What Religion Taught Me

I was immersed in the Catholic way of viewing the world for all of my early life, and I still embrace many of the church’s beliefs, while conversely, many of its beliefs that helped push me on a different path. I for one love the Latin masses, because through those religious services, I feel a connection with the past. The Catholic Church chronicled that history in sounds, smells and visually, through art and words. As a child, I saw in the church the final authority between god and man, and as the only route to salvation. It was the true path for countless souls for generations upon generations of history. During my early adulthood, I followed the teachings of the church and considered my personal sacrifices to be nothing compared to the sacrifice of Christ for me. I was taught; living for my happiness and fulfillment, apart from Christ had no value and would lead to eternal damnation.  As I began to think as an adult, and question the supreme authority of the Catholic Church, the house of cards that held together much of the church’s history and theology, began to fall apart in my mind.

I developed my own set of questions and answers that reconstructed a mixed view of the world and developed a personal understanding of the human condition. We’re all of the same family, the same inner spirit, and though each member of a family might think that viewpoint is the correct one, only through a higher level of understanding or enlightenment can we find our true connection to others. We all have sin, or as some might say, imperfections in our lives. Our characters, our essence are both selfish and giving both loving and hateful. It is up to us to decide who we are simply selfish animals, who use religion, or some another compass to justify our actions? Or are we called to something of a higher value.

I am in conflict with these two opposing concepts. In that human dilemma, I have travelled, through the years, searching for all that will make me happy and fulfilled, while always at the core is the self, and my own personal needs. I began to realize that the road I travel, would define who I really am, as I searched for years for what would make me happy, while trying to do the right thing. I followed my religious background and denied myself, picking up my cross. Still it wasn’t enough. I lived a frustrated life, blocking most things creative or self-serving.

As a young father my two little boys, Michael and Matthew were everything to me. I saw my children as the future, and I tried to pour out all my love to them. Desperately, I looked at my children as the hope for everything that I wanted for myself. I saw myself as trapped spirit, so naturally I thought I wanted my boys to have everything in this world that I didn’t. Above all, I wanted them to be spiritually, and morally balanced. Of course I wanted them to be happy, well adjusted men, who would have a better future than I had.

I lived my early adult life depressed, angry and empty, aside from my boy’s life had no real meaning. So I did what many Americans do, I poured myself into my job. I worked long hours and when I did come home tried to spend as much time with my kids as possible. Still the clouds of depression grew darker as I began to realize that I was lost and doomed to live a life that meant only continued sacrifice for the sake of the kids. For me, to live was to die to myself daily, pick up my cross and follow him. This is what the Catholic Church taught me.

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