Across the street from where I live right now there is a Lutheran church. Every Sunday, I go out in the front let my dog do what he’s gotta do outside. During that time, I occasionally am coincidentally out there when they have organ music playing and/or are singing.
It sends me back through my history of church…
Ah, where it started. My place of baptism. Church of the Good Shepherd in Pittsburg, CA. I don’t remember those first 2 years of my life very well but I’ll get back to this church later.
After the kindergarten years, this is where I had my first memorable experiences of my Catholicism. This is Our Lady of Refuge Parish in Orchard Lake, Michigan. This is where I would start grade school. Only two years of it but that was enough for me. I got my first communion up by that pictured altar. 1st day of school, I sat right next to a girl that I immediately had the puppiest of puppy crushes. The school’s teachers were mostly ladies older than 30. Being Catholic, they had certain lifestyle guidelines they were living by… and I’m guessing that’s why they all were kind of mean and strict. I got sent to the principal’s office quite a few times. She was an old, really mean nun. No parents liked her. She threatened to call the police on me for talking in class. That lightweight traumatized me.
The cool thing though was that every Sunday when I went to church with my mom and dad, I would have different feelings about this place, as if they were separate entities. I learned the routines, the Our Fathers, the specific near-monotone ways the priest would say those certain lines… and then there was the music. There were the traditional hymns played with the organ that sounded very church-y, but then there were those other songs played with guitar, piano, and occasionally a recorder. They were more melodic and musical than the former. They sounded like 70s soft rock ballads. Between certain sit/stand/ kneel moments and during communion they would play songs that I still love to hear today. There was a song called “One Bread, One Body” that I would learn and even start singing along with during mass. It was a fun time for me as an innocent youth listening to interesting stories not knowing what they really meant, and listening to live music… and occasionally seeing that girl I had a crush on.
In 1993, our family moved a few miles away. We would still go to Our Lady of Refuge for a few more years but then we decided to switch it up to something closer. This church pictured here is Prince of Peace in West Bloomfield, Michigan. The followed the same routines and used some of the same songs. It was nice. At this time, I was getting into late elementary school years and starting middle school. My parents put me in catechism. Okay, this is where is something started happening in my mind. I began in those catechism meetings, going every Wednesday, and it went great for the first month or so. As it continued, I started feeling like I did not know what was going on and why my parents were making me go to this. There was a goal at the end of this and I didn’t get it. The teachings were getting deep where I was starting to think that I was pretty sure I missed something from my teachings at Our Lady of Refuge. It felt like grooming for something and I didn’t know what or, again, why I even started this. Catechism continued for a little bit longer but I ultimately stopped going.
We moved back to Pittsburg in 1998. When my parents were trying to enroll me in school, they first tried to put me in a catholic school called St. Peter Martyr. My first thought was remembering Our Lady of Refuge and the old mean ladies who taught there. I did not want to do that again. My cousin was going there though and that almost superseded my first thought. Almost. I ended up going through the public school system in the next town over. We continued going to church at Church of the Good Shepherd for a short time. It was fun for that short time we did because now, we would see family and family friends every Sunday. Beginning my teen years was that period of time of questioning how certain things work. There was the continuation of my confused thoughts of what catechism was. Then, I started hearing of friends and family getting “confirmed”. As previously stated, some of my cousins went to St. Peter Martyr and would continue into high school at De La Salle/Carondalet a few towns over. My male cousin was one of the DLS basketball team stars but didn’t like the school while my female cousins were definitely well-known and from what I know, they liked the experience. As for me, I would come to learn later that well, my parents were wanting me to go to De La Salle because of the status it could possibly bring… and/or it would have been nice to go to school with family.
When our family was going to church, it was a nice time. It was a routine where we didn’t have to do much and be surrounded by faces we would see weekly and be social. In recent times, the only times we go to church is for baptisms and funerals. I often find myself wanting to go, sing the songs, hear a spirit-lifting message, and get communion… being that it was the one thing I knew I was able to do after learning it at OLR.
When I do go, I don’t know why I feel regret for not continuing my attempts to being raised catholic. Maybe it’s the connection to both sets of grandparents. They were all closely connected to the Church of the Good Shepherd. My aunts and uncles on my mom’s side were involved in the music there, vocalists and guitarists. Perhaps I think that I missed a possible golden opportunity to be a better musician that definitely helps by being connected to the church. Any kind of regret disappears as I go through the routines and listen to the readings and music. It takes me back to a feeling I appreciate and I’m glad that I’m there.
A good portion of people I know, know my feelings about religion and my *gulp* atheism. I am hesitant to admit those feelings out of judgment from my family, but I’m pretty sure they understand. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate where I’ve been and what I have learned in my Catholicism. It especially doesn’t mean I didn’t like my church experiences. Even in the face of my *gulp* atheism, I would go back to church to feel that part of familiarity in my life again. To have to get cleaned up and dress nice at least one day a week and be guaranteed to hear live music that I could sing along with. To go and see family and friends that live in the same town but I oddly enough don’t see enough.
I may not be religious but there is just something I like about going to church – my history with it and the good feelings that came with it.
Growing up Filipino, tradition is heavy in the heart.
Peace be with you.
(And also with you.)