My Confession

When this post landed in our inbox,it spoke to me. I love it because it’s cleverly written, very honest, funny and thought-provoking but I really LOVE it because it makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Weird, I know. You see, I was raised a Roman Catholic and if I’d held on to my ‘faith’ as it were, I could very easily have been in Katy’s shoes prior to our wedding. The fact that I didn’t keep my faith and wasn’t in those same shoes are interesting facts for me to face, as well as not knowing how I would have felt or reacted had I been. Lots to think about for a Thursday morning, that’s for sure! Over to Katy…

Here is my confession.

I am a Roman Catholic. Therefore, I am a Catholic Bride-to-be and soon to be Catholic bride and Catholic wife and eventually will be a Catholic Mother.
Why is this a confession?
Because in our current society declaring yourself to be a Catholic (or indeed some other Christian religions) in public feels like something akin to declaring you are actually a fluorescent yellow alien sent from Jupiter to suck people’s brains out at midnight on a full moon. And being a Catholic Bride to be means having to declare yourself a Catholic regularly, and therefore I have had a lot of practise recently.
People’s reactions to this confession tend to fall into 4 categories:
1.  The Richard Dawkins disciples: They immediately tell you how stupid and misled you are and will throw facts, reasons and quotes at you in an effort to make you ‘see the light’. They will not rest until the party/meal/meeting/date is over and if you do not declare atheism to be “the only way an intelligent person can live” by the end of your time together they will often bombard your inbox with reasons as to why you are so stupid as to believe.
2. The Ignorers: They look nervous and change the subject straight away. They will search for someone, anyone to talk to apart from you. They will glance at you throughout the party/meal/meeting/date as if you are about to stand on your chair and shout “Crucify him” and get your rosary out. They will not, voluntarily, socialise with you again.
3. The Curious: They weren’t brought up within a religion or their parents are Christian but they never went to church. These ones look at you with interest and will ask questions. They may even ask you to say the Hail Mary. They look astounded when you explain about certain rituals and when you dispel certain preconceptions. They are interested and curious. Invariably, they are impressed and say “Well, good for you. I mean, in this day and age to hold onto your beliefs like that. Good on ya!”.
4. The in-the-closets or brought up Catholics: Yes, their parents and family is Catholic. No, they don’t practise anymore – but will probably baptise their children and probably take them to church. All said in a whisper to you or later on when you find yourselves alone. They normally say something like “My Mother goes to church every Sunday”. If you ever meet their Mother she will say, “Oh, but your (name), my sons/daughters Catholic Friend! How lovely, I have heard so much about you!” You will then chat about your parish, her parish and amateur flower arranging and then she will try and convince you to take her son/daughter to church.
So, those are my 4 categories. I’m sure others will disagree. My preference? Definitely category number 3, at least you can have a good conversation with them!
There are also invariably the FAQs – about the wedding, about me and about our relationship. Most people ask the same thing. Maybe I should answer them now as over the years I have developed automatic answers.
1. Yes, I was a Catholic school girl. Yes, I wore a kilt and knee high socks. Yes, there were Nuns and they wore habits. No, we weren’t sluttier than any other type of schoolgirl.
2. Yes, I have considered being a Nun. Very briefly.
3. No, I have never been ‘touched’ by a priest, nun, monk or any member of the church.
4. Yes, I go to church – not as regularly as I should though.
5. Yes, I am having a catholic wedding ceremony – yes it will be a Mass and yes, the priest is Irish.
6. No, I am not saving myself for marriage. No, I don’t believe that I will go to Hell because of this. Yes, we will both have to confess to our priest before we get married and then we can get married with a clean slate.
7. Yes, there will be hymns. Yes, there may be some in Latin. No, the whole mass is not in Latin. No, it does not last over 3 hours – it will be an hour and half tops.
8. Yes, we had to do a before-marriage course. I know that the priest who leads the course has-never-been-married-and-therefore-what-can-he-teach-you-about-marriage. I have never been married before either, so I can’t really tell if he is teaching us the right things or not.
9. Yes, we are getting married where I was baptised, had my holy communion and was confirmed. It is my Parish. It is my home.
10. Yes, I believe in the vows I am going to say. No, they don’t seem terribly old fashioned to me. No, I don’t ever intend to get a divorce and once I am married in the church I am married forever.
11. No, you don’t have to say anything during the mass if you don’t know what to say. Noone will poke at you and tell you that you are going to hell. You do not have to confess your sins to anyone. All you have to do is sit still and be quiet. No, no one will be healed and miracles will not be performed.
12. Yes, we will bring the future children up catholic. No, we will not wait until they can decide for themselves. It is a lot easier to decide not to believe at a later date than to decide to believe.
I know it would be easier to reply to people
“Yes, we are getting married in a Church – Why? Oh, you know my parents are Catholic and my Mum would be really upset if we didn’t have a church ceremony”
But, its not true. And that is why it is my confession. I am proud to be planning a catholic wedding ceremony and I have not been coerced into it. I will be walking into the same church and seeing the same faces that I have seen every week for most of my life and I know they will all be wishing us happiness with every cell in their body. The vows I am going to say are the same that generations before me have said. My future husband believes that God watches over us and so do I. The Church and its people will be the place we turn to when we have problems and we both know that we are never alone, He is always there.
I am a Catholic. Forever and ever. Amen.
p.s. Yes, I believe in Evolution. I’m a biologist. That’s a whole other kettle of fossilised fish!
Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships, Religion
28 interesting thoughts on this

