One year, nowhere near Easter naturally, I was teaching about Easter to my students as it was the next chapter in the book. At age 9, the kids had a vague idea of what Easter was and, once I had translated the word ‘Easter’ into Korean for them and drew a picture of dead Jesus nailed to a cross on the board, (worse. drawing. ever.) we were on our way.
When asked what they do at Easter, the kids’ answers ranged from ‘Eat the many chocolate’, ‘Go to the amusement park and eat the many chocolate’ and ‘Go to the church with my mom and dad’.
The story in the book centered around an American white girl named Sarah and the egg hunt at her house followed by a small paragraph about Jesus and the church. The vocabulary words we had to learn were ‘bunny’, ‘basket’, ‘back to life’, ‘hunt’ and ‘hide’. In a different context, I feel those words could be the makings of a great serial killer story.
Shortly into the vocabulary part of the lesson, this exchange takes place:
Me: ‘What’s back to life?’
‘Dead…then no dead.’
‘Jesus was a zombie?!!’
Me: ‘No…well, maybe.’
‘Yes teacher, Jesus was a zombie!’
Me: ‘Fine, but …don’t tell your mommy I said that!’
Now, I’m not claiming to be the most religious person in the world. Far from it. The closest I get to religious is worrying stepping through the doors of a church will immediately result in me being struck dead from lightning. At the last funeral I attended, I actually ducked slightly when walking through the doors.
I like churches. The buildings, I mean, not the actual ceremony that goes on inside. They’re big and silent. They always smell the same and there’s always that one old lady sitting about just ready to shush you should you breath too loudly. It’s almost like a library, but with a lot of copies of the same book.
Growing up in Ireland, I was naturally raised a catholic. I was baptised, went to an all-girls catholic primary school, made my first communion, confirmation and went on to an all-girls former convent boarding school turned normal catholic school with lots of nuns roaming about….which I quit after a pilgrimage across Israel. Not because of the trip mind you. Our school trip options were ski trip or Israel. I chose Israel because, to be fair, when is Israel ever an option in life?
As I got older, I became less interested in religion. I wondered why we had the Easter Bunny and eggs at Easter? What had that got to do with Jesus? Why do the communion wafers always stick to the roof of my mouth? Who made the dinosaurs?
So I did what every other disillusioned youth does to avoid real life: I travelled. I met other people with other beliefs and other religious outlooks. I met people with no beliefs. I met people with strong beliefs. I met people with strange yet intriguing beliefs. I met people who hated catholics and refused to speak to me because I’m from southern Ireland.
I met a boy on a bus once who said ‘People are more into buffet religion nowadays’ and I found myself agreeing with him. Some people take what they want from various religions and use it to comfort themselves in times of strife or sorrow. Religion is good for that. People need it. People need that security and that knowledge that they’re not all alone in the world.
I met people who just don’t know what to believe in but want to believe in something.
People often ask if I’m religious and I say ‘no’ because I’m not. I’m not against it. It’s just not my thing. Just like I’m not against bungee jumping or watching horror movies. There’s nothing wrong with them, I just don’t actively choose to participate in them.
If pushed I say I’m a catholic but I’m a catholic in the sense that I have never actually made it to Sunday mass during my entire adult life and if I were to go to confession, I’d be in there for about a week yet I will put ‘catholic’ down on the national census forms when they come around.
Because I’m Irish and that’s what we do.
Which brings me to the question, do I identify myself as a catholic because I want to be a catholic, because it’s how I was raised and I don’t want to be different from those I grew up with or because I would feel guilty saying anything else?
I once tried to put ‘Jedi’ down as my religion but my mother nixed it before I could hand it in to the census people.
It reminds me sometimes of that old joke:
‘Catholicism: One woman’s lie about an affair that got way outta control.’
Laugh, I promise you probably won’t go to hell for it. I’m sure God has a sense of humor, just look at the platypus.
Have a good Easter / weekend / working weekend / vacation week (delete as appropriate) and don’t forget, if you get too much chocolate this year, melt it and make Rice Krispy Buns outta it!
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