It’s more about signs than sins

Being raised in the Catholic Church made religion and spirituality synonymous to me.

As I’ve reached adulthood, or semi/diet/sugar-free adulthood that I feel my life is at 27, my views on spirituality have changed. Today, I consider myself keeping the spirituality but not the faith.

Even defining spirituality can be difficult.

While searching the interwebs for the simplest definition, this is the one that struck me: Spirituality is an inner path to discover the essence of one’s being and represents the deepest values and meanings by which people live. It’s the contemplation to develop one’s inner life.

I’ve always considered myself a spiritual person. Given the world we live in today, I am not sure what I believe in anymore when it comes to God or heaven and hell, but I often pray and try to meditate during times of stress and big decisions. Today, my spirituality is less about a certain belief or religion and more about understanding myself and the big picture.

Though, regularly going to church most of my life is not lost on me, my spirituality also has a sense of community woven in. I learned from and was supported by the people around me at church, who cared for me and helped foster my spirituality.

In October 1984, I was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church at 6 weeks old at St. Edmund’s in Westbrook.

My mom, being the youngest of three girls, grew up going to church with her mother, usually while her father was away at sea. She decided to bring her family to St. Edmund’s because it was the closest geographically to our home. She fell in love with the small community. She volunteered and felt a part of the parish.

I grew up traveling the 20 minutes each way, every Sunday. I went to religious education and my mom would enjoy relearning the lessons with me. Her Sunday school consisted of nuns using heavy repetition as their only teaching technique.

I was involved in the church, too, being in the annual Christmas pageant, first in the choir, then as an angel and eventually, the leading lady. While my younger brother tried to upstage me when he played baby Jesus a month and a half after he was born, my portrayal of Mary, deftly ripping the Cabbage Patch doll from under my blue sheet dress with such gusto, was surely the more unforgettable performance.

I was also an altar server, a lector and not a natural at either. I would agonize over my responsibilities and readings. I was happy to be serving my church community, but so nervous I’d botch words. My parents’ smiles would always be there, two pews back, in the center.

College opened my eyes to a broader sense of spirituality, as cliche? as it sounds. No, I didn’t declare myself Buddhist after one Asian studies class, but I was educated and surrounded by a more spiritually diverse population.

I would come home and still be expected to attend church with my family. Clustering began soon after, where churches were consolidated and priests served multiple parishes to save money. Our church, St. Edmund’s, was closed and we were left spiritually homeless. My mom tried out other neighboring churches, but found that she wasn’t warmly received and people didn’t care to get to know one another. Her sense of community instilled since she was a little girl was gone. The final straw for my mother came when she was leaving a Sunday service and found her brand new car backed into, its grill dented in and no note.

I definitely believe there is a higher power, or something bigger than us, controlling our destiny, but I am also a woman of science. I can’t say there is a God, but I can’t say there isn’t one either. I would say I’m spiritual, not religious.

Today, I’m not a practicing Catholic, but grateful for my involvement in my youth. The lessons and morals kept me busy and out of trouble. The most basic lessons still stick and are the rules I live my life by today: forgiveness, compassion, service and selflessness.

I am not a Catholic because I find a lot of their opinions contradictory. I am a strong supporter of gay marriage and women’s rights. To me, there is such an obvious hypocrisy of preaching loving one another, but not if you’re gay. The priest scandals are also embarrassing and troublesome.

I also distance myself from Catholicism because of politics. It is associated with Republicans, who in 2012 are taking us back decades in progress. I believe in the separation of church and state, the constitutional principal, and Republicans renounce such separation.

The hypocrisy is no more evident than the Pope telling Catholics not to use birth control, yet 98 percent use it.

Recently, while on a hike in Carrabassett Valley, something happened that made me confirm my spiritual beliefs. I’ve always thought there is a guide bigger than me in the universe. My fellow hiker (and former Quarterlife Lessons scribe) and I were at the end of our hike when we came to a fork in the trail. The sun was setting; we were exhausted and confused which direction took us home. All of a sudden, after not seeing a soul most of the hike, a couple with a chocolate lab turned the corner near us. If this was any place other than the Maine woods, I would assume the “I must break you” position from “Rocky,” but they smiled and told us we were headed in the right direction.

When we needed help, it was provided.

That is my life’s path: Answers will appear to life’s questions. My spirituality is more about signs than sins. I guess that is me stepping away from religion and toward spirituality.

I lack that sense of community I had through my church-going years, though. If I believed and still attended church, would I have a richer sense of community and more friends and relationships?

My spirituality has been expanded as I’ve tried to get serious about yoga and meditation for the mind-body connection. I’m working on that. I find examples of grace, praying, higher powers, fate, destiny all around, and try to put good energy out into the universe. I find spirituality in nature, people and in simple things. I struggle to keep the faith I was raised in, while my spirituality continues to grow.

I’m expanding my education of spirituality into the realm of healing, too. My mother’s close friend was diagnosed with ALS and uses tong ren, the healing of a person’s energy through tapping on an anatomical doll to fix blocked chi, or life force. As soon as the session is done, her speech temporarily improves and she feels better.

I kept humming Billy Joel’s “Keeping the Faith” while writing this. Maybe I’ve over-thought this whole thing and the Piano Man was right when he said, “Now I’m going outside to have an ice cold beer in the shade/oh, I’m going to listen to my 45’s/ain’t it wonderful to be alive/when the rock ‘n’ roll plays.”

Substitute the beer with a margarita and the 45’s with my iPod and I’ll agree his version of faith can be as simple as being grateful for the life you have and, of course, music.

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