Tuesday, April 19, 2005

If you don't want to read a long and serious post, just skip this one and come back next week.

I don't talk much about religion here. Books being my favorite subject, but also because spirituality has always been an intensley personal and private part of my life. My relationship with Roman Catholicism is conflicted, to say the least, and increasingly convoluted. I'll bitch about the political actions of religious groups, and readily mock the fundies on campus. But I don't talk about what I believe or what I feel about religion with anyone, really. But right now I have the need to put in my two cents.

I haven't voluntarily darkened the door of a Catholic church in six years (mandatory Mass attendence in high school and family baptisms don't count). I became an agnostic when I was 15, and within the last two years I've been studying paganism and Wicca (and yet another closet door makes that pleasant wooshing sound as it slams open! woohoo!). I gave up on Christianity.

When JPII died I found myself briefly overcome with a wave of nostalgia for the Church. I used to play in a Catholic orchestra when I was a teenager, and we performed for the Pope when he came to my city in 1999. I was on stage with him. I didn't actually meet him; I just saw the back of his head mostly. A stadium full of Catholic teens chanted "JPII! WE LOVE YOU!" I remember being underwhelmed. I'd been up since four in the morning, and frankly, it was anticlimatic. He just looked like somebody's grandfather, not the representative of Christ on earth. He looked like he needed a nap. I never really cared one way or the other about him. I didn't like his policies, of course, but that was to be expected. When I watched all the news footage of praying Catholics, with the incense and the rosary beads and the candles and the beautiful stained glass, I suddenly found myself missing a world that was familiar, if nothing else. It's the culture I was raised in, a very tight and close-knit community in this area. But the feeling passed. I knew I was missing the certainties of my childhood more than anything else.

I didn't pay anymore attention to the Pope-athon. But something wierd and unexpected happened today. When they announced that Ratzinger had been elected pontiff, I cried. Just sat down on the floor and wept. Which surprised me more than anything else. Partly due to relentless stress, of course. But I guess there must have been a part of me, at the back of my mind, that thought maybe the Church might actually try to be the moral guide I once thought it was. I owe my passion for social justice to the nuns that educated me, after all. But the election of Ratzinger burns whatever bridges were left in my heart for the Church. I guess it just hit me that I can never, ever go back again. Exile, is what it feels like. With paganism I'm happier than I've ever been; it's difficult, but it's also exhilarating and joyous. I don't think it's a coincidence that I started coming out and exploring paganism at the same time. But my family's over there, with their saints and angels, and I'm over here, with my goddesses and mountains and trees, and even though we're still close, it just's further estrangement inside.

I despise Ratzinger with a fierce and active loathing, and I usually don't waste that much of my energy on someone (no, not even on Bush and Co.) The feeling's mutual, of course; he thinks I'm intrinsically evil. My only consolation is that he'll probably die within a few years.


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