A number of months ago, a member of our church’s worship committee approached me and asked if I would write something on “faith” and read it during the Sunday service in November.
The following is an excerpt from what I wrote:
I was baptized and confirmed a Roman Catholic and from the “get go” tried very hard to be faithful to my religion and Italian heritage.
However, like the true Unitarian that I am now (and unknowingly was then), I never could quite grasp the Catholic version of perpetual guilt, sin, and not eating hotdogs (meat) on Fridays.
I constantly questioned my Mom on why I had to wear a frilly lookin’ hat to church every Sunday that inevitable either choked me or squashed my brains (depending on whether or not it was one of those under-the-chin “tie hats” or one of those lovely tie-less “spring action sweet hearts” that was meant to stay on your head by means of some spring loaded do-hicky that supposedly put “gentle pressure” on your left and right temples!)
Her perfunctory and all-wise response to my pleas for mercy: “Lucie, you don’t have to wear either one of these hats” and she nimbly placed a snot rag on my head with one of her chewed-up bobby pins that she always seemed to have on her that just magically appeared out of nowhere from that bottom-less pit of a pocket book that she dragged around with her.
“And,” she continued while adeptly arranging the tissue on my head and raising that dam left eyebrow of hers while eyeballing me, “Eat all the hot dogs you want on Fridays. I’ll miss seeing you in heaven.”
And if that wasn’t enough guilt for an impressionable, trusting 6 year old, my oldest brother, Anthony, convinced me that I was going straight to hell because I had eaten the body and blood of Jesus Christ and now had to be punished!
A 6 year old who didn’t want to stay back in her church pew, innocently follows her big brother up to the alter to get something to eat and drink like everyone else and I’m going to hell because: (a.) I went up to the alter before my first communion and (b.) I chewed the wafer (a.k.a. the body and blood of JC, himself)!
That’s me: wafer-chewing Lucie. Going straight to hell in a hand basket. Ate baby Jesus before I even had my first communion and now at the ripe old age of six was “going straight to hell!”
Anthony (who was all of 9, at the time) told me this, so it must be true.
After church that Sunday, I ran sobbing all the way to Nonie’s house, totally guilt-ridden and ashamed.
(Forget about passing “Go”and collecting my two hundred dollars! About the only reward I was going to get out of this whole deal was a one-way ticket to the fiery gates of hell! And I had my own sorry six-year-old ass to thank for it!)
I stumbled up her front porch steps, threw open the door and cried, “Nonie! Nonie! I ate baby Jesus and I’m going to hell.”
“Anthony told me to wait in the pew and I didn’t. I went up to the alter and ate baby Jesus and now I’m going to hell.”
Now my Nonie (who was never quick to react to anything), grabbed ahold of me, hugged me into her safe, warm bosoms and quietly assured me, “Lucie, non jah you worry. Your Nonie keepa you safe.”
“Here,” she continued, stabbing one of the meatballs simmering in her sauce. “Eatta meatball and stoppa you crying. I gonna talka to your brother and we gonna talk about who’s a going to hell, first!”
Nonie was great.
So you see, People, from the moment I had that Kleenex put on my head with a bobby pin to the moment I ran to my Nonie’s house screaming, “I ate Baby Jesus”, to the time I declared to my Mother (as a 16 year old) that I thought Catholicism was hypocritical, and I wasn’t going to step foot into another Catholic church again, to the moment I signed the membership book at my local church – I’ve been questioning my definition of “faith”.
And I continue to grapple with the definition because “faith,” like me, is ever changing and ever illusive; and just when I think I know what it is, I read something, hear something or see something that changes my perspective, changes my definition.
Rest assured, People. Of this I am certain: I have faith in me; faith that I will get up every day and put one foot in front of the other and with God’s help (and a little help from my friends) will get through the day, no matter what he or she or the universe has in store for me.
I wish you well, People. I wish you peace. And above all, I wish you an understanding of “life” standing in someone else’s shoes.