To The Good Catholic Girl I Used To Be

To The Good Catholic Girl I Used To Be

I'm not the same girl I used to be and that's okay because I like this version of myself better.
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Growing up, I was raised as a good Catholic girl but when I took my first religion class in college a professor asked me, "Why do you believe in Catholicism?" I looked at him and said, "Because I do. I was raised-" He cut me off and said, "Why do you believe in Catholicism?" I stared at him...stuck. I couldn't come up with an answer, other than the fact that I was raised to. That wasn't the nail in the coffin for my change of heart, though.

I went to church with my brother one Sunday and we had a guest priest. We had a pretty open parish because our regular priest was once married and had kids but turned to God when his wife died. This guest priest bashed the LBGTQ+ community, making some of our members upset because they identified with the LBGTQ+ community, calling them mistakes and that they would go to hell. In that moment, I thought about what my professor said and I realized I did not believe in this close-minded priest's words at all; who I believed in had changed, I had changed. I believe in me and what I feel is right and wrong I believed in equality and the right to love any human being you want to. I realized that I didn't want to be in that room any longer so I got up in the middle of his rant and left, all while hearing him yell at me that I had evil in me and that's why I couldn't stand to listen to the word of the lord. No God I want to believe in would condemn people for their sexual preferences, no God I believe in would take women's rights to their bodies away, and no God would think that sex before marriage (a created ceremony) would deem a women less.

For my brother's wedding, I was asked to go to confession because it was a Catholic wedding and I was the maid of honor. I agreed but at this point of my life I identified with the ideology of agnostic, so I let the priest know and he, of course, set out to change my mind. When he failed at that, he tried to guilt me. He went through all the commandments and tried to convince me of the sins I was committing. Here are all 10:

1. You shall have no other gods before Me.

This was my first sin apparently. I loved mythology (English major, duh) and loved the idea of Greek gods. If I could have my pick, hell yeah the Greek gods are the gods I want over us, not because they are better but, I mean, they are super honest about being assholes. The God I was told to believe in was supposed to be all knowing and pure but these Gods are flawed and relatable. Apollo got a woman to turn herself into a tree because she wanted to be away from him. I totally relate to the tree nymph because I think being a tree wouldn't be so bad to get away from dumbass college boys.

2. You shall not make idols.

Well, shit, there goes my love for Demi Lovato. Just kidding, I'd totally go to hell for Demi Lovato. People need idols and role models to survive. Your parents, celebrity, siblings can all be role models and idols. God doesn't have to be the dude you model yourself after because honestly, he seems kinda dull. So here is sin number two, having a role model that saved my life. I'm just so terrible, clearly.

3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

God damn it! Jesus Christ. Oops, my bad, stubbed my toe. In all seriousness, though, they are just words. Who came up with this rule? Clearly, this person never walked around in the dark and tripped on their dog's toy. If this is sinning then I'm going to be in hell for a long, long time.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Someone help a girl out here...what is Sabbath Day again? Sinned again. Damn. Give me a second to google it... WOW. I feel dumb, it's Sunday, the day you go to church, and also the day I sleep in. It's a day of rest. Honestly, I can get behind this one. Everyone should get to sleep in on Sunday's because Catholicism says if I don't I'm sinning. But sadly, that is not how it works, you have to get up and go to church and dress nice and ugh...too much work for me. I'll pass.

5. Honor your father and your mother.

I give honor and respect to those who deserve it from me, not by default. So, maybe I am sinning for this but they don't always deserve honor. I won't feel bad for that, even if it is a sin.

6. You shall not murder.

Well, according to that priest, I'm killing my possible, unborn children by taking birth control so there's that. I mean, I need to abstain. Ugh. I'm good, thanks, I'll keep up with the times and go to my gyno because it's healthy. And I'll plan my family the way I want and if that's a sin, then again, I'm cool with it. Apparently, I don't care about this sinning thing. I'm going to have sex and I could give a shit about being married.

