Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter

Baskets & Hats

I grew up Catholic. My mother is French Canadian—from Nova Scotia—and my father Italian American, the only Italian with red hair I’ve ever known.

Every Easter my mother took me shopping for a new dress, coat, shoes and hat. This was one of the few times I remember we shopped together, and an even rarer occasion that I came home thrilled with my little girl outfit. I can close my eyes right now and see my pale sky blue coat with beautiful buttons, my white Easter hat with a wide rim and a ribbon that hung down from the side, my black paten leather shoes that the nuns told me never to wear with a skirt so the boys wouldn’t see the reflection of my underpants.

On Easter morning my brother and I would find two huge baskets, each filled with a giant chocolate bunny with buck teeth, Cadbury and little Hersey foiled-wrapped eggs, jellybeans, marshmallow chicks, and usually one stuffed toy rabbit.

We went to church as a family back then. I look back now and am surprised that even though we went every Sunday to the same Mass, we rarely greeted anyone we actually knew. Ours was a large parish and I don’t remember hearing much about community. I think that’s just the way it was then.

Communion & Confession

I was thrilled to make my first communication. I chose my Aunt Aggie to be my Godmother and she was surprised by that. I felt the presence of God when I put my white dress and white veil and white shoes.

I remember being so proud when I could go to confession by myself, and I walked a half mile almost every Saturday to do that. The stuffy smell of the confessional was a sanctuary for me, and when the priest slide that little wooden window open, and I told him that I lied to my mother or smoked a cigarette or cheated on my social studies test, I went from sinner to saint. Afterwards I would linger in the church and visit the Stations of the Cross, sometimes but not always whispering the rosary all the way through.

Mass & Mystery

I love mass to this day. The tradition, the hymns, the holy water, taking communion, reading the gospel. But I have to work at it to find my place there. And sometimes I don’t agree with the sermons, with the emphasis on patriarchy and a judging shaking finger overhead telling me what’s right and wrong.

Sinners & Saints

I stopped being a practicing Catholic after I married my husband and a priest told us if we did not raise our children Catholic they would not be able to enter heaven, and if we dared to use birth control, we would not be able to get there either. I remember thinking about overpopulation in India at the time, and just not agreeing with him, not one bit.

When Jessica was born, I found a priest who allowed us to call her baptism a “celebration” and that satisfied my mother. Mostly. Back then she told me my departure from the Catholic Church was to spite her and I should remember that at her funeral. My mother doesn’t say anything like that any more, not in any way, but I struggled with her dogmatic insistences at the time.

Then, after my marriage fell apart and I began a loving relationship with a woman and not a man--I knew I could no longer belong to the Catholic Church. That’s still how it is, and I’m okay with that, but I’m also angry that the church does not and will not support and bless so many gay and lesbian Catholics throughout the world.

Ashrams & Chants

My friend Willa got into new age philosophy and took me to an Ashram where the head folks wore orange robes and had red dots on their heads. From the start the place felt spiritual: lit candles everywhere, incense that even today transports me to somewhere safe, and chanting. It was the chanting that did it. I would find myself in a meditative state, relaxed and content, and when someone said, “God dwells within you as you,” I understood it.

Today I still meditate though not often enough, and I still love chanting and drumming. I’m sorry to say I never felt that “inner dwelling” at mass the way I came to understand it at the Ashram.

Gods & Goddesses

I struggled with my Catholic faith on and off for years, and especially at Easter and Christmas. Then I read a book by Marion Zimmer Bradley called The Myths of Avalon. I read about the role of women and the Goddess and how the catholic hierarchy inaccurately revised their histories and mysticisms. The book is fiction, but I discovered a Goddess who took her place along side a God, and she has not left me since.

Fast Forward

So here I am on Easter weekend 2009. I don’t have a new Easter outfit, I don’t think I’ll have an Easter basket, and I won’t go to Mass. But God dwells within me as me. I know that to be true. In fact, that feels like the most important thing I’ll ever know.

Blessed Easter wishes to my Christian friends. Thanks yet again for the pleasure of your company.
P.S. Yup, that's me.

