1st Communion, a Personal Struggle, and the Pope.
The little one has been preparing for her First Communion. Not only is it a photo-op, but more importantly shows that she has reached the age of discretion. She understands about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. She understands the respect that the consecrated bread and wine deserves, that the Catholic Church teaches that the spirit of Christ resides in the consecrated bread and wine. That spirit of Christ is taken into the body when we receive the Eucharist. The Eucharist is 'an outward sign of of an inward grace instituted by Christ'. The Eucharist is not necessary for salvation, according to the Roman Catholic Church.
She is able to state 'yes', when asked if she wants to continue in the way of Christ. This is always a choice for us, every moment of every day: We can say 'yes', or we can say 'no'. For now she chooses 'yes'. Both girls are quite amazingly spiritual - - even though the example provided by old Grizzly Mama is not always the best. I have my doubts and struggles and what with my cussing, spotty Mass attendance, and none too happy thoughts at times, I'm just not sure where they got it. I separated from the Catholic Church for many years - over a decade. Troll and I were married in the Catholic Church - - much to my dismay. He insisted and he is a good Italian Catholic - 'Just do what the Father says and don't ask questions' type of Catholic. When it came to baptising the girls I was in the middle of a full blown spiritual crisis. I always believed in God, and yes, Jesus. The Catholic Church? Not so much.
I couldn't proceed with the little one's baptism until I had this resolved in my mind. We didn't send the girls to Catholic school for a reason. That reason being I didn't want their heads to be messed up about God the way mine was as a child. The Church in my day was more of a punitive place for me. I was scared of God, scared of the Devil - and for good reason. Put one foot out of place and BLAM! Struck down on both sides. You were just screwed, y'see? You could never be good enough, God was never going to be happy with you. Nothing about forgiveness, love, grace and redemption. Nothing about a personal connection with the Creator and protection or the powerful forces of pure truth, love and rightness. It was all rules, rules, rules and regulations - - - and you're bad. So, anyway, I had to get this off of my chest so I spoke to Father down at the local Parish back in the old neighborhood. He was great. He didn't excommunicate me like I feared. (I was told by one priest in my childhood that doubt was a grave sin...) In fact, he understood. He shared that his experience of the Church was nothing like mine and we talked for a long time about it. Years ago, someone had heard that a child's perception of God is colored by their perception of their father. It made a lot of sense to me when I compared my perception of God to how I felt about my father. Perhaps my experience of the Church was all mixed up with my insane family and the fear, terror even, of growing up in that abusive environment. So I am approaching the Church from a different angle now. Did something change in the last 30 years? Because I now experience the Catholic Church in a completely different way, one that aligns with my understanding of God. People criticize the Church, that's okay, but many have a terrible misunderstanding of it. I've even had people say to me that the Catholic Church has nothing to do with the Bible. That's a lie, as we hear three scripture readings at every Mass. We contemplate the Bible, and meditate on Jesus as the Lamb of God.
Anyway, I have a renewed committment to attend Mass and take in the spiritual aspect of it all. I love the incense, holy water, familiarity with the order of Mass, and the rites of passage. Rites of Passage are important. My little one will be experiencing one this coming Saturday. She's got her white dress and veil, a new rosary and will be receiving her first communion. The entire parish will be there to help us celebrate this important moment.
As for the Pope, well. He's no John Paul II, is he? He is the Pope, though. The leader of my church. I am actually pretty excited that he came to America and had a taste of American Catholicism in action. He saw many tens of thousands of American Catholics who came from far and wide to see him. I am glad that he went to Ground Zero and said that prayer.