I missed out doing much for Palm Sunday this week. I miss out on a lot of observances that in principle I consider myself obligated to tend to. I was not raised in the rituals of any church, nor was I raised with a coherent orientation toward religion. My dad wavered, and continues to waver, between atheism and agnosticism. My mom was more faithful, but not by much. Still, it was enough to get me baptized eventually, which occasioned my receiving of my first Bible. And, I was invited by the baptizing priest to read some of the Gospel of Mark. I can still remember the smell of the pages, which isn’t all that impressive given that most Bibles have a similar smell. Anyway, the cover was red and shiny.
I believed in God right away. I was always told by my mom about God and Heaven, and saw no reason to argue, but that isn’t the same as reading the Bible and feeling a strong sense that it is real.
As an adult, I realize that I was dyed in the wool as a Christian. A Catholic, actually. And I recognize that I was dyed in the wool as a Catholic because my mother’s mother is Irish Catholic (hi Nana!). And the Irish that are Catholic are so because of St. Patrick, or something to that effect. Anyway, it’s a faith I inherited.
So why stay religious now? Well, I still believe. Faith is gift, and I have it, for better or for worse. I don’t believe every second of every day, but I don’t ever not believe for very long. I actually feel terrified during my moments of doubt — and again, to emphasize, this is a near daily occurrence.
What am I terrified about? Actually the main root of this emotion is a completely self-absorbed concern with my own existence. I can’t stand the thought of oblivion. I think about it the way one touches a bruise to still see if it hurts. And it always does.
This hasn’t made me overly dogmatic in the sense of believing in an old man that lives in the sky or something like that. No fan of George Carlin is capable of that. The truth is that I can’t fathom the essence or nature of God. I can address this spirit in prayer, and I do feel connected to it when I experience remarkable coincidences and deja vu. I feel connected when I take communion at church, when I hold hands and say the Lord’s Prayer. When I live my life according to good principles I learned from the Bible, and see myself rewarded by the world over the long haul for living that way, I feel connected to it.
And this is why I like religion — the sense of connection with this spirit that I don’t understand, a spirit that somehow alleviates my terror over the prospect of death. And this is why when I miss Palm Sunday I find a way to observe my faith, and do something like I’ve done here in writing this post and sharing it with you. And it makes me feel good having done so, even if it isn’t quite what my faith expects of me.