I come from a very staunch Catholic family. My aunt has a life-sized picture of herself receiving the host from the pope. My grandmother prays with a rosary blessed by the pope himself. My mother goes on pilgrimages to the Vatican and Lourdes. I have visited other denominations and loved their services but I remain Catholic.
As a kid, I remember my cousins and I dreading evenings where in my grandmother and great-grandmother would get together for prayers. This meant that instead of the customary 5 decades of the rosary, we were going to be reciting all 15. For over an hour, we would sit there droning on like perfect little soldiers 150 recitations of Holy Mary mother of God pray for us poor sinners now and the hour of our death amen . We took turns saying the leading Hail Mary Full of Grace the lord is with thee, Blessed art thou amongst women and Blessed is the fruit of their womb, Jesus. We used to joke that it must be something about old age as it seemed like they were always praying. My more cynical cousin used to say they were trying to pray themselves into heaven. When asked to join the prayers my uncle once said my grandmother prayed so much he was sure that even if he did not make it to heaven on his own, my grandmother would leave a window open for him.
In retrospect now, all grown up and not as pious as I think I should be, I miss those nights. The Rosary brought us together as a family. We may have been reciting the words without appropriately meditating on them but it was great being together.
As an adult, I have less than stellar opinions about the Catholic church but I will never leave. The traditions and prayers and rituals bring me peace. Every time I walk into a Catholic church, no matter what part of the world I am in, a sense of peace comes over me. From the most decorated Catholic church in Rome, to the simple bamboo church in Ecuador, I am filled with an otherwordly sense of peace. I know one does not find God in the building or the possessions of the church but rather in a gathering of people like the ones we had in my childhood, but for me, I find something in Catholic edifices.
Recently, my grandmother asked me if I was still Catholic because I have a couple of cousins who have defected. She seemed to ask me with a sense of trepidation as if scared I would break her heart by saying no I was not. Normally, when I answer a question about my religious practices, I am sure to clarify that I am not a blind catholic.;I recognise her faults. However I could not say this to my grandmother because I knew that she would not understand. She comes from the same cloth as my mother who said to me with a straight face that sex between a man and woman was solely for procreation. I looked up to see if she was joking but she stared right back at me. She will kill me if she read this but she most especially hates for me to talk about priests who have fathered children or pregnant nuns.
Hopefully I do not get excommunicated for admitting this but I cannot honestly recall the last time I attended mass; It may have been a year ago for Ash Wednesday. I can barely remember the last time I said the Rosary and I did not give up anything for Lent this year. Being a christian is hard these days. The temptation to judge is almost as strong as the temptation to sin. I do not try to be a leader or beacon of light for anyone but rather, I seek to live my life as best I can and find peace where ever I can even if it is the four walls of a building that just happens to be named after a saint.