I got a call today from a friend across the globe. She said she wanted to see how I was doing. Then she told me she had a recent argument with her mother. It turns out that her mother had called a few days ago, out of the blue, and started to question her about going to church on Sundays. She continued the typical lay-on-the-guilt-trip sermon about how it is her parental duty to make sure that all her children went to church and live their proper Catholic lives, as it should be. After all, she brought them into this world through the grace of the lord. So she should raise them and make sure they remain devout Catholics.
My friend is not young anymore, in fact, she’s my age. We have passed the half century mark recently. Her children are in their twenties and have their own lives. Why her mother would be calling to pontificate about these matters is beyond both of us. But it was obviously upsetting and unsettling. My friend, with the layers of Catholic convent school upbringing in a society that could not (and still can’t to this present day) separate Church from State, has recently spent an inordinate amount of time brooding over this in her car while driving, while she prepared dinner, or even while she worked out at the gym. All this talk has sent a flood of guilt, ambivalence, anxiety, what-have-you down her way, making her feel once again a little girl who knows no better, who cannot make decisions for herself, who was harangued by super-extreme-right wing ultra conservative church proponents who, to me, have never found the courage to admit and accept the other human aspects of themselves. If they did, they would not be so dogmatic or dysfunctional or repressed.
She said she tried to reason with her mother. She tried to explain again for the umpteenth time that her relationship with her god is a very personal one. That it transcends a very very flawed church run by very very flawed people. That she still upholds her high moral values in a morally relativistic world. She must have just come across as defensive. What’s more, it’s not customary for the elderly to listen when they’re on a roll.
I thought about this after our conversation. I would probably have listened quietly. Then I would say, “Okay.” This is what her mother wanted to hear anyway. Would a conversation like this have moved me to change my choices and go to church? Probably not. But, my friend’s mother will never change. She will never respect her daughter’s beliefs. Is this generational? Yes. Is this cultural? That too. Would I be lying? I guess I would be. Is it a “sin?” Geez! Grow up already!
Last April, just after Easter, a good friend of mine succumbed to cancer after almost a two year battle. Through all of this, her mother, who is old and infirm, was only peripherally involved. She was bedridden herself and moving forward with her dementia. To this day, no one has told her that her daughter has passed on. Why burden the poor old woman further? I am reminded of a line that was uttered by different characters in the movie, Gosford Park, a few years ago: “And what purpose would it possibly serve?”
We have to pick our battles. And sometimes, we have to do what’s compassionate and kind. If my friend’s mother wants to grow very old and make her way to her heaven believing that she has done her Catholic duty in preserving the faith, then so should she. At the same time, my friend should be able to live with the choices that she has made for herself, her beliefs, her convictions.
- I am not a Catholic I don’t know… (putthelotioninthebasket.wordpress.com)