28 Comments

  1. Posted October 13, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Katy – love love LOVE this! It's funny how in such a (supposedly) progressive country people just choose other things to be narrow minded about – in this case, religion.

    I too am having a church wedding (CofE but Bethrothed was brought up Catholic and we will be including certain prayers and things for his side of the family, not that they'd expect it) and the reaction of so many people was astounding – "Reeeeeallly?" Yes, really, i wanted to say, why would i joke about something like that?!

    I'm sure if you or I was to greet a friend's decision to marry in a damp cave in Wales with "Reeeeaaaallly" they would be super offended and probably quite hurt. Thank you so much for sharing this, has definitely given me a much needed boost, it's a v odd feeling a little bit embarrassed about our decision so will take loads of strength from this!!

    Masses of luck for your wedding, and of course marriage!

    xx

    PS: Can we have a post about being a biologist too please?!

  2. Posted October 13, 2011 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Agree, agree, agree, agree – with all of it!

    We originally weren't getting married in the church but when it came down to organising it we realised it couldn't have been anywhere else.

    Fly that flag high :) xx

  3. Mahj
    Posted October 13, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I dont know how appropriate this is, but I actually laughed out loud when you said no one will poke your guests and say they are going to hell if they dont say anything during mass!

    Katy, thank you for this post. Its tres witty and honest and I's really liked it.

    xoxo

  4. Posted October 13, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Yay Katie! You have completely nailed it, and I am *so* going to drop the fact that you're a believer AND a biologist into the conversation next time I meet a 'number one'. From 'the other side' of our Catholic wedding I can say that many people, Catholic or not, commented on how lovely our full mass was – and what a sense of community it gives to have everyone singing etc together, and they didn't have to go to a convent school, to appreciate it! I hope we hear more about your wedding and I hope you love every last minute of your ceremony – latin or not.

  5. Posted October 13, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    i was brought up in a pentecostal household, but boyfriend is a practicising catholic, so i've been going to mass with him every sunday for 3 years. i love our church, and i'll probably convert at some point (just not for the wedding).I had my first marriage counselling session last night and really enjoyed it. i agree about the questions. it's hard to explain how important my faith is to me, it just is. i'm also not weird. love the post. :)

  6. Posted October 13, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Fifth category over here! I was brought up by atheist parents, but have always envied the faith of people who believe in God. I don't think its something I'll ever have, or really understand. I don't feel like its lacking, but then how do I know?

    I love this article so much – thanks for writing this for us Katy. It's perfect AOW material, controversial, uncomfortable for some, a relief for others x

  7. Posted October 13, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Katy, I loved this. Thank you.

    I giggle at very inappropriate places, and giggled at – No, I have never been ‘touched’ by a priest, nun, monk or any member of the church – I can't believe people would ask you this question. The cheek!

    I'm a Cultural Christian. My grandma does not drive anymore, and I often take her to church on a Sunday, as it makes her happy. I like the community, morals and hymns of the church. My husband is a Christian, church is never a chore for him, and when planning the wedding, told me he would not feel married, unless it was in a church. I wanted him to feel married, and to please my grandma, so naturally we had a church wedding.

    xxx

  8. Posted October 13, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    My husband is a Christian. There, I said it. The reason I don't say this very often is precisely for the reasons you've set out – people look at you like you've just said "my husband believes in fairies" or "my husband is a Gareth Gates fan". It's just not the done thing among my peers.

