Warning: This May Offend You

I'm hyper sensitive. Don't like my shirt and decide to tell me? I'll go and cry in the bathroom after. So, when someone tells me that I'm going to hell I take it very seriously.

I was raised a Catholic. I have wonderful memories of going to church with my mom and my baby doll Giuseppe. We'd stop at Cumberland Farms on the way home and my mom would buy me Skittles. I knew back then that going to church was a special time for me and my mom and that religion and ethnicity are often intertwined. My dad's family is Polish and devout. My mom converted when she married my dad. As a child, I felt proud to be Catholic and never questioned what I learned in catechism class...until high school.

I also have not-so-wonderful memories of my religious education teacher telling dirty jokes, learning in history class about the many injustices of the Catholic church (and every other religion) and watching the steady stream of alter boy molestation cases break in the news. As my faith in the Faith disintegrated, my mom supported my decision to stop participating in the church. Maybe for a while I was an atheist. As teenagers we hate everyone and lose hope in everything so it's not all that surprising that I doubted God.

Through college I explored other religions through an academic lens and gained exposure to religion and ethnicity from the students around me. Like the perfect college student I absorbed information like a sponge and contemplated the meaning of life. I watched Catholic friends go to church hung over after a night of drinking and argued my stance to stay home rather than doing something to, "look good and make my parents happy."

Over the years I've continued to have an interest in religion and a need to fit faith into my life, but I've never found The Truth that I can believe. I've often felt saying I believe in God would be like saying I believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny. Instead, I've picked aspects of different religions that complete my personal truth. Ghosts, God and reincarnation have all found a home in the stay-at-home-church of Me.

As they say, having a baby changes everything and that quest for faith returned. I listened to the signs around me and looked back to my child hood influences. No one was excited when I announced my intentions to baptize Caroline. My liberal friends wondered if I'd gone conservative. "How could she? She's changed since she moved to New York. You know, they don't really recycle and her husband does own guns so it's not a surprise."

I can rationalize with the tree huggers. "Oh, there's no UU church nearby, well, that makes sense then. You have a child now. You're just trying to be a good influence on her. I went to a Catholic wedding once. It was so long!"

I thought the Catholics would embrace this f-bomb dropping, pre-marital sex, birth control using, gay loving, abortion supporter but I was so wrong. How dare I try to use the Catholic church to figure out where faith fits into my life? How dare I show my face in church when I don't sit in a little box and tell a priest that last week when Andy asked me if I turned off his scanner I told him no when I really did turn it off because it was driving me crazy? And how dare I try to say that because I'm a good person, a loving mother and supportive wife and friend that I deserve salvation? How dare I create my own truth instead of believing everything one group of people tells me?

In her comedy act Straight to Hell, Kathy Griffin tells a Catholic who says she's going to hell that she looks forward to it. She knows she'll see all of her friends there. It will be like old home week and they'll sit around and say, c'mon, it's not that hot down here. Kathy, I guess I'll see you in hell. I'll have baby Guiseppe and a pack of Skittles with me and I'll hang out with you until I'm called to haunt my old house or be reincarnated as an ant.

-The Cafeteria Catholic


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