Religion and spirituality are tricky subjects when it comes to defining the person I see in the mirror. Leftist political views as well as my outright allegiance to LGBT equal rights and marriage would have had me excommunicated from the Catholic Church from the time I took my first communion vows-yes, even at that young age I thought differently.
Although baptism was painless (got to wear the mini wedding dress with the veil ,white gloves and my Buster Brown patent leathers), the sacrament of Confirmation would not take place in the near or distant future. Although, I attended and survived the weekly classes, the decision was made to hold off on the commitment before choosing my confirmation name. I was not ready. It did not feel right. The decision to commit to a dedicated religious life absorbed in guilt and yearly confessions would have to wait until later when and if maturity set in.
I remained a sporadic Catholic throughout most of my adult life, going to services when it was convenient or after some emotional trauma. Guilt going in to service and guilt coming out of service-the perpetual sinner can never find redemption. Rituals followed throughout the liturgical calendar year. I was not devout and did not adhere to the guidelines for repentance and prayers and conveniently forgot confession prior to receiving communion and would never attain “poster child” status due to my lack of pledges and proselytizing.
Eventually my presence at services ended but I read the bible infrequently to make up for it. I lived life, partying, working, career driven, relocating across country, establishing my career, losing my career and relocating back. However, mí Alma salio de mí cuerpo… family illness moved in and I sought respite at a Catholic church in Brooklyn.
The church I went to in Brooklyn has a façade set in dark stone, some, dislodged and missing. The grey gargoyles near the steeple peer down crouched in their perches as if preparing for flight. The interior ceilings once white washed contain water stains and holes while the tile flooring is dingy, caked with dirt. It is in need of structural repairs and lacks the finances to get it done.
A Church can be grand, with flaws and all and this church is grand because its priests deliver uplifting sermons and parishioners who remain steadfast regardless of their dwindling numbers or strained finances continue to attend services.
I attended this church three to four times a week during mom’s doses of cocktails and discovered peace, stillness and comfort. Incense did not burn during mass, communion wafers were divided in half and electrical candles replaced the wax and wicks. It was cold, very cold during the winters and hot and humid during the summers. Nevertheless, I continued to attend because I needed to. Sitting in the pew, in the dimly lit church with the altar before me, allowed perseverance and hope to seep into my thoughts and strengthen me.