40 comments:

  1. kj please tell people not to bite any rabbit ears or asses. they should already know but just in case.

    yours truly,
    emily rabbit

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  2. kj thank you for sharing this wonderful post.

    When you were talking about the confessional and holy water you would have laughed because I was salivating. Oh church come to Mama.

    I have stated already how much I love the traditions.

    By the way that was some frist communion outfit. Gorgeous.

    Anyway. I love the ceremony and I feel that I will feel however the heck I want and take what I want and agree with what I want or not.

    I may not agree with everything the Prime Minister says but I am not leaving Canada -- that is for everyone who says if you don't like it leave. Well no I'm not leaving anything. So fuck off.

    But the churches stand on gay relationships, second marriages, birth control to me are all ridiculous.

    But I am proud that Canada recognizes gay marriage.

    The ashram where you discovered inner peace sounds amazing.

    Love to you at Easter.

    Love Renee xoxoxo

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  3. hello renee! i left a comment on your blog too saying i truly thought of you while writing this post. i'll help you salivate anytime, my friend! i agree with everything you said. xoxo

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  4. Goodnight Moon sister. Love it.

    No, I probably won't go to church tomorrow. I could, but I don't know if I can be bothered.

    As much as I love parts of it, the smell, the candles, the benches. The benches also kill my back.

    Love Renee and love the moon sister.

    xoxo

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  5. KJ, please give my sky blue coat back and the straw hat with the ribboned brim. And my patent leather T-straps!!! What the F...!

    I remember going to Sunday School at the Ruggles Street Baptist Church in Roxbury, Mass one Easter Sunday and I threw myself down this huge flight of stairs because I just couldn't bear the thought of going. Besides, we were going to have our pictures taken and I was insanely terrified of the flash of the camera.
    I really and truly have no good church memories. So sad.
    I tried so hard to break my leg that day.

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  6. Oh...Happy Easter!!!

    I'm not usually doom and gloom so I thought I'd pop back and say something nice :P

    xoxoxo
    lolo

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  7. lolo, i just love you so much! you make me laugh even when it's not funny! you are the real deal in every way. hey, renee consented to be my moon sister! how about that?!
    (please have a chocolate egg for breakfast tomorrow. xoxxo

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  8. Easter Greetings KJ ... I'm with Emily Rabbit*!*

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  9. I was raised Roman Catholic.
    But unfortunately my mother failed to teach me the real values of being a Christian.
    I understood that very quickly as a child. The fact that she wanted me to be a Roman Catholic to belong to the right cast soon became obvious to me. I could not live a lie. Pretending to be a Christian to the outside world and living a different life inside.
    So I gave it up not long after she had forced me to take my Holy Communion.
    Now I am no longer Roman Catholic, but I consider myself a better person. I try to be honest and I help people.

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  10. i was born jewish and tried really hard to practise it the 'right'way. but early on i realised that all religions are so 'man made' and so 'false' that i practise nothing now, not in a formal way. but inside i have such faith and am such a good person, and that's all that counts. my niece had the same experience as you did and now lives very happily with her female lover and companion, but my brother and family (religious jews) have never forgiven her! what a loada crap!!! BE WHO YOU ARE is all that counts to me!!!
    i had passed on my award to you, but hadn't linked you...silly old me! will do it now...hugs.

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  11. Happy Easter to you and Emily!

    What a wonderful post. I was not raised with religion, but I've always tried to be a good person. I think if I were to pick a church today, it would be Unitarian, because I'd like to attend the buffet line of religion and pick and choose the best parts.

    I hope your day is filled with candies and sweets for Emily, and hugs and love for you. :)

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  12. One hot, humid day in first grade my Nun teacher told me not to wear my long, thick hair in a bun because I wasn't old enough. wtf? The same Nun, armed with a wooden ruler, who once rapped me on the knuckles for talking. The guilt! The guilt! (hand on forehead) Sister Marie Bernadette... aka Sister Marie Bulldog.

    Aaw, the sparkle in your eyes!

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  13. Emily,
    um... my Daddy gave me a chocolate bunny... besides the ears and ass... can I bite the other parts?

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  14. A great post KJ. Happy Easter.

