It was around the year 2009 when I discovered a cold-deadening truth: I have been a lapsed Catholic for almost two years. It’s not like I didn’t go to Church or receive communion and that stuff. I go to a Catholic school, I pray every time I eat, I go to mass once or twice a month – whenever the school tells me to go to mass, I go. Other than that, I never bothered. I even figuratively attacked my classmate for saying that he didn’t believe in God – yeah, I get points for hating.
However, growing inside of me were literally thousands of questions. So many reports on the news of this Catholic Church having controversies, but we weren’t like Ireland. In Ireland, the government would usually have its way, but here it isn’t like that. Secularism goes only as far as on paper. The Church controls the country with an invisible iron fist.
I’ve read a lot about irreligion – all about those varying degrees of atheism and agnosticism – but I never really thought that irreligion applied to my country – this lonely country, the country with the third largest Catholic population in the world. Then I started asking myself: did I truly believe – or did society tell me to believe?
What is very sad about religion is that sometimes it is more a social commitment rather than a spiritual one – I doubt I would be Catholic if my family practised a different belief. It was this cold hard truth that hit me made me start thinking about that last question.
Doubt: some kind of social taboo here. Conversion itself may be a bit looked down upon, but they treat people the same. However, when you say that you doubt, you’re crossing a line. Law guarantees a separation of church and state, along with the freedom to exercise any kind of religious belief. The society I grew up in defines it as “if you don’t have a god, you don’t count”.
Why do people think religion plays such a vital role in childhood? Is it this fear of God that makes children want to stay indoors? Well, I may not speak for every child, but when I walk out that door I’m not thinking about God – I’m thinking about my destination. Thinking that God’s my destination kind of makes me lose focus of my actual destination.
I would never call myself an atheist or an agnostic. These questions didn’t come to me in full speed until I started going back to Church. Curing my lapse in Catholicism – not lapse in God, lapse in Catholicism – however it came with thousands of new questions. To me God has always been there. The Church, the Bible, all that Catholic dogma, they were the things on the line.
I read online that child abuse cases by Catholic clergy in America had zero tolerance, so how come we didn’t have any of that? Dioceses all around Italy are well funded, and yet a Church near my school hasn’t been finished for years because of debt.
I’ve stated that I have read about religion – but it seemed to me that I never actually lived very religiously. Whenever I needed help, I turned to God. That was about it. I did not remember just getting up and saying “I want to go to Church” just because I wanted to – until my return to Catholicism. In one way or another, going to Church more often was better for me. I was opening myself up to God just because I wanted to. It was something about faith that just made me believe – against all rationality – that somehow, somebody on the other side was listening, taking notes, and was planning a way for nature to get me what I want.
That’s why I didn’t believe in big flashy miracles. You wouldn’t learn anything from it to help you as a human being. Believing that “I want a big breakfast” and having a miracle get it for you won’t help you – it will only help satisfy you. Spending cash on the food and making it yourself would help cure your laziness.
I’ve heard of a Catholic term known as the “Age of Reason”, when the child is fully capable to understand – and participate – in Catholic ceremonies, usually around seven or eight years of age. For me the Age of Reason had a different meaning. For me it was the age when the child started to think about the world around him – the age when that child would suddenly start to think differently from everything he had grown up to believe was true.
My Age of Reason had hit me early – although when it did hit me it wasn’t strong enough to be noticed properly. My Age of Reason grew gradually to this point and it is probably still growing.
I truly believe that the Age of Reason is essential for the proper spiritual growth of the child. However, I believe letting too much of the “good thing” may be disastrous for the child.
One of my beliefs showed my reliance in Catholic dogma: when I had read online about Pope John Paul II, I had seen one of his works known as Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason), which labelled the Papal views of the relationship of faith and reason – which, to this day, I still believe in. It stated that faith and reason were not only compatible, but for all spiritual intentions essential together, for it is argued that faith without reason led to superstition and reason without faith led to relativism and nihilism. A view closely shared by the Baha’i faith.
That was my problem: I had too much reason, and yet I had believed that I did not need God. This is what I do not like about Theism, it may be not be majority, but I have seen a lot of people be fatalistic, letting God decide the outcome of their hard work instead of making sure to receive the outcome they want. I was nihilistic, what I wanted was all that mattered, God was there for purely aesthetic purposes and my life had no meaning other than material happiness.
So here I was, undergoing puberty and satisfied but not happy. It is said that I myself choose my happiness, yet it was still very hard to choose to be happy when everything you thought to be true turned out to be something else entirely.
My doubt is still growing. All of it has questions; all of it will have answers, though I am sure that I will not get answers for it all. While most people my age are concerned about relationships, grades and the like, I concerned myself about God, something which isn’t unheard of, but for the case of the society I live in, it is unordinary.
Whenever I go to Church, I participate. Though my mind usually wanders during the readings and the singing, my heart is participating, though my brain is in the clouds. There’s just something about being a member of the group that feels so comforting.
I guess a lot of my beliefs are still Catholic. I can’t help it. It all falls down to the great probability of my birth, and I guess God had decided I’ll be Catholic.
This Holiday season, it is a tradition in my country to attend Misa de Gallo, a mass that is celebrated late in the evening or early in the morning. It is celebrated every night starting the evening of December 15 or early December 16. Popular belief says that if you complete all masses of the Misa de Gallo, that God will grant you a wish. I never really believed that God would have fully intervened, though I did believe that God would have done something as a reward. Maybe it is a reward for the person and not some material wish.
I woke up early December 16 prepared to begin by waking up excruciatingly early – until I was stopped by a headache that forced me to go back to bed. So I decided that I wouldn’t participate this year – showing how my Age of Reason is slowly distancing me from the Church of my birth.
Though I am not embarrassed by my views, all I worry about is how a lot of the people I know would probably hide the fact that they didn’t believe, or would hide the fact that they believed in something else.
Now I’m 16, and my Age of Reason has not yet passed nor has it fully grown yet. There are still so many questions; there are still so many things to answer. I don’t know what will happen of my future, whether this doubt shall continue to control my life. I’m sure in ten years I’ll still be Catholic. I love the Church too much to let go. All that I was really sure of is that this complicated watch had been made by a Watchmaker who was not sure of what He had brought to life.
(Originally posted in the author’s blog.)
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