I’ve decided to try and get my feelings down on paper (well, screen) about this one. The media frenzy surrounding the Catholic church in Ireland at the moment is unavoidable. As much as one may try, it is impossible not to have some sort of opinion on religion.
Ireland is, traditionally, a very Catholic country. The vast majority of people have been brought up as Catholics in some way or another. Certainly, things have changed since my parents’ and grandparents’ time, and Ireland is becoming more and more secularised. Lenten fasting is far less popular, and holydays of obligation no longer hold the importance they once did.
I was born and raised a Catholic. At three months of age I was baptised; in second class I made my Communion; I was confirmed before I left primary school. As a child, I detested Mass. There was nothing in the world I hated more than having to sit in a church for three-quarters of an hour when I could be doing all manner of other things.
As I grew up, and particularly in recent years, I’ve noticed what a big role the Catholic church plays in our society. Many, many people disagree with this. Yesterday I noticed a Facebook group calling on people to sign a petition to separate the Church from the Irish education system. Thinking back though, I remember religion class after religion class in primary school, singing along to the Alive-O! tape and colouring pictures in the workbook. I recall visits from priests, and reciting the Angelus daily. After eight years of saying it though, I cannot say it today.
Alot of people have been questioning the role of faith in everyday life since the revelations of child sexual abuse in the Church. The Ryan and Murphy reports contained shocking details of years and years of hidden horrors. Everyone was shocked, dismayed and horrified. Nothing can undo what happened, and the Pope’s letter didn’t exactly change anything. I’m not here to talk about that though; I’m only here to talk about me (as always).
I think it’s fair to say that I’m quite a patriotic person, and I can’t just pretend that the Irish culture and people are completely separate from the Catholic Church. Ireland and the Church are so inextricably linked that it’s impossible to define one from the other. This bond seems particularly marked when someone dies. Rosaries, wakes, removals, funerals, burials, remembrance masses, mass cards…the list goes on. I can’t say for certain what I believe, because I don’t know myself. I’m only a teenager, and it’s not exactly a priority for me to contemplate all this, but I do know that I want to believe it. I think everyone would like to believe that there’s an afterlife where you’ll meet all your loved ones again. That belief provides a huge sense of comfort when a loved one dies and I don’t think anyone should be ridiculed for wanting that to happen.
Then there’s the whole debate as to whether or not you should baptise your children. Now more than ever we have a choice to make regarding baptism and the rest of the seven sacraments. Does a parent have the right to make a decision regarding faith for their two month old baby? Is it morally right to baptise your child merely in the name of tradition? Why bother baptising the child if the next time they see the inside of a church is on their communion day?
Too many questions, too few answers. But then again, isn’t that what faith is all about? Believing, when there is no real proof…