Chapter Three: I Am The Sum of My Ancestors
I grew up in a staunch Catholic family, kind of. One part of my family, my mother’s side, was Catholic. My dad was United Brethren which then merged with the Methodist Church in my community. My dad’s family had Baptist, Assembly of God and even Jehovah Witnesses on his side.
I remember the first time I met a Jehovah Witness cousin from California. I was a teen and I was a little scared from what I had been taught from my Catholic roots but she was just like me and religion didn’t stand in the way of our friendship. I couldn’t figure out why I should be scared of her because she was from another religion that was not accepted in our Southern Minnesota culture.
I was taught the Catholic Church was the one true church and we were only ones that would get into heaven. I went to a strict Catholic School and having a sensitive spirit I was terrified of the nuns except maybe one or two. Their punishments could be hurtful. And I was terrified of sin and the repercussions. Which we still should be now. Sin is not exclusive to Catholics.
Although confession I thought was interesting. We were taught me to say “Bless me father for I have sinned” and then recite how many times we lied or disobeyed etc. from our last confession and then the Priest could give us absolution. I always guessed the number of times I did something because who kept count and as a child who could remember. And I never felt any better after I left the confessional. I always worried when I went to communion that I maybe shouldn’t go because I left something out. We also had to fast before communion and it was hard to make sure I didn’t eat the specified number of time before communion and what would people think if you didn’t go to communion?
It was also a sin to not go to church on Sundays so unless I was sick, Sunday Church was a weekly occasion along with Mass every morning when I attended Catholic School. When I was young the Mass was in Latin and I didn’t understand a word. It was a mysterious ceremony and then in school, we learned to sing in Latin. Again, mysterious words to a second and third grader.
There were many strict rules. And we learned many prayers which I still say today, at least the ones I feel move me spiritually. I feel that was a good thing. We were told never to question. And…I could never go to church with my father because he was Methodist and it would be a sin.
I always felt that loss of going to church as a family. There is something that connects us when we worship together as a family.
During my teenage years, my outlook on religion made me begin to question my Catholic roots but I did so silently. In my various high school activities, I met a Pastor at another church and I liked what he stood for and how he interacted with the teenagers at his church.
We used to have what was called Release Time on Wednesdays where we would leave school for an hour for religious instruction. The Lutheran Church had some good discussion topics pertaining to what as teenagers we were going through. Some of us skipped our Catholic instruction from time to time to go to Release Time at the Lutheran Church with our friends because they were giving us answers and help with our teenage angst. It was a little sign of my first rebellion. And I might add in those days you had to have a note to stay in school and not go. Times have changed.
Next Blog: My Lutheran Journey