Friday, April 29, 2016

Heaven or Earth.

My twins are receiving their first communion this Sunday.  I invited family.  It is important to the twins.  They had a choice.  We didn't force them to go to "Atrium" classes.  We asked them if they wanted to go.  We asked them if they wanted to get their First Communion and explained what it meant.  They have been to two years worth of classes.  They have not changed their mind.  They asked their teacher tough questions:  Michael wanted to know the science behind everything.  We have taught them both about evolution, and that the Bible stories are parables written by Apostles, maybe told by Jesus, (who was a real man), to explain things that people at the time could not understand.  Illiterate people, but also every person, really.  Don't we all wonder where we come from?  How did all of this come about? Life?  How did it start?  Why? When?  Where?

We were Golden when we got married, and went to Pre-Cana classes.  Sam was attending adult catechism classes, I with him, and he wanted to become Catholic.  The Priest, at the time, Father Peter, was so funny, open-minded... Many people in the Parish didn't like him.  He was too relaxed... too...  I don't know...  He drank wine.  That was the fault I heard.  I never understood.

He asked Sam and I to join a Life Teen group, in which we would help work with the confirmation students.  We went on a retreat at his other house, not the Springfield Rectory, in Rutland, which was on a large piece of land.  We drank wine, ate a wonderful dinner cooked by the teacher of the adult classes, and we talked about religion.  I told him I didn't believe the Catholic Church had any right to focus on homosexuality as a sin when they welcomed couples who were living together, unmarried, obviously having premarital sex, to be role models and teachers to the teenagers of the parish.  He looked at me, and said, that was true, the Church did often focus on some "sins" and not others.  I said it was prejudiced, and we should be shunned and spoken about just as strongly as the church was focusing on Gay Marriage and Homosexuality at the time.  He agreed.  He said, "I just don't want anyone to touch me."  And there was a strange sadness in him which told me that maybe he was an Altar Boy who was abused.  Who knows?  He became a Priest to be better than that.  To be a good one.  One of the good ones.

I know with teaching, "bad" teachers, just made me want to teach more.  I couldn't stand it.  I wanted to save students from a fate that could lead them to hate reading, or hate school, or not succeed in life.

Father Peter was different.  We brought our babies to Church on Sunday evenings with my grandparents, and he knew their names and every time we left Mass, if we apologized for their loud "baby talk," or fussing, he said, "I'd rather hear that, and have young families here, then have you worry about all that and not bring them at all.  We met with him to have them baptized and he asked us why we wanted them to be baptized.  Lord, Sam's face was hilarious as I went into a long description first, of my family history and tradition in Catholicism, and that we believed strongly that it was important for them to grow up Catholic, however, there was also no way I would ever, ever tell my children that homosexuality was a sin, or something shameful or wrong.  I said it's scientifically-based.  I would never teach them to judge anyone else (in regular circumstances... I mean, I'm not talking about murders and rapists for goodness sake... they are evil) for who they were, or even their personal choices.  I told him I grew up in a Catholic family who told me being kind, and generous, and giving, and loving, and faithful, and honest was important.  Sam looked down at the ground, at me, raising his eyebrows to say, "You don't really need to go into this..."

But Father Peter said, "You are right, there is science coming out about homosexuality.  I understand what you are saying.  I hope you want them baptised so Jesus becomes a part of them."  He didn't tell me I was excommunicated, as Sam suspected, I think.  We said, of course that's what we hoped for.  I told him I baptised them with spit on their foreheads the first moment I held them.  He chuckled.  We scheduled a date.

It was beautiful.  There was retired priest filling in for Father Peter that June, and he was a lot like Father Joe.  All my extended family came.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents.  I felt so grateful for my family.  The babies were surrounded by love.

In the winter months, Father Peter changed, it seemed.  He had brain surgery.  Nanny and Grampy couldn't drive up there, for service, in the dark because of Grampy's macular degeneration.  They didn't notice it.  Father Peter became more distant for awhile.  Didn't say our names as we left the church or speak to our babies.  And during campaign season, when Barack Obama was for Heaven's sake, hopefully going to replace George W. Bush, he spoke of people voting for someone who approved of abortion as a sin.  Oh my.  The church telling us to vote for a Republican, when the party represented almost everything that Jesus spoke against?!  And his sermons became very dark and condemning.  More about sin than joy and living.

We stopped going to Church for a few years.

It didn't feel good.  But I didn't want my children, no matter how young they were, hearing all of that.  It pained me to hear it.  We did go on Christmas, and as a tradition in the church, they have a man dressed as Santa Claus walk down the aisle and kneel before the baby Jesus at before the Children's Service began, and when Michael was 3 1.2 he said, loud enough for the rows around us to hear, "I want to put dynamite down Santa Claus's pants."  What?!  He meant that Santa, I know.  They have always believed Santa is a Saint, a spirit, and not every guy dressed up with a fake beard and crazy looking cheap red polyester fake fur suit.  But saying that in Church was obviously not the greatest thing, and saying at all was kind of crazy.  I blushed profusely.  I sat and spoke to him.  Even then, he said, "Joke mommy.  I'm funny."

We hadn't been to Church in a awhile, so proper etiquette wasn't clear.
Oh goodness.
It was funny, though.  Everyone around us snickered, giggled, or covered their mouths in tear inducing laughter.
Only Michael.
Only my son.
Stella stood as proper as can be in her Christmas, wool, Rothchild coat, Blue with red piping, and hat Marguerite had altered and sewn to a style more fitting for a girl her age:  no tie under the chin, and looked at him with a bit of sisterly disapprovement of his impropriety.

And now they are 9.  They are very reverent and spiritual.  They respect the Church, and pray for their Grampy John in Heaven and for their Nanny Tops still here, 91.  They pray their Nanny Barbie will be healthy...  They pray for mommy.  They pray that I will get better.  I don't want everyone to be Catholic.  I don't even think about it. I don't think about or worry about what other people believe.  I think about what my children believe, and truly, since they were old enough to ask big questions about life, and death, and God, and Heave, or Hell, I've always said, "Well, what mommy believes is..." or, "What my mommy always told me was..."  Or, "I learned..."  And then I would say, "What do you think?"
And they would say, "Grampy is in Heaven."

They'd tell me whatever they thought.  And I have never once told them, "That's what you should think."  Or,  "That's wrong."

My older sister stopped going to Church as soon as she "could."  I don't remember being forced to do anything.  We did wake up to go to Church.  Certainly young children wouldn't be left at home.  When she was a teenager, she didn't go with us.  My mother never told us what to think.  She told us to be kind.  She told us Grampy Jim was in Heaven.  My sister believes it was forced upon her and she says she will never participate in anything Catholic ever again.  She said she wouldn't attend a First Communion.  She was insulted I even asked.

It's a special day for the twins, this Sunday.  I don't know if my family will be there.  I hope they come, simply because it's a special day for the kids.  I hope they come because I've struggled through a lot of things these past 5 years, and being a mother has always been the most important part of getting through all of it... Being a good mother...   And sometimes I need help.  Like now.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Duh, sis. I RSVPed and everything! I liked my first communion. I remember Grampy Pete being there, at the church and then at our house, and that felt special.

And although I will never get over being forced to eat those goldfish crackers when I was 4, and so I would behave and stop turning around trying to make funny faces at Susan and how much longer, I will try my best to get past it, but probably just this once.