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Project 365 - Day 25: the prodigal returns

The subject isn't often broached, but when asked what -if any- religious affiliation I profess, I usually answer that I'm a Catholic, and try to leave it at that, even or especially if my interlocutor then wants to have a 'frank' discussion about contraceptives, the rights of women and\or gays, and paedophile priests. I recognise that these are extremely difficult and very sensitive issues, that have angered me and that I struggle with same as any non-Catholic, and that I deal with by differentiating between the faith, the Church and in the cases of abuse past and present, between the faith, the Church and the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. Maybe that's a cop-out, I don't know; but it allows me to still identify as Catholic.

However, in recent years, I have had to admit to myself that in truth I ought to describe myself as a lapsed Catholic - over the last decennium, I have somehow fallen out of the habit of attending Mass regularly. This has been a gradual process, from practising my faith before and after my conversion (I was baptised in Oct 1994), to Christmas and Easter Only, to the point where I am now, of being "of the faith chiefly in the sense that the church I currently do not attend is Catholic" (thank you, Kingsley Amis!).

There is no barrier to a lapsed Catholic such as myself to seek readmittance to the Church; one need only return to practising the faith (going to Mass or to what used to be called confession -which these days is known as reconciliation- or carry out other practises of Catholicism), but somehow, even once I realised I genuinely missed going to church and even while I recognised that in order to have a relationship with God, one doesn't have to go to church, I couldn't bring myself to take that step. Catholic guilt, perhaps?

But this morning I woke up and knew: I'm going back to church. And what's more, I'm going to tell people and set expectations, so that I can't back out of it next time it rains on Sunday morning. So I walked over to the nearest Catholic church in my neighbourhood, that I supposed must be my parish church (the parish I was confirmed and baptised in is in the town centre and I stopped going regularly when I moved into my current flat); and as luck would have it, even though it was a hive of activity, with lots of people milling about (the craft workshop, the liturgical committee, the secretaries in the office), the priest -who I caught in the middle of his preparations for the weekend's sermons- was all friendliness and more than willing to lend me his ear. Long story short: I have started on my way back to being a practising Catholic again, in the English Speaking International Roman Catholic Parish of The Hague Church of Our Saviour. I didn't know it was an English expat church when I barged in ;-)!

I didn't take any pictures today, but I went for a nice long walk with a friend of mine, and she took the following

which I think is lovely; and which she thinks shows me with 'a characteristic expression' on my face - her words, not mine! All I know is, I need a haircut again!


Mar. 18th, 2012 09:23 pm (UTC)
I don't know why I did either - I think it was a combination of "falling out of the habit of going", the troubles with the priests and the doctrine of infallibility, combined with your friends telling you that you aren't welcome in their home any more.

I obviously took a massive leap, I'm glad you aren't going to hold it against me though. :)

As an aside, that Pieta up there on your icon, I saw it in St Peter's back before they put a screen in front of it, and it's one of the most compelling sculptures I've ever seen (not that I'm much of a connoisseur!) - I do not know how Michaelangelo managed to put such sorrow on a stone face, but it is a thing of obvious skill and beauty.

That was actually the same day I saw the Pope (John Paul, not the new one) purely by accident. We entered St Peter's and were just kind of looking around, but as we got further into the building we did try to avoid the service that was clearly going on there. Until a commotion made me have a closer look at it.

Basically, all the people there were pretty much jostling to get closer to *something* (turned out to be PJP) and there was flashes going off and so on. I only had a chance to tell my brother to get his camera out because it was the Pope when he walked by in front of me! (good thing he didn't notice me, I'm such a Philistine I would have had no idea what to do if he'd decided to take an interest in me!) He wasn't well at the time (I seem to remember him having just had bowel surgery or something) and he did not look well either. Afterwards I spoke to an Italian gent who was there - he explained he'd received some medal of honour for some service he'd performed. He was very proud, said it was a prestigious award and a great honour (also to get it from the Pope himself). And then they turned the lights off in the basilica and I realised that all the beautiful light was only there because of the service. (I would later come to the conclusion that it was either too expensive or too damaging or both to light these ancient cathedrals as they are all dark and gloomy unless it's a REALLY sunny day, or there's some sort of service on)
Mar. 19th, 2012 03:51 pm (UTC)
Wow! That's amazing story about you bumping into the previous Pope. I mean, I've met his secretary, and I've met the Coptic Pope, but never the Bishop of Rome himself. Although there's always a chance of catching a glimpse if you hang around the Vatican long enough, a chance encounter such as yours is really special. Not that I would know what to say or do in such a situation, either; so perhaps it's just as well.

Michelangelo's pieta is my favourite one of all. It's just so eloquent, and gets you...right there ::thumps breastbone::
Mar. 19th, 2012 09:12 pm (UTC)
Yes, it *is* pretty amazing - I was just a couple of metres away from him. It is a bit of a pity it happened to me, as I'm not Catholic, and not someone like you, to whom it would have meant so much more.