Just three years ago, one of the many reasons we refused to marry in the Church was the requirement that we at least promise to raise our children in “the one true faith,” but those concerns faded last month when I took pleasure in asking my grandfather if we could have the baptism at his church.
Boughs of our Christmas tree are bending under the weight of a choir and a half of angels. Our living room is decorated with not one, but two nativity scenes.
The trappings of the season, just to be expected in the homes of even casual believers to be sure. But for me, the angels are there to represent the little girl who has been deemed our “Angel Baby.” The figurines of the Holy Family are representative as much of the Christmas story as they are our new little family. Images that are incontrovertibly Christian have essentially been co-opted to fit the shape of our family and our lives.
Do we all do this to a degree? Finding our home in a religion, in a set of beliefs, in a path of any sort because they add depth or help to make sense of our experiences?
A year ago when I wrote in this space nearly every day, I often sounded like a lapsed Catholic working her way back to the fold. After attending a nightmarish Easter mass celebrated by a priest who used the pulpit to wag a sanctimoniously admonishing finger at the unusually full pews, that crest of interest in my childhood religion receded once again. I resumed my safe distance from the religion I have ignored or actively renounced for nearly half my life.
During my pregnancy, I had a few isolated pockets of spiritual lucidity (the rest was a bit of a fog in which I felt completely unable to organize my closet enough to get dressed, never mind my thoughts enough to write coherently) and in that time I felt much more drawn to the powers of a universal Mother than the specifics of Christianity.
Moira will be counted amongst the Catholic branch of flock to please our families and to mark her arrival with a ritual, even if it is not exactly the ritual I believe best marks initiation into this life. Because I intend to raise her with a respect for all faiths and the curiosity to find whatever path to Spirit calls her by name, I have a couple of options. I could leave her to be a religious tabula rasa with no ties to a specific faith and let her make all of the decisions when she is ready. Or, I could give her the same start that her father and I had and allow that to be one step along a journey that could bring her closer to the teachings of Rome or just be one ceremony among many in a seeker’s life.
Like superimposing the trinity of my own little family onto the family in that manger 2000 years ago, I am sculpting the Catholic traditions to suit my own needs. I am Catholic enough to feel a little bit guilty about bringing Moira to an altar to have promises of single minded devotion to one version of God made upon her behalf. I am still a little sad that a tradition as rich as this one is still not “enough” to satisfy my spiritual inclinations, but I think teaching her to find the Divine in all beings and help cultivate in her a true sense of compassion for all the world with counterbalance these little transgressions against a creed that is not my own.
My first departure from Catholicism was through paganism, which was the most rebellious, individualistic path I could imagine. Now, I know that the two are far from antithetical and that both paths inform who I am now though neither shall ever define me. Still, adherents to both views think they are forever living at opposite ends of the spectrum so much of the time, unless you are having a Christmas-Solstice dinner with Dar Williams…