    But you know what? I envy him. I do. I look at those who have faith and wish I could have just a crumb of that comfort and certainty. The more that the terrifyingly crazy evangelicals in America thrust themselves into the limelight, the more people forget that the majority of Christians are simply loving, selfless people who believe in something greater than themselves. I am so proud of my husband for his morals and beliefs, even if I don't always entirely share them – he is truly a good person and I admire him more than I can say. It's also easy to forget that Christianity was the building block upon which the Western world was constructed, and it still invisibly influences our lives and beliefs more than we can possibly understand.

    I do find religion fascinating. People have been worshipping and thinking and talking about God, in all His myriad forms, for as long as there have been people. On an intellectual level, I would love to know more. But you're right – it is far easier to choose not to believe than the other way around, and as a child of one staunch atheist parent and one goes-to-church-at-Easter-and-Christmas-mainly-for-the-good-hymns parent, it would be a huge leap for me to "choose" faith. I don't think you can choose it. It needs to come from within, and you can't force it.

    Thank you for writing this and I hope you have a wonderful wedding.

  9. Posted October 13, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    P.S. Love the bit about the Dawkins Disciples. There is nobody on this earth who hates Richard Dawkins more than my husband. It's not very Christian of him, but it cracks me up.

  10. Elle
    Posted October 13, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Excellent post! Why do people think that it is OK to be disparaging about Christian faiths (in particular)? I don't think that "Dawkins' disciple" types would ever try to "convert" people of other faiths. Everyone has a right to their own beliefs. As long as they are not hurting anyone, who cares? In my opinion, Dawkins carries around a lot of hate.

    I have quite a woolly faith myself, I believe in God and was brought up a Christian. My fiance is a Dawkin's disciple!! He cannot understand how I can have faith in God, especially as I like to pick and choose my own parts of Christianity to live by!

    He said we could get married in a church if I wanted, but I would feel it would be hypocritical to take Christian vows of a faith that he vehemently does not believe in. I believe God will bless us where ever we are married.

    I am glad that you are brave enough to stand by your beliefs. They are yours, and people should respect that! :)

  11. Jeanie
    Posted October 13, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Morning all!

    I am with Anna in the 5th category – and also in the envy stakes. I envy the peace that people find in their faith.

    I am totally shocked by the reactions that you have had to your Catholic wedding – who on earth has the right to question these choices?!

    My father can be a bit of a '1' at times, and can be quite dismissive of religion, in particular Catholicism. Raised in a strict Catholic household, he says his attitude is as a result of that. I personally think its just rudeness, but hey!

    We all chose to lead our lives the way we see best – we should support and respect each others choices even if they are at odds with our own!

    Sorry you have not met more 5's in your wedding planning!

  12. Posted October 13, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Elle, you mentioned getting married in a church being hypocritical. I had the church service to please my better half, and initially worried about being a hypocrite. However, I surprised myself, in that the church service was by far and away my favourite part of the day. I am so glad we got married in a church, it was a beautiful service, and I loved every moment of it. Right from our first meeting with the vicar, to choosing our readings and hymns, putting together the order of service, having my brothers and brother in laws as ushers, to listening to the vicar's words about marriage, and us.

    In the practice the night before, I'd advised that I did not want the bit on who gives this woman to this man. I was not my father's possession. The vicar explained to the congregation how I had not wanted this, the history behind this line, and finished by cracking a joke, on Andy only just discovering I was a feminist. It was funny, but one of those you had to be there. He also picked sections out of our readings, and discussed the meaning behind the words. We were really lucky to have a super vicar, who used to teach theology. I digress.

    There have been posts on no such thing as the perfect wedding, well the church service was perfect. It was the church my parents were married in, almost 40 years earlier, and it meant a lot to both our families, having a church service.

    I don't think not being religious, makes you a hypocrite to get married in a church, if you want to marry in a church, I would strongly recommend that you do.

    xx

  13. Elle
    Posted October 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Katie – Sorry, I didn't mean to cause offence or generalise – people should choose where they are married which is right for them, definitely.

    For us, my fiance is quite anti-religion. And I am not really bothered either way where we get married, faith wise or preference wise, I really like both ceremonies. So I think this is right for our situation.

    I am really glad that you had such a positive experience and it is wonderful that our partners can open our lives up to experiences that we normally wouldn't have. And in a church that was so personal to you! Wonderful. :)

    Anyway, no offence meant!

  14. Anonymous
    Posted October 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Whenever I hear people going on about being a 'lasped this' or 'non-practising that' I am reminded of a quote from Dogma (forgive me if you're not a fan, but it sums up the way I think about such things)-

    'When are you people going to learn? It's not about who's right or wrong. No denomination's nailed it yet, because they're all too self-righteous to realize that it doesn't matter what you have faith in, just that you have faith. Your hearts are in the right place, but your brains gotta to wake up.'

