Without a church. Without a community. Without a priest. Even without a prayer book, a little cross hanging from my neck, a religion. A catholic without, not within. And don’t tell me it doesn’t sound cool.
The story is common: nice little clever girl is raised in a nice catholic family within a small and nice catholic community somewhere remote in the world, where sometimes pagan traditions from millennia before are, let’s say, integrated into the culture. Not to the extent of slaughtering a chicken in the church, but almost there (the community was particularly strong on burning wood for religious purposes – don’t ask).
Truth to be told, I only experienced love, affection, enjoyment of laughter, food, strong coffee and sweet wine, dance, music, all the good things the life of a little growing girl could ask for. And because, as mummy said, we are all special in the eyes of god, little girls are as special as old nuns and priests, and should never take orders from them. Of any kind.
Then the apocalypse happened. After the crusades, the inquisition, the index of forbidden books, the church had the fabulous idea to hide child and single mothers’ abuse, which of course came all out because, as Jesus said (via my grandmother), be sure your sins will find you out. (They should have known it?) To give credit to myself, I was rather brave: my family of course would not talk about it, but I, living 600 miles away, did the right thing and watched Spotlight, The Magdalen Sisters, and the whole shebang.
Ka-boom, you’ll think.
More or less. Ka-boom to the structure of the church, indeed, which, to be fair, I had never had sympathy for: too much devotion, too much genuflection, and in any case, too much considered sinnable. And I never understood why on earth I would tell my secrets to a man in a cubicle who I had seen picking his nose.
But ka-boom to my family and my community? The same family who had given me unconditional, genuine love, to the point of giving me freedom to choose for myself what I felt was good and right for my life? The same community who had given me joy, support, confidence, every day of my life there and outside of it, welcoming me back every time I was going back as if I had never left? No fucking way.
I hate to ruin this for you all, but guess what: structures (all of them) gonna crumble down, one day or the other; so if you love your structure, don’t hold too tight onto it, because history proves it’s going to wooooosh away with the wind at some point to be replaced by something better, stronger, more efficient. (Don’t blame me, guys, blame history.)
But essence? That thing we believe in, be it freedom of speech, liberty, love? That’s not gonna go. Is it still going to be ok to believe in unconditional love for the others, even though the church has crumbled down?
I don’t know, you tell me: is it still OK to believe in democracy and liberty, despite Trump, Syria, Brexit, the rise of the Far Right, Putin?