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  15. moon sister, sit in a comfy chair with your slippers on, close your eyes, breathe deep, and hear the choir. xo

    lo, are you eating your choc. eggs yet? xo

    bimbimbie, hello! i'll be visiting you today sometime too. happy easter. will you eat choc. for breakfast too? :)

    peter, i know what you mean. it sounds like your mother got it quite wrong. you are a wonderful and good person, my dear friend.
    that's obvious to anyone who knows you.

    soulbrush, i think i practice as you do. that's why i like the idea of god being inside us as us. my mother and i did not talk for almost 9 years because of my sexual preference. it was heart wrenching for both of us, but that is in the past. we had the gift of a happy ending. (i might write about it sometime. it's an interesting story, actually).
    love you today, soulbrush. keep painting and keep searching. oh, and thanks so much for the award.

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  16. bella, you know, any one can be any one in the blogs. but sometimes it just so totally clear when a person is genuine and good, and that is what i know is true about you. unitarian is my choice too. i've gone to that service several times. my problem is giving up my favorite sunday mornings to do anything but read the sunday papers, eat a leisurely breakfast. and relax relax.

    chewy, those nuns took no prisoners! i remember when i first met one who was kind and sweet. i had to get myself reoriented. i was a good kid but spunky so i got suspended from christian doctrine classes more than once. i can't imagine your hair in a bun, chewy! haha. :)

    chief, a blessed easter to you and your family. i wonder who will be there with you today?

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  17. chewy, hmmmmmm. i never thought of that. how will you bite the middle without biting the top and you-know-what? hmmmmm. maybe you should just eat chocolate people instead. kj said you might consider a chocolate dick cheney...
    but then she said, yuk forget that.

    sincerely
    emily

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  18. LOL! No chocolate Dicks for me. (covering my mouth and blushing)

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  19. (rolling on the floor unable to stop laughing)

    oh chewy! you are TOO clever!!

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  20. KJ, I didn't have any chocolate eggs for breakfast. I stopped by Renee's and told her the Easter bunny skipped my house this year.
    Little bugger.

    Thank goodness I don't like candy or I'd be pouting all day. I really do dislike being left out :(

    I have my friends though! What would I do without you?
    xoxoxo

    Happy Easter. You do look sweet in the Communion dress ;)

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  21. lolo, awwwh, my dearest friend, sometimes you may need to hand deliver your own chocolate eggs to your own precious self. there's still time!

    don't worry about doing without your friends, me included. you are a keeper!

    lovelovelovelovelovelovelovelove
    kj

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  22. I have good church memories and bad church memories. My parent's pretty much had religion shoved down their throats, so they left us kids alone-took us to church if we asked, let us go with other's and basically said "make up your own mind".

    I think they were a little frightened during my years of opening questioning-they aren't that bold after all. But I refused to profess a belief I did not have, because I was certain if there was a hell that would get me there.

    Now my faith is quieter and comes from many places and people. It's nothing I can name or quantify, but it is more solid and sure than when I tried so hard to fit in to one or another.

    I used to enjoy thinking about whether we were divine, or the divine was just in us, then I realized one day it's one and the same. People get far too caught up in words I think.

    The best gift I have been given is that I truly don't sit around and worry about the afterlife any more. I hope I have more autonomy and can spend more time with animals, but whatever it is, or isn't, I'll cope when the time comes. And, if it truly isn't at all-who cares? Neither the believers or non believers will sit around laughing at each other-that's only a past time reserved for this life.

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  23. Past time-pass time.

    But I kind of like the typo.

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  24. Another beautiful post...Happy Easter!

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  25. Happy Easter to you too although I'm not at all religious and I can't stand the dogma of Church in any way shape or form. I did however, marry a Catholic and agreed to raise mine as Catholics . . didn't work! One's an atheist and the other agnostic! Easter's just a nice four days off for me! Keep the faith kj . .

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  26. Happy Easter!

    Is that you in the picture?

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  27. debra kay, i'll be looking for you at that heavenly gate, or the other way around (you looking for me, that is). i'll recognize you by all those adoring animals around you. xo

    thank you annie. a happy day to you too.

    it didn't work for me, either, baino. jessica has no real religion but then she went and married a catholic so now the kids are catholic. go figure. xo

    sidney, that's me. i was angelic at the time.... :)

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  28. this is such a lovely post!!! loved reading it all thru!

