During my childhood years, my Roman Catholic mother would insist that everyone, including my Protestant, divorced-and-remarried father, dress appropriately for Mass. To me, “appropriately” meant something other than blue jeans and bare feet. She insisted that I at least wear a skirt. I knew the promise of a treat afterward was a bribe, but I did not mind. I almost always had a paperback book with me anyway. We usually went to hear Mass on Saturday night, at Saint John’s Church, more than forty-five minutes away. Several people I knew from school were usually there. Talking was forbidden until the service was over and the congregation had filed down the stairs to the cement-floored hall in the basement. There, we kids would drink punch and eat cookies while the adults discussed whatever it was boring adults talked about.
We always said grace before a meal; even the punch and cookies counted.
Through Christ our Lord.
I was a bit rebellious at times, especially where religion was concerned. I did not like the idea that I should not talk to G*d myself; that I had to have a priest, a middleman do it for me. While many of the stories were entertaining, the whole resurrection thing did not make sense. The more questions I asked, the more I got into trouble. I learned to keep my doubts to myself.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
To please my mother, I went through all the ceremonies, sacraments, and rites of passage that a young, baptised, Catholic girl would do: First Communion, First Confession, and Confirmation. My Confirmation ceremony was the last time I attended that church regularly. I remember asking my mother if she was happy. She had tears in her eyes; she was so proud. In my white dress and white strappy sandles that were just a little too tight, I asked her if this really made me an adult. When she agreed, I said, “That means I can choose to not ever come back, if I want to. Right?”
I went outside and waited by the family station wagon until she was ready to leave.
~ Dr. Seuss
I spent the next ten years searching for spirituality, trying on religions like clothing, checking for a good fit. Were the sleeves of ritual too restrictive? Did the foundation feel solid? Each ceremony I attended, every learned person I met with, they all encouraged me not to question. I should accept on faith that G*d was out there, watching over me, judging and grading me. This did not compute in my analytical brain.
~ Albert Einstein
Eventually, I had the great fortune to meet a Rabbi, who asked me to call him Billy. In his congregation, questioning was encouraged. I attended services nearly every Friday night. Billy would tell stories to illustrate that particular evening’s message, but there was no fire-and-brimstone. I learned through conversations with him, and with others, that the point is not to worry about the afterlife, but to focus on this life. When I questioned my existence, the answer was simple: Tikkun Olam. I was here to make the world a better place. When the congregation met after services, it wasn’t for milk and cookies. We shared a meal together, and it was as though we were all family.
ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.
I converted to Reform Judaism and married my husband under the chuppa that we put together ourselves. That was many years ago. I have moved several times, and while I am not affiliated with any synagogue now, I am Jewish. I pray each year to be inscribed into the Book of Life. I occasionally whisper ha-mozti, the blessing over bread. I light my menorah. I remember when the rabbi came to Purim dressed as Garth, and I smile.
Though I am still searching, still questioning, I know that I am in the right place for now.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.