Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tolson 4 TEARS* on Religion & Growing Up Catholic

My blog post illustrates how religious institutions demand blind obedience from parishioners trained from childhood to defer to the established patriarchal principles of society. Conforming to the religious standards without being able to think for oneself and form individual opinions is a set up for oppression and submission for the sake of a feeling of belongingness.

Adapted from Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story © by Lynn C. Tolson
Like many Americans of Italian descent, my family was of the Roman Catholic religion. My grandmother had statues of saints on her dresser, and a picture of the Pope over her bed. My mother prayed with me, on our knees, before bed: If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Our family activities were based on the religious calendar.
In parochial school, Mass was mandatory on Holy Days of Obligation. Each class marched single file to the church; nuns in habits led children in plaid uniforms. I learned words such as hypocrite and contradict and excommunication, and the language of the Catholic congregation: catechism, confession, contrition, communion, confirmation, and the rituals of the Catholic church: The stations of the Cross, the Cross on the Rosary, and the Sign of the Cross: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. That included all the important people, but what category did little girls fall into? There seemed to be no place for me, so whenever I was in church, I never felt right or good. I always felt guilty, because, I'd been taught, we were born with Original Sin.
Lynn C. Tolson
First Holy Communion
Confession was a real dilemma. What sins could an eight-year-old commit? Often I did not sin at all, but since Confession was mandatory, I invented sins, such as fibbing. To perform the rites of a good Catholic, I lied to the priest about how I had fibbed to my mother. How could premeditated lies be righteous? It took the wisdom of the ages to realize the blind obedience to doctrine and dictates was a precursor for the passive and vulnerable victim personality that developed sooner rather than later. 
When I could decide for myself, I realized that a religious rituals were not for me. Some people feel stifled by institutions and some use church just to gain status. Religion may be a source of strength to others. The principles of religion, such as The Golden Rule or The Ten Commandments, serve to instill love. What if traditional religion had no significance to me? Would I live without love?
I learned that there is a difference between religion and spirituality. The main premise of spirituality is the belief in a Higher Power. With spirituality, humans attain an awareness that acknowledges the soul because we are intrinsically spiritual beings in human form. I once thought the soul hovered above or around the body, but not quite in it. Then, I learned that the body is a vessel for the soul to inhabit. The soul is the essence of love as it manifests in the world.
God’s love (your personal vision) is alive and present in your soul. Our spiritual connection is our unity with God, and the love of God in the universe. Every soul finds redemption as a child in God’s family because love is perfect and pure within all of us.

Spirituality took on a new meaning, not as a means to get to Heaven, but as a way to get through each day on earth. The love of God is not reserved for special people who perform certain acts. Love is not a matter of deserving. No list of accomplishments is needed to earn love. There is a purpose to life, which is as simple as experiencing love and extending that love to others.
Lynn C. Tolson

*Tolson 4 TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide, so no shed tear is wasted

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