HAPPY EASTER

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Wishing you all a happy, peaceful Easter spent with those you cherish.

This Easter I plan to work on forgiveness. Where misdemeanours are involved I find forgiveness easy but with major things I find that I have a vengeful heart.

Years ago I shunned the Catholic Church. This was difficult for me to do because I was devout, pious, truly one of the faithful. One priest changed everything for me, however. His heinous acts that altered the lives of my cousin and many other people I knew made it easy for me to walk away from the entire Church and all I had come to believe in. I hated that man. I hate that man. What he did in the name of God……..

For over 20 years I haven’t entertained the idea of walking into a Church to celebrate a Mass. It has been a decision that for the most part I haven’t regretted, this switching allegiances from faithful to faithless. I felt I was on the side of right, that my decision to reject an entire organisation because of the actions of one man was a sound one, an indisputable one.

Many of the flock came along for the ride – cousins, sisters, brothers, aunts, mothers, uncles, grandfathers. But their numbers have dwindled slowly as they returned to the place that gave them solace. So I stand alone, clutching my sense of self-righteousness like some kind of religious artifact. It is not a comfortable place to be.

You see, I have come to realise that despite everything that has happened, I miss the Church. The sense of the sacred, the beauty of the liturgy, feeling like you were in the presence of something greater than yourself when you joined everyone else’s voice in song.

Jesus Christ was a great man, an extraordinary man. A man to whom acts of forgiveness came as easily as breathing. And I wonder what he would think of me turning my back so him with such conviction. Would he understand or would he blame me for not being able to rise above my vengeful self?

Eight years ago, my dear Great Aunt Shona died. She was a remarkable woman. In 2002 Peter Mullan made a thought-provoking movie called The Magdalene Sisters about ‘fallen’ women in Ireland who were placed in reformatories run by the Sisters of Charity. There was much debate at the time as to whether or not the claims made in the movie were true. Mullan was widely criticised for bashing the Catholic Church.

I can tell you that the claims were true because my Great Aunt Shona was one of those women. In 1954 she became pregnant at the age of 17 to the widespread disbelief of her family. It was unacceptable. It was scandalous. She was branded with every negative appellation under the sun from sinner to scarlet woman. In those days there was no support for single mothers. There was nothing. It was suggested by the parish priest that Shona be placed in one of the reformatories run by the Sisters of Charity.

She worked ten hour days cleaning, cooking, doing laundry for the Sisters of Charity. (The Sisters primarily supported themselves by taking in laundry from local factories, hospitals, and so on.) It was a harsh, unforgiving existence.

When she went into labour nuns stood around her bed, reading aloud from the Bible in the hope that she wouldn’t give birth to a ‘child of the devil.’ Her son was born on August 24, 1954. ‘He had a good pair of lungs on him,’ Aunt Shona always said. She was not allowed to hold him. Although she searched for him years later and pretty much every day for the rest of her life, she never saw him again.

Aunt Shona was one of the fortunate ones. Blessed with a strong work ethic and a quick intellect, she won a scholarship to University, where she trained as a social worker. She worked tirelessly for years setting up homes for girls who found themselves in the same predicament she had, putting systems in place so they could keep their babies and find jobs.

During the hard times not once did she turn away from the Church. I know she was disappointed in me for my unmoving stance. ‘Accept God’s mercy,’ she would say. ‘Let Him help you.’

I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I didn’t want to give anyone in my family the satisfaction of saying : “See. I knew it was only a matter of time until she cracked, until she gave in.” But I have realised that maybe in being so intractable all I have done is hurt myself.

My neighbour called out to me as she was hanging out her washing yesterday. Good Friday. One of the most momentous days on the Christian calendar. The irony of her being called Grace, is not wasted on me. She is extremely religious. ‘God Bless you on this Easter Day,’ she said. She handed me a present wrapped in tissue paper, smelling of rosewater. It was a tiny, mother-of-pearl crucifix. I felt happiness as I held the tiny cross in my hand, so light I almost couldn’t feel it. But I also felt sadness because I knew I couldn’t turn down her offer to attend Mass with her.

Sadness, because part of me wants to remain unrepentant, unrelenting, flawed. I still believe. I still pray but my prayers take place outside next to trees and birds, under the sky. Some would say that I am fooling myself if I think this is enough, some would say it is all I need.

So I sat, full of trepidation, next to an elderly lady and her daughter in the old sandstone church down the road with the stained glass windows depicting the Stations of the Cross. To smell the incense and the worn, rich leather on the Bibles was like smelling a meal from childhood I almost thought I had forgotten. Cinnamon buns or deep crust apple pie. It was less awkward than I thought. And I didn’t feel as guilty as I had thought I would or that I had betrayed those who were wronged.

I don’t know if I’ll go to Mass again but I feel better than I have for years. I feel one step closer to forgiving the Church but also to forgiving myself. And that, I suppose, is what Easter is all about.

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18 thoughts on “HAPPY EASTER

  1. Oh Selma… I have no religion but I don’t deny others their right to search for and find faith, and we all walk a different path toward our final peace. I sincerely hope your path takes you to where you will be satisfied in, and can celebrating your faith in whatever manner that may turn out to be.

    I wish you all that you wish for yourself this Easter.