    Personally I take that to mean whether you're a Roman Catholic, Jewish or a Secular Humanist your faith is yours and yours alone. How you see fit to practise your faith (e.g. mass/service on Sundays, evangelising, getting married in the chirch of your choosing) is YOUR business. Anyone who judges or berates you for that is, quite frankly, ignorant.

    (Sorry if this seemed a bit agressive, but I feel very strongly about people angrily qustioning others' faith when they themselves have no idea what they believe in and will not engage in an open discussion about the subject because they're probably very, very afraid that their own beliefs may be called into question.)

  15. Posted October 13, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Katie, I had a very similar experience to you – in fact I wrote about exactly this on A Practical Wedding here. Even for a non-believer, I agree that a church wedding can be an immensely meaningful experience.

    And I agree with all the people who said that there is no right or wrong way to do things and nobody's beliefs are more or less valid than anyone else's. I imagine I'm the same camp as most of you in that, for me, it's when people start trying to impose their beliefs on others that I start to get pissed off (and Christians can't exactly take the moral high ground over the Dawkins fanatics on that one – the Crusades, anyone…?).

    Really enjoying hearing everyone's different perspectives and experiences – keep it coming, ladies!

  16. Posted October 13, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Oh Hello!
    You are all reading what I wrote…from my head! How embarassing!! :)

    I agree with everything everyone has said, I do not think Catholicism is bettter than anyone elses or believe it is the only valid one.

    Anyway, thanks everyone for their kind words! Dont worry abut laughing when you read the post – I always laugh at extremely inappropriate moments!

  17. Posted October 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    oooh, Elle. I hope no offence was taken over my comment. I just read it back, and it sounds rather meddling. Sorry. I was just concerned that you may be missing out on something you wanted, over feeling like a hypocrite. I initially felt like this, and changing my mind, was the best wedding decision I made. But church service is not right for everyone, and civil services are wonderful too. It's all about joining together as man and wife, regardless of the service.

    Anonymous, thank you for quotation. I really liked it.

    Kirsty, I'm now off to read your post on A Practical Wedding.

    xx

  18. Posted October 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm, I don't fit into any of those 4 categories. I've never been a believer (another one who quite envies those who are though) but I've got friends of all faiths and it's not something I'd ever even think to challenge them about. The only time I have questioned anyones choices was the friend who had a Caribbean beach wedding for about 30 guests followed by a blessing at her church 'because it was important to her' – I just figured if it's that important why not just get married at the church in the first place and actually invite everyone. (Sorry about that, it's a bit of a sore point!)

    Also, Kirsty, 'my husband is a gareth gates fan' = snorting with laughter!

  19. Posted October 13, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Katy! What a wonderful post, thank you! It's amazing how stunningly judgemental otherwise rational people become over religion. We're having a church ceremony. I've been hurt and shocked at the reaction of some people. People who know me really very well have felt comfortable telling me I'm a moron for having (admittedly rather agnostic) faith. I can't understand this. They know I am not a moron, I'm actually a scientist. It's like they think that all my intelligence just fell out of my brain the moment I decided I believed in something. The vast majority of people find it impossible to comprehend that, for me, faith is a struggle, I don't blindly believe, and I question my beliefs a lot, but at the end of the day, I do believe. I also believe I am not a moron. Mostly.

    Incidentally, Elle and Katie, my fiance is an athiest, and initially he said he would feel hypocritical marrying in church. I pointed out that if he doesn't believe in God, then a church is just a beautiful building. I asked if he believes in the words of the marriage vows, and he does, so all the rest is at worst immaterial for him. I believe that all religious buildings have been prayed in, and that makes them special, they are home to hopes and fears and dreams of hundreds of thousands of millions of people over the years. Regardless of belief in God, that to me is special.

  20. Posted October 13, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    The Richard Dawkins thing really irritates me. I'm from a family of staunch atheists, but I was brought up to be very respectful of other people's religions, and it's made me a little envious of faith. I am living proof that it's far harder to adopt religion later on – I have often thought about it, but can't seem to commit to one belief system. So I float along in my undecided, humanist bubble. How do you go about figuring this stuff out in the secular age? Has anybody done it? Next AOW post please??

    Great post Katy. It shouldn't have to be a confession! If only people were more tolerant.

    Px

  21. Posted October 13, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Penny, I sort of figured it out. Actually, that's a lie because I'm still a bit confused, which is why I still say I'm a vaguely agnostic Christian (there is totally not a box for that on forms).

