better after attending mass? Only when I go of my own free will, not by being guilted into it. by my mom or my husband. This past Sunday it was my mom who did the guilting.

So I accompany her to church, along with my sister. I'm already not looking forward to it, as this particular priest from her parish, likes to talk. A lot. The average length of mass is about an hour. Not here. Almost 2 hours, every single time. So I already knew this, having had experienced it first hand in a prior occasion.

We get there, and of course, the priest goes into his 35 minute sermon (I know because I timed it) and this sermon consists of just basically attacks against "bad Catholics" and of course, if I'm held to the parameters of the Bible, I'm a horrible freaking person. And I just didn't appreciate that. Now, I do go to mass, at a different parish, with my husband. And I love the priest there. He reminds me of Cam from Modern Family, right down to the flamboyant nature. So I can deal with him and even enjoy going when I know he's the one giving the mass. But this other priest, Father Nelson, was just not about it that day. Because I don't go to mass every Sunday, because I don't take Communion, or confess my sins,  I am not a good Catholic, nor am I making God happy. Now, the God I choose to believe in, is totally cool with me not going to mass every Sunday, as long as I talk to him often, which I do. He's also cool with me not going to confess my sins to a stranger so that he could absolve me of my sins, because I make sure to tell God directly when I've messed up. Why is he okay with this? Because as it turns out, priests are not perfect. Why should they be held to a higher standard than everyone else when they're capable of committing heinous acts on innocent children? Not all, of course, but too many. They are humans. Not saints on Earth. So what gives them the right to hear my personal business so that they can tell me to recite 3 Our Fathers and go about my day. I've always been wary of the whole Confession thing. Oh, I did find it funny when he went into a mini-rant about people wanting priests to marry. He said if it didn't affect them directly, they shouldn't have an opinion on it. Really, Father Nelson? Gay marriage sound familiar? Hypocrisy at its best.

I have plenty of problems with the Catholic church as a whole, which is why I pick and choose my beliefs, but that's not good enough for Father Nelson. He basically said that God would rather not have me involved at all, then half ass being a Catholic. He spent most of the sermon berating those who don't live by the Bible. He spent the other part of the sermon talking crap about people who thought his sermon was too long. His explanation was, that we have no problem going to a party for 6-7 hours, then why do we complain about going to church for 2? Well...because when you go to a party, you're expecting to be out for a certain length of time, but you're not held to that. So if I want to leave a party early, I can, it's my choice. I don't have a choice in how long mass is. Also, you expect to be longer at a party, and you expect to be at church for about an hour, because that's how EVERYONE else does it. So what I don't get is what makes Father Nelson think that what he has to say is more important than what other priests across the City say? Even the Pope doesn't give sermons that long, so who the hell does Father Nelson think he is? Bit of a narcissist there, me thinks.

I also have a huge problem with being hit up for money almost every time I go to church. Even at the church where the priest I like preaches. They have this thing called the Annual Catholic Appeal which seems to be done more than annually, it feels. So they forego the sermon so they can play you a recording that will guilt you into donating. The whole process has always left a bad taste in my mouth. The first time I signed up, Big Momma made me. Guilt, a powerful thing. So I signed up, then as it happens, was laid-off shortly after. So the last thing on my mind is this donation, since I'm struggling to pay my bills. Well, do you think the Catholic church cares about your financial issues? I swear, they're like bill collectors. They were calling me, sending me mailings constantly with Balance Due on the envelopes. Like, really? It's a DONATION. So that whole experience was negative for me and I refuse to partake. As it happens, my husband signed up and so we get the mailings at home, and the reminders for next year, and what do I do? Toss them. Every single one. Have you been to a Catholic church? Almost everything in the altar is made of gold. But you need MY money? I don't think so. It's a business and it's doing very well for itself without my forced donation. I much rather give $5 to a homeless guy on the street than go put it in the church basket. That's just how I feel about it. Don't even get me started on Father Nelson's parish. What do you need 2 collections for every single week, padre?

Which leads me to my next point...Catholic guilt. Shit, I am so done with that. Guilt is so present in my life. I've let it control so much of it thus far. And I'm actively working to fight it. Because I'm done. It's not fair that guilt dictates your happiness. If you don't do this, God will be upset with you. What kind of spiteful God is this? Those innocent people who lose their lives? Had they pissed off God? The 3 year old that was beat to death by her own mother this weekend, 5 minutes away from my house, what did she do to deserve that? If the God described by hardcore Catholics is real, why would he allow something like that to happen? Yet murderers and other bad people are allowed to roam free and live life? I don't think so. That doesn't jive with me. I was brought up with that mentality though, so this is an uphill battle for me. I'm determined to live my life how I see fit, doing what makes me happy and not worrying so much about what is right, either in God's eyes or anybody else's. We're only on this Earth for a set period of time and if the God I believe in is real, that time is predetermined and nothing you do, good or bad, will change that. So might as well be happy while you're here. Do what makes you happy, and don't worry about God punishing you for things that aren't as bad as the ugly stuff that's out there in this world.

I just wanted to document my last visit to church, and the feelings that came along with it. Father Nelson doesn't think I'm good enough to be a Catholic and his method of sharing the word of the Lord is to shame, so I'm sure I won't miss him, just as he won't miss me.
Not sure how I feel about the "Catholic" label at this moment, but as time passes, hopefully I figure that out.

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