I’m not Catholic. Never have been.
I did go to Catholic school for a little while. We lived in inner-city Detroit, and the public schools there in the 80’s were just not an option for us. So my folks sent me to a Catholic school in Grosse Point. I was the only non-Catholic kid there, at least as far as I knew. Nobody else was stuck in the pew when everyone went for communion on Wednesday mass. Everybody else there had grown up together, in their fancy suburbs: had gone to church together and school together for as long as they could remember. I was the non-Communion getting freak from the city. We each received a cross, which, in case of an emergency, was engraved with “I AM A CATHOLIC, PLEASE CALL A PRIEST.” I proudly showed mine to my folks when I got home from school that day, and asked them if I was allowed to wear it since I was, in fact, not a Catholic. My dad replied, “Honey, we should probably get you one that says ‘I am an Episcopalian, please call a bartender.’” My parents both started cracking up. I went to school the next day, marched up to my teacher, Sister Margaret, and announced to her, “My parents are going to get me a necklace that says “I am an Episcopalian, please call a bartender.” I grinned, and waited for her to have the same reaction that my folks had. All she said was, “Is that so?”
These days, if someone were to be so unfortunate to find my unconscious carcass somewhere, they would immediately call a Catholic Priest. Why, you ask? Because, despite my severe lack of Catholicism, I am covered in Catholic medals and trinkets. How the heck did this happen? It started when Dearest and I went to the Vatican when we were in Rome. It was, even for a heathen such as myself, awe-inspiring. Caught up in the excitement, at one of the many well placed gift-shops I bought myself a beautiful cross charm that was blessed by the Pope himself! I should never fall for that trick, Disney is the Mecca of well-placed gift shops, it seems so transparent there, but at the VATICAN? Surely the things they are selling THERE are different. Hmm. Anyway, I put the cross on a silver chain and have worn it since, as a reminder of our beautiful trip.
Then there are the medals. These are not my doing. We tried, as you know, for a long time to get pregnant, and people wanted to “help” in whatever way they could. So, since we had not invited them into our bedroom to offer us useful procreation tips, they had to resort to things like praying for us. Poor them. Anyway, my mom-in-law got for me a medallion with “Sancta Mater Anna,” the patron saint of mothers. Couldn’t hurt, I figured, plus my mom’s name is Ann, so it kinda works for me, so I put it on my necklace next to my cross. Then my friend Kel took a vacation to Saint Augustine, from which she brought me a medallion of “Madonna de la Leche,” AKA our Lady of the Milk. She is the patron saint of childbirth and breastfeeding. Mrs. La Leche’s medal came with instructions: it must be pinned to your bra. Fair enough. Couldn’t hurt, might help, right? Worst-case scenario, maybe it will make my boobs get bigger.
Well, I’m not really superstitious, but I am a creature of habit, so wearing this stuff has just become a part of what I do. I AM pregnant, though I am thinking the Reproductive Endocrinology team had more to do with that than Our Lady of anything. But you never know. So I religiously (totally non-religiously, actually) wear my Catholic paraphernalia. But if you find me unconscious somewhere, please do call a bartender.
This brings me to the point. (“You have a point?” you are asking yourself.) What we are going to do about my daughters’ religion. We don’t go to church. At all. We are both, truthfully, a little concerned about what organized religion can do to people, how it can claim to teach love and then exclude people: women, gays, those with other life experiences and views. How the Baptist church here spent more than a million dollars erecting a 199-foot cross, when I have a child in my class whose family sleeps in the truck on cold nights because their trailer has no heat. I am not claiming to be perfect. But I am kind and compassionate, and I know right from wrong, and I think my kids will too, even without Sunday School.
I also know it’s not all about us. Dearest’s mom IS a REAL Catholic. And my Episcopal Dad would go to church every day if he could. They derive a lot of comfort and strength from their religions and I think that is great. They are two of the most upstanding, loving, empathetic people I know. And I know it’s really important to them that these girls be baptized and, at a minimum, exposed to some religion.
As of now, we are probably going to take the path of least resistance, the same as we did with our wedding. We will baptize the babies in a non-denominational church, maybe the same place we got married. Maybe my uncle, who is an Episcopal priest, will be able to do it, or maybe we will get some other Protestant minister to perform the ceremony. (The Catholics, you see, will not touch us with a ten-foot pole. The church by us would need me to get my first marriage annulled to the tune of about $1K, then I would need to convert ($3K when it’s said and done) and we would need to be tithing members in good standing for 2 years before they would do the baptism. Uh… no.) But if we do it as we imagine, it will be lovely, we will all feel a part of the day, and it will be a great opportunity for everyone to reflect on whatever forces they think came into play to get our two “miracle” babies to this earth.
After that, the vision gets a little more hazy. I guess my hope is to expose them to all types of religions and philosophies, helping them to formulate their own “moral compass” that allows them to treat others the way they would like to be treated because they really understand that we are made up of our experiences, good and bad, not because they are afraid of some mystery deity smiting them.
What would Jesus do if they were His daughters?