    Anyway, I got here (wherever here is) by reading a lot of stuff. Particulaerly In God We Doubt by John Humphries and any of C.S. Lewis's theological stuff, The Problem of Pain, A Grief Observed, Miracles etc.

    C.S. Lewis is my faith hero (is it weird to have a faith hero?) He just seems to own that faith isn't easy, and I find I can relate much more to someone who had to fight within themselves to believe.

    K x

  22. Helen
    Posted October 13, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this post Katy, I giggled a lot, and really enjoyed reading everyone's comments.

    I used to be a number three, the curious, or at least I like to think so. I was brought up in the Church of England and was always intrigued by my father's Catholic childhood. It had made him very bitter about Catholicism, but it fascinated me. I'm one of those who firmly believes that our entire culture has been built on Christianity, so it helps to know something about it. Plus I love churches, especially Catholic ones in France and Italy. Anyway.

    Years after I had pretty much lapsed into fondness rather than faith in my own church, I started going out with and quite quickly got engaged to a very devout practising Catholic. I knew his faith was the cornerstone of his life, so I went with him to Mass occasionally. I did argue with him about some things, such as the Catholic Church's teachings on birth control, especially since that particular policy was having a direct impact on my body and health. As our relationship fell apart, those rows got more ferocious. He was openly dismissive of my beliefs (secular, humanist, feminist, a lingering affection for the Church of England). Despite the problems, I began the process of conversion to Catholicism, because that was what my fiance demanded. It took some extremely vicious escalations in the conflicts to make me realise that far from marrying him, I absolutely had to leave him.

    His religion was undoubtedly a factor in our split, but he was a very odd chap with a great many problems, and even at the time I knew Catholicism wasn't the bogeyman, although I have to say, I lost all my romantic fascination with it pretty much the moment I finally kicked my fiance out!

    In the end, everybody's faith or belief system, so long as they pursue it humanely, is deserving of respect. The hostility you have encountered seems totally out of place to me. I know those Dawkins acolytes can be a right pain. Unfortunately there are lunatics in every camp. I am just glad I didn't marry one of the Catholic variety.

    I wish you and your husband to be a wonderful wedding day and a very happy marriage.
    Helen

  23. Posted October 13, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Katy, I'm so glad you wrote about this. I have been fairly standard CoE for years (not every Sunday by a long chalk) but have since met and am marrying a vicar which has caused me to rethink quite a lot. I've also been reading some (very) basic theology so I have a bit more of an idea! I'm also a (lapsed) biologist so really like people like Alistair McGrath who writes on theology like a scientist.

    It has made planning the wedding lovely – for my future husband the ceremony is the thing, so choosing the hymns and music and the form of service was really the most important. Which means the reception is really just a family party, and that really takes the pressure off!

    Hurray for Christian scientists (of a rather different kind!)!

  24. Posted October 13, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Helen – I totally agree that there are nut-jobs in evry category all over the world. Your ex sounds like one of them.

    I have issues with the Catholic Church in many many things (particularly birth control1!). But, at the end of the day just because I have issues with the organisation doesnt mean I cant be a part of it. And, lets be honest, about 95% of all Catholics use contraception – they are mostly normal people who do normal things! Honest!

  25. Helen
    Posted October 13, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Ha ha! I know, Katy, I don't doubt it for a second. I think most Catholics, like most Christians and most atheists for that matter, are just trying to do their best. I like organisations that encourage sensible and respectful debate about important things and it sounds like you have a great church community going on where you can do that, and worship. Why would you get married anywhere else? Enjoy your day.

  26. Posted October 14, 2011 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    I love this.

    This was my life for the entire time I was engaged, and when we start considering children I'm sure it'll start all over again.

    Now I shall decline to comment and refer them to this weblink

    Thank you!!

  27. Anonymous
    Posted October 15, 2011 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    What is with the evolution question? Catholic schools teach evolution.

  28. Posted October 15, 2011 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    Hello Anonymous

    The evolution remark was slightly a throw away funny remark to end the post.

    However, there is a lot of misunderstanding about Catholics and Evolution. Most people will ask me "Do you believe in Evolution" particularly being a Biologist. Hence, the bit at the end.

    In fact, the unofficial stance of the Catholic church is theistic evolution – that is God guides evolution and it is a planned, driven process. And that humans are a special case or creation and God can only explain the spiritual component of human origins.

    Therefore if a Catholic follows the catholic church to the letter (which I dont) then the theories of an effectively cruel, natural, survival of the fittest style of evolution is not what one should believe.

    Hope that answers your question!

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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