More Catholic than the Pope

When I was born, neither of my parents practiced any form of religion, but given our cultural heritage, I suppose it was inevitable. My dad’s side was Baltimore Irish, and my mom’s side was Pittsburgh Polish. To the best of my knowledge, my dad’s side was never all that zealous about it, but my mom’s side? Oh, boy.

Grandma and Grandpa…they were a little intense. I think I was twelve when they gave me two books for Christmas: Fatima: the Miracle of the Children and Evidence of Satan in the Modern World. I read one of those books, and it was much less cool than the title suggested. I also remember that at my Grandma’s urging I spent a few months making rosaries for children in Africa. I do wonder if somewhere in Kenya there’s somebody wearing one of my rosaries…

My family has never been one for half measures, and once my mom and dad decided to rejoin Mother Church, we were all in. My sister and I were switched to Catholic school. My mom became a Catholic school teacher. My dad eventually became the Director of Catholic Charities in our home city. I became an altar boy and read for the congregation at Sunday mass. Thanks to the Church’s patriarchy, my sister got off pretty lightly, really.

Like the rest of my family, no half measures for me. My favourite books in my early teens were Lives of the Minor Prophets and a comic book version of the Old Testament. (Favourite minor prophet? Hosea. Turned out to be weirdly significant, but more on that later.) I knew the commandments, the beatitudes, the gifts of the holy spirit, the sermon on the mount, the loaves, the fishes, the whole shebang. I collected cards with the lives of the saints on them, and had a cross blessed by the Pope. Well, that’s what my Grandma said, anyway.

And, until university, that was my path. Then the wheels fell off.

Steps on a very strange walk

Well, depending on whether the date stamp sticks around, you can see that there’s been almost a year between good intentions and follow through. So be it! I’m sure that I’m not blazing a shocking new truth when I say that there can be a lot of reasons not to step out of the comfort zone.

But what the hell, I’m here now. So onward and upward! So to speak.

Let’s start with a label: heathen. I am one. Like most labels, it tells you some things but leaves out lots more. It tells you, for example, that I don’t follow a monotheistic religion, but neither am I an atheist. Some people use the term asatru, which refers to a person who believes in the Norse gods. But do I believe that when I see lightning, that Thor is striking his hammer against the anvil of the heavens? No. I do not.

I didn’t start out here. Actually, I started a long way from here. More to come.

(Note: to follow the chronology of this story, read from oldest to newest. If you are unstuck in time, read it any damn way you please.)