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  29. how do we know, thank you very much!

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  30. Debra Kay is freaking me out. I've been working on a book of sorts called "Quiet Religion."

    DK...get out of my head!

    xoxo

    KJ, I was okay not having chocoltae eggs for breakfast. I had Sauvignon Blanc and yukon gold potato chips for Easter dinner ;)
    I made my own party!

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  31. Reading my first post after a week - glad it was this one. Mists of Avalon changed alot for me in many ways also.

    we'll have breakfast (or such) soon. Weekends are still crowded with family chores and family fun! New York city calls my name for a few of those.

    Be good!

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  32. I love this post. I am blessed to have had parents and church communities all my life that seemed nothing but welcoming and accepting. Sure, those old white men in Rome may disagree with me, but I refuse to believe that I cannot be Catholic just because I do not agree with the Church. I think more and more young Catholics like me (born and raised immersed in the faith--hello, Catholic grammar school, high school, college and graduate school!) will eventually change the Church. I hope we will.

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  33. This is an excellent post and I wish we could discuss this over a bottle of wine because I so agree with you.

    I'm just finding my way back - I keep bearing in mind what our young priest tells me - the people are the church. Yes we are. It's our church and I think we should caim it ;D

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  34. Wow, a big life style change! I like the way you are so honest. I think a lot of people are questioning the churches views and manipulation of Gods word that the church has and is doing. I stopped going to church after a pastor who committed adultery twice married me and my third husband. His sermon in our marriage ceremony was about about sex before marriage and he mentioned we all know about Julie's past. I was so upset because I had married a man who sneaked out of bed at night to another women and my second husband is gay so left me for another man. I wasn't unfaithful. I felt like Pastor had a problem with his unfaithfulness and felt guilty for marrying me so justified himself in the sermon. All my friends and family jokingly came up to ask me what about my past life? My marriage sermon was spoilt, but my marriage is a excellent, third time lucky! I tend to dwell on what I feel is right about God and that He wishes us to all share kindness and love.
    Your right to keep the knowledge and love that God is within you. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  35. Wow, a big life style change! I like the way you are so honest. I think a lot of people are questioning the churches views and manipulation of Gods word that the church has and is doing. I stopped going to church after a pastor who committed adultery twice married me and my third husband. His sermon in our marriage ceremony was about about sex before marriage and he mentioned we all know about Julie's past. I was so upset because I had married a man who sneaked out of bed at night to another women and my second husband is gay so left me for another man. I wasn't unfaithful. I felt like Pastor had a problem with his unfaithfulness and felt guilty for marrying me so justified himself in the sermon. All my friends and family jokingly came up to ask me what about my past life? My marriage sermon was spoilt, but my marriage is a excellent, third time lucky! I tend to dwell on what I feel is right about God and that He wishes us to all share kindness and love.
    Your right to keep the knowledge and love that God is within you. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  36. Your writing and the picture really bring back the nice memories of beautiful dresses, Easter and things from the past! You look adorable and happy :) Life seemed simpler and less complicated but it probably wasn't...

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  37. a wonderful post... really enjoyed reading about this journey within...

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  38. I love this First Communion picture.

    I wanted to let a certain someone know that I received a book in the mail yesterday. And a copy of a birthday poem.

    Thank you for both.

    I read the book yesterday afternoon and kj it is so good. You are such a good writer.

    The book left me feeling sorry for many of the characters and also how complex relationships can be.

    I was surprised with the accident at the end. (Don't want to say too much to ruin surprise for the other readers.)

    Oh and by the way, I thought the cover looked great.

    Thank you kj. I totally enjoyed it.

    Love Renee xoxox

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  39. kj I too wish we could talk over tea about it because you know it inside and out and my memory is like a sieve.

    I really liked it and could talk about it all night with you.

    I didn't think there were any villains either. Although I thought that Alex was, uuummmhhh, I don't really know. In some ways I thought she might have been playing a game. And you just can't do that.

    Renee xoxo

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