Editor’s note: Hannah Krieg is often very critical of people who accept the beliefs of their parents, or the first and only option they have explored. When she stepped away from Catholicism, she stepped away from all religion without a second glance. So, Hannah is visiting different places of worship in order to rectify this hypocrisy and hopefully have a meaningful spiritual experience along the way.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth, and, somewhere down the line, he made me.
He made the water I was baptized in, the Eucharist I received each Mass, and the white cotton of the dress I wore when I was confirmed. God made all these things, and yet, he could not make me keep faith.
I thought about that white dress as my sweaty palms smoothed out the blue fabric of the dress I now own for special occasions. Returning to Catholic church for the first time in five years definitely reached that bar.
That morning, I slept through my alarm. Maybe because my alarm is a recording of birds chirping, maybe because I had spent the previous night partying –– I could use some Jesus after that. With only enough time to comb through my hair, I made my way to Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. There were so many beautiful things about being in a Catholic Mass, from the stained glass windows to the families that had little blonde girls with bows in their hair to the way every word was sung on a pitch in a fashion that rivaled Les Misérables. The very idea of people coming together and celebrating something they had no concrete evidence of existing was beautiful.
But it was also frightening –– the way my mouth moved, remembering all the words to all the prayers, or the way babies cried in mass that made my cynical brain ask if they knew they were being unwillfully indoctrinated.
I wanted to start this column by going to Catholic church. I felt by returning to the genesis of my journey with religion, I would find out what I want to say and how I want to move forward. But after going to Mass, embarrassing myself half to death by grabbing the Eucharist with my two front teeth, I realized I left more confused than before.
So, I emailed the two priests who led the mass I attended and was pleasantly surprised when we set up an interview that fell within 24 hours.
I was more nervous about the interview than I was for Mass, but take away the grandeur of the church with its rows upon rows of pews, detailed ornamentation at every turn of your head, strangers surrounding you, and ceremonial practices so familiar yet so foreign just yards away, and you just have a girl and two priests in an office with a soothing blue color palette.
“When you ask questions and it leads you away from the church, you need to ask more questions,” Father Thomas Aquinas Pickett, who has been at Blessed Sacrament just over a year, told me. “The danger is when you stop asking questions and you get comfortable.”
At first, this advice was comforting. I was on that right path. I was certainly asking questions, and I was also not shutting the church out or getting comfortable in my beliefs. Then we got into the topic of spiritual experiences and fulfillment. This was less comforting.
Father Thomas says he finds fulfillment in the set rules and morals that inform his life decisions. He describes this as a compass –– steady and consistent, as opposed to a weathervane that changes with a gust of wind. Despite having his own “Copernican revolution” of a spiritual experience, he maintains that, “spiritual experiences are not the point.”
Rather, “religion is about what we owe to God,” Father Dominic David Maichrowicz, who has spent six years at Blessed Sacrament, said. It was at that moment I realized I was going about this all wrong.
I was using religion for my own personal gain, as a form of expression and consumerism. The entire premise of this project was to shop around to find a fulfilling spiritual outlet. If I genuinely wanted to attempt to find meaning through a religion, I was going to have to put in more work than waking up a little earlier on a Sunday and shopping around for the shallow buzz of a spiritual experience.
My original plan now seemed foolish. I almost wanted to scrap the whole column and stop bothering with religion altogether. Then I remembered, I only looked at one religion. My personal history with religion was repeating. I had to keep looking. I am not going to give up on God or my precious spiritual experience that easily again.
Reach writer Hannah Krieg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @Hannah_krieg
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