After about 6 months, maybe a little less, I finally became a member of the church where I've been going. I've never been a member of any parish on my own as an adult. This past weekend I signed a pledge that I'd support the church a certain amount every week. When it all comes out, it's not all that much per year, (I really can't afford a lot) and I don't mind giving. I just realized that if I'm going to promise to give the church money, I should "officially" join. I've been wanting to join for many other reasons as well.
My parents were a member of the "Mother Church" downtown for their entire lives. They may still be on the record books as being members. I was baptized, confirmed and made my first communion there, then I graduated from high school and pretty much stopped going to church. I'd go from time to time at the Newman Center at College with my sorority sisters and friends, but I wasn't part of the community. I didn't really feel like I needed the church in college.
Like one of my characters, I felt (back then) that it was antiquated and far too conservative for me. Yet, I have always believed in something. I'm not going to deny the fact that I'm a political liberal and sometimes feel a bit at odds with the conservative nature of the church especially as a whole. BUT... I'm also not so sure that priestly celibacy is a bad thing and while I'm a feminist, I don't accept the notion that women should be priests. Right now they cannot and probably never will be in my life time, but I don't think that's such a bad thing either. (Funny, how just a few years ago I thought I'd like to see those two things change one day, but in now I don't.) Yes, there are married priests in the Catholic church-- they've come from other religions and have been dispensed of the requirements of celibacy. I'm sure they are assets to the church and I accept that. I'm glad they are part of our church. The enhance it and probably make it a lot better. Maybe one day celibacy will be an optional thing and maybe it will work. I just am (surprisingly) more traditional than I thought. I'm not big on hand-holding during the "Our Father" or all the other gestures that seem to have come to the church since the days I went away. I've yet to see liturgical dance, Mom says it does happen in our parish, and I might just cringe at the sight of it, or maybe I'll go with the flow and accept it for what it is. Who knows?
The priests at my church are quite orthodox, quite human and reverent. I don't go around looking for mistakes or liturgical abuses, (as so many people seem to do and complain about in Catholic forums, blogs and newsgroups Oy vey... that's a whole other post.) that's not why I go to Mass. I go to hear the words of God and the Lord read, celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass and listen to what words father has to say that day. They're usually always right, thought provoking or pertinent to what's going on in the world today. I've never heard a light and fluffy homily yet.
So while I'm also very fond of tradition, I am also fond of the open mindedness and tolerance of my local archdiocese. It's progressive, while rooted in tradition, culture and history. It embraces and accepts, rather than rejects and casts aside. That's probably why I am able to practice Catholicism. I'm probably naive enough to think it's like that everywhere, but probably cynical enough to know otherwise.
Despite the "lost years", I've always felt Catholic. I have been around other faiths enough to know they don't fit. Catholicism, to me, is like a comfortable pair of old slippers. Always there and always comfortable. No matter how bad I feel come the end of the day my slippers always fit. I can pretty much walk into any Catholic church and find something I need: peace, soothing words, God, love... so...after all these years I've joined the parish where I've been going. I joined under my own name and we'll see where I go from there.
Back to my characters. It's interesting in how in one story one character goes back to the church and the other, probably never will. She will always be Catholic but I don't know if that particular character will find herself fully and wholly Catholic again.
The other interesting bit about this, my characters are first cousins (main characters in their own stories respectively). If anything my stories show where I've been in the last ten years I think.