7. You shall not commit adultery.

Well...yeah. About this one, I am a bad for participating in this but that doesn't make me a fully bad person. I wasn't the one committed to someone but that doesn't make it right and I'm sorry for hurting another woman. Though I promised to live my life for me and that is not wrong. I did not break a vow I made to someone, though if I had, I would own up to it and realize while adultery is wrong, it is not always so black and white. Each side makes mistakes and I happened to get caught in the cross hairs. Remember ladies, don't blame the other girl (she owed you nothing), blame him but understand that anger won't solve anything. Let go and move on, peacefully.

8. You shall not steal.

I stole things as a child but not in a malicious way, I just didn't understand how money worked so I thought it was okay to take things. As an adult, I never steal but not because I'm afraid of sinning that, on the moral standpoint that someone worked really hard for that thing they own and it's not mine to simply take. I mean, I do steal some extra food from my friends' plates but that's not wrong, right? My size zero self can pack weight away so maybe I also steal fat away. Who knows?

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Lying is such an interesting phenomenon. People lie all the time, whether about serious things or not. It's human nature and while lying can be wrong there are lies that protect people. Telling your children about Santa is a lie but it brings magic and joy into their life, though my mom told me when I was five and it wasn't a big deal to me as a person but I did miss out on the excitement. There are other lies, like lies of omission because sometimes it easier not to tell someone something so not to hurt them. That isn't sinning but rather it's doing a bad thing for the right reason. Who knows, maybe I'm lying about lying, you can never know who to trust.

10. You shall not covet.

I yearn for things like anyone else. It doesn't make it a sin, though. I want a nice house and a good job. I covet these things because I want a good life for myself and that is not wrong. Jealousy can be a positive emotion, because it causes people to work on themselves and covet the traits they like in others, for themselves.

So to the priests and people who tell you that you are sinning, you aren't. You're living for you. Be a strong, independent version of yourself. Religion isn't terrible but it can make you feel terrible, so know that while you can believe in whatever you want, make sure it's what you believe and evaluate your morals for yourself. Don't let some ancient book do it for you. I'm not the same girl I used to be and that's okay because I like this version of myself better.

Cover Image Credit: VideoBlocks

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To Everyone Who Hasn't Had Sex Yet, Wait For Marriage, It's The Right Move

If you have not had sex yet, wait.

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Premarital sex is not a new concept, no matter how much people like to pretend it is. You can trace scripture and historical texts back thousands of year to see that lust and fornication have been a problem since… well, since we humans have been problems.

They tell you in sex ed that sex causes you to form a bond with someone. They throw some big chemical names at you that are apparently in your body and cause that emotional attachment to happen, then you move on (or back to) how important condoms are and why STDs are so scary.

As a middle schooler or teenager, you can't understand what it means to become permanently connected to someone as a result of a quick, physical act.

If you haven't even had your first kiss, you really can't imagine what it's like to develop such a complex and intimate connection with someone because you have yet to feel the butterflies in your stomach from a kiss. So you really don't know what it's like to have a whole different type of feeling in your stomach.

You never forget your first love. It's one of the most cliche things you consistently hear, but it's true. Ask anyone. I guarantee your parents can still spurt out their first love's name in a few seconds. And most people never forget their first time. I know all my friends can recount that often awkward and slightly terrifying moment as if it happened an hour ago. When you mix those two, especially if you are in your teens, oh boy.

You never forget that. No matter how hard you try.

Everything you hear about sex is true: it's amazing, fantastic, life-changing, etc. There's a reason people have done it as frequently as they do, for as long as they have. But every time you sleep with someone, you leave a piece of yourself with them. Every time you choose to take that final physical step with someone, you cannot go back and collect that piece of your dignity and soul that you left with someone.

So, imagine what happens when you break up with someone you've slept with. Or that you just hooked up with. You have given someone a little slice of yourself forever. And you can never get it back. And imagine what happens when you do that multiple times. You give a piece of yourself to five, 10, 15, 20 or more people. Then you meet the person that you want to spend forever with. And you no longer have that whole part of you. You've given pieces away, and you can no longer give those to the love of your life.

So, save those pieces for your future spouse.

If you have not had sex yet, wait. If you have, consider not giving more pieces of yourself away to people who are not your spouse. Sex was created to