I’ve always had a hard time being a good Catholic.
Growing up, I was the kid who asked too many questions, challenged outdated notions, thought the restrictions for women were uncool, and generally chafed at the institution of religion. I really almost never got in trouble but did manage to get kicked out of Sunday school classes for an entire year (!) due to my challenges to some of the ideas we were being taught. I was curious and wanted to know about ALL the religions. My parents were open minded and kindly allowed me to explore.
As a kid, I was fascinated with the Hebrew script in the Torah at my friend’s Saturday school classes.
My Mom’s cool “New Age” friend I followed around like a puppy, soaking up all of her very alternative theories. As a teen, I studied Taoism and looked into all of the many Hindu gods and goddesses, despite also getting confirmed as a Catholic. As an adult, the freedom to explore what worked with my personal philosophy has landed me labeling myself as a Buddhist, or maybe a Buddhist-leaning-Stoic. The labels aren’t clear, but the problems of switching religions remain, as now I’m a bad Buddhist instead of being a bad Catholic. I kill the spiders in my house, I’m not a vegetarian, I swear wayyyyy too much, and my meditation practice is frequently interrupted by thoughts about how to eliminate suffering for myself and others.
What I have done instead of worrying about the labels so much is to take the best of the world I grew up with and combined it with some of the principles and theories that I have enjoyed studying for the past 30 plus years.
Now I know some (ok, many) folks would say this is cheating and that I should align with one instead of mixing things together. However, my brain likes to mix and match though so I’m sticking with this approach. One combination I have found particularly fruitful is to continue to honor the concepts of sacrifice and growth present in the traditional Catholic practice of Lent.
Some years Lent looks like 40 days of self-improvement, like a daily meditation challenge.
Other years Lent consists of self-compassion work or something designed to encourage regular kindness to myself. Several years Lent has looked like giving to others. This year I am returning to an old standby: giving something up. Lent is typically done in collaboration with one of my best friends, who also grew up Catholic. The combination of doing something deliberately for 40 days, done in connection with a friend, aligned with values and rated daily for success is a winning combination for sure.
Remember that above comment about swearing too much?
Well for the next 38 days (Lent started two days ago) I owe my daughter 25 cents each time I swear. She is hoping it’s a profitable time for her. My friend went for double time commitment and gave up BOTH swearing and soda. Ask me next time you see me how the sacrifice is coming along, and what growth I’ve noticed. I’d be happy to share.