On Being a Self-Hating Catholic and Ernest Hemingwannabe
Our story continues in which our Hero is in the midst of regaling his Catholic comrades with a tale of woe and heartache, a yarn of mental deprivations and emotional turmoil, a timeless speech of impeccable rhetoric and colorful banter, this is, dear reader, Part the Second of the Limping Along series.
Yeah, it’ll be a series. Deal wid it.
For those of you first tuning in, might I recommend you give Limping Along (Part I) a read afore you turn your sights upon this. Backstory is always important, you understand.
For the rest of you lot, this next passage continues where I left off: in the midst of giving my testimony to my Focus Mission Group. It’s about as bitchin’ as it sounds.
Gentlemen, ready your canes and adjust your monocles. Maidens fair, contain thy selves and resist the vapors. In the words of Gork (and possibly Mork) ‘ere we go!
I’ve always been naturally rebellious – who would’ve thought, right? – so my conversion to a faith made up of rules, with a clear hierarchy, and a long history of structured order caught many people off guard. Seems like I traded the military for another branch of service. And, hey, could you believe it, I soon found myself questioning the point of everything in Catholicism.
One reason I had converted in the first place was that sense of belonging. I’ve never fit in anywhere no matter how hard I’d try to adapt. I’ve always had an unconventional outlook on Life and a very unorthodox approach to experiencing it. Selfish. Arrogant. Lost. Quick to trust. Quicker to help. When I first started going to Mass, I thought I had finally belonged. People accepted me for me it seemed: a courageous convert, a budding Catholic. It felt good to belong.
But after the priest had anointed me with oil and I was officially Catholic, that sense of belonging was soon replaced by feelings of inadequacy. Now that I was Catholic, part of the universal church, I wasn’t Catholic enough.
I didn’t know the prayers properly. The Byzantine rules and rituals of the faith. Sure, we glossed over it in RCIA, but a 2000-year-old church’s many nuances can’t very well be learned in less than a year. I soon found myself dreading Mass – whereas before I was eager – because I thought I had exchanged one prison for another.
I wasn’t free in my faith: I was judged and mocked as before. The combat fatigues were merely replaced with clerical collars and modest dress.
In the few years between my conversion and now (mid July 2016), I essentially stopped going to Mass on the reg. Sure, I went to church with my family because I’ve always enjoyed that small Presbyterian church in dusty, ol’ New Mexico; the very same one with an aging population and a horde of little old ladies that still pinch my cheeks and read my blog.
Yeah, I brought up the blog during my testimony, because I’m a shameful pusher.
At least there, amidst those frumpy purple dresses and bland bread, I felt closer to belonging.
But it was wholly inadequate, you know? Claiming to be a Catholic but not practicing it – what’s the point of that, then – I found myself asking quite a bit. I didn’t pray – Lord knows I should have – and I looked for answers in other things.
Now, I said to my captive audience, no doubt dying of sheer boredom as I blabbered on about finding Mr. Jesus and what have you, I am a writer by passion. I don’t consider myself a good writer, but I’ve been told throughout my lifetime, by people of various walks of Life, that I’m not too shabby. (Side note: though I detest being called so and make it known, I do take a secretive, perverse delight in being called, “fucking brilliant.”) I wrote to cope, to question, to understand where I was in my Life and where I was going. It helped to write about faith and God and Good and Evil and everything. It just helps.
Writing allowed me to fight my depression on my terms. It allowed me to express myself to others without directly expressing myself – I’m a huge fan of metaphor, allusion, and allegory (as any recipients or readers of my work could attest) – and allowed me to be me. Two sides of the same coin: the uncouth and unapologetic spoken barbarian with a drawl was the same man as the eloquent, thoughtful, loving writer. When the ink flowed from the pen, I felt better than all the booze, smoke, and coke combined.
But the antihero still needs his vices, you understand.
But it wasn’t enough to just write, I added, because writing too needs experiences to build upon. What sort of experiences were to be found in my dusty hometown? And as my good friend here (gesturing to her) suggested, perhaps a nice, long walk would be beneficial for me. Not just as a cantankerous writer, but as a person.
“God loves you,” she would constantly remind me during our monthly(ish) conversations. Typically I’d be knee-deep in a 12-pack, half a pack already in my lungs, pens and papers all over the place as she said so, time and again, with patience and genuine love for me. “What’s God asking you to do,” she’d inquire; always urging me to ask God (right? Ask God??) for assistance, for help, for someone to talk to.
The Camino to Santiago has always been alluring to me, and after watching her go and conquer the Way, I decided I would do the same. Hell, I thought, maybe I’ll save what’s left of my soul whilst I’m out there. Without much heed given to planning, I embarked upon a three-month quest to find myself, accrue some worthy experience, and simply disappear for a bit.
I reasoned the next bit can focus upon my first Camino – all the good and bad that entails. This was a 10-minute speech so I’ve plenty of material to cover.
Again, especially for my Chilean comrades, this isn’t verbatim, and I’m certain I’ve already taken creative liberties (my memory is mostly shit) with my testimony, but the story is essentially the same.
Thanks for reading. See you for the next installment!