I was raised Catholic. My grandmother, orphaned at ten years old grew up in a convent until her Great Aunt took her in while she recovered from some tropical and now-deceased childhood affliction Her elder sister remained at the convent with the gentle nuns and joined the cloister. What a different story our family history may have painted had she not escaped Scarlett fever or Turbeculosis or Polio or whatever nearly killed her. Makes you think how hard the bloodline works to find itself in your veins. Thank you for the high cheekbones and disordered eating, Grandmother.
Against the backdrop of nurture, we were all raised very Catholic. When I have been decimated by the trials of living I find myself on my knees to God offering up my life in blind faith.
Today is Good Friday and for the non-Christians, it is the day when Jesus dies for our sins. Don’t feel bad yet- we do that later, he has to die or he can’t resurrect and save us all from our sins. If that isn’t the example of life’s inevitable destiny, I don’t know what is.
On Good Friday, one fasts and goes to church to recite “Stations of the Cross” a 14-bit prayer where you reflect on each step of the crucifixion and Christ’s resurrection. It is exactly at this point when the Catholic guilt goes full bore and this little heroine feels small and selfish and ingratiating. Yes, Jesus died for me and what have I done but said unkind words and been a brat to those around me? Whip out the rosary beads bitches, we’re asking for absolution.
In the quiet, cool stoned and silent church, I sit and reflect and pray my soul out to not do drugs. I watched a snippet of an interview with Mike Tyson (ear chewer) who preaches to me about how within us all rages a war between God and Satan and the bad thoughts are placed by the Devil to take us away from the righteous path. I do like biblical language. Probably because Old Testament God who smites my enemies is always on my side.
In the silence, I hear God tell me that to speak with your heart is the true vocation of the writer. I think about the role of the artist as being a complete expression of their individualism and how creating something beautiful and from purity of joy is the highest form of the soul. And to be good is to create truth. Did Jesus die to unblock my writer’s block? Cause that was thoughtful.
What I learned from my Christian upbringing 101. Be kind to others and keep your selfishness in check. I have been selfish and unkind. Especially in love. Being offered someone’s love is such an honour and even if you don’t want it, maybe don’t spit it out and say it wasn’t what I wanted to eat. Chew politely before leaving it in the linen napkin.
I use the internet to read through a guided annotation of the ‘stations of the cross’. Catholic.org tells me that Jesus falling and getting back up to carry his own cross to his own death party is an example I should keep in my pretty head when times are tough and I feel like my patience is being tested by being offered the same lesson to perpetually learn. Sounds a lot like “get the fuck up” which is what my mother would say, the OG Catholic princess.
The thing about this inherited faith which, would have surpassed me had I been born into a well-to-do middle-class atheist home, is how much it is tied to my sense of identity and family. Even away from the watchful gaze of my Grandma and Mother I still choose to go to mass, I still choose to fast (“SJ, don’t tell anyone about it or you lose the merit gained from Jesus. No one likes a humble brag”; “Yes, mother”). I choose to be a better person. Even If I am occasionally Satan-curious. Inshallah to God’s never-ending forgiveness, from that well I pick myself up and watch the clock while thinking of not smoking heroin to feel nothing.
Time to watch Passion of the Christ! Bang Bang. Those are the nails going into his hands.
(Waiting for salvation, patiently)