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  2. Some of the things that have been done to people in the name of religion are quite appalling and it can be difficult to separate faith from those specific acts. I think there’s always a balancing act between finding a spirituality you can be comfortable and finding a church you feel comfortable with, if that makes sense.

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  3. This post really touched me. I was raised in a different religion and my reasons for leaving it vastly different, but I too know that feeling of being cast adrift, unable or unwilling to return.

    Whichever direction your path takes, I wish you peace.

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  4. all i can say is priests are men.. while what ever that priest did was wrong,, evidently very wrong,, he is just a singular man,, and not the church as it lives in your heart.. follow your hear selma… maybe you can help make the church a better place…..

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  5. I am not a religious person Selma but I believe prayer can take place anywhere and so can faith. It need not take place in a church for it to be any more valid. You must always do what your heart tells you to and forgiveness needs to be something given willingly and without conditions. I hope you and your family have a wonderful, happy and safe Easter no matter how you choose to spend it.

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  6. ANGRY – you are so kind and thoughtful. Always. Thank you for your very valued comments.

    CRAFTY GREEN – you are so right. The balancing act is the key. I know exactly what you mean. I hadn’t wanted to post this because I didn’t want to anyone who is a practising Catholic to think I was having a go at them but every Easter and Christmas I am somewhat tortured by my lack of involvement with regard to celebrating in a religious sense. Your advice is spot on. Thank you.

    ROBIN – thank you so much for visiting and for your lovely comment. I appreciate your kindness.

    PAISLEY – to me you are a sage. Pure and simple. You always know what to say. ((((Hugs))))

    GYPSY – And to you too, dear Gypsy. I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately and hope you are OK. Happy, Happy Easter.

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  7. Oh sweetheart – you are in my thoughts and prayers. I know that feeling – the longing – the calling that comes from deep within you, underneath our reason and our flesh.

    Happy thoughts and hope for the peace that passes all understanding… wherever you can find it.

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  8. You are loved, believe it or not. That makes it okay to love yourself as well, I think. And, it is unfair to let a single person steal away your peace and faith. It is yours, so why not take it back? I really hope you do.

    Happy Easter to you, Selma.

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  9. That longing to be with others and joining them in song in order to touch that sacredness is something I understand. I also miss that fellowship. We humans don’t do all that well when we’re forced away from a community that reaches that spot in our hearts. So we search for it elsewhere, and if we allow ourselves to accept it, we will find it wherever we look.

    I found my sacred place in nature, and oddly enough, my fellowship online. But I still miss sitting in a building with others of the same belief, watching sunlight bring stained glass windows to life, while I send my voice out to carry familiar tunes to the Divine.

    Forgivness happens, but it cannot be forced. Ever. If you’re not ready, then it won’t work. Find your peace, find your Divine, and when you do, accept them, no matter where they are, for they will be in your Sacred place, be it in a church or a quiet glade, or on a rock near the sea.

    When my friend is feeling the need for that familiar connection with people, she attends a regular service at the church where she grew up. She sings the songs, speaks the liturgy, and soaks up that companionship, then she goes to her sacred place and has some quiet time with the Goddess. I’m still not at the point where I can go back to that building and sit with the people who… anyway, I’m not yet at that point, but maybe someday.

    Wonderful post, Selma, it gave me lots to think about.

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  10. Moving post Selma. I think you are doing plenty enough to be blessed. Organized religion is a divide and conquer war on mankind. It deprives us of true spirituality. Organized religion is a political man-made hierarchy that interdicts soul-awareness and reaching our universal consciousness. You have nothing to fear and no guilty to carry. I think you already know this though.

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  11. BRITT – that is such a great way to put it – ‘the peace that passes all understanding.’ You are the best!

    CHRIS – I’m going to, Chris. I’ve waited too long as it is.

    JIM – you are right, my friend. Thank you.

    MOMO – I do too. He is a very wise Irish boy!

    KAREN – what a shame we can’t go to Church together. Now why do you have to live on the other side of the world? Not fair.

    MELEAH – Happy Easter. Hope you have been feeling better.

    JOHNNY – I do already know it but sometimes it helps to write these things down. You know how it is. ((((Hugs)))

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  12. Selma, you are the absolute BEST kind of Catholic, the reason I am going back to church now too. This part of your entry made the most sense to me, and touched on exactly my whole conflict (I had not gone to church for some odd 10, and really began to feel the lack):

    “You see, I have come to realise that despite everything that has happened, I miss the Church. The sense of the sacred, the beauty of the liturgy, feeling like you were in the presence of something greater than yourself when you joined everyone else’s voice in song.

    Jesus Christ was a great man, an extraordinary man. A man to whom acts of forgiveness came as easily as breathing. And I wonder what he would think of me turning my back so him with such conviction. Would he understand or would he blame me for not being able to rise above my vengeful self?”

    The things is, it’s not the church (the people, the rituals, the meditative quality, the sensory connection to something greater than you) that is the problem. It is the close-minded, static, and rigid rules of the religious institution, and some of the men who preach it. So no matter what that man did, it certainly wasn’t in the name of God – not the God I know and love anyway, the one I go to be close to on Sundays.

    Take your time and find your space. Life is all about finding our place.

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  13. POET – you are so wise. It means so much to me that you understand. Thank you for taking the time to share your views. And life is all about finding our place. I couldn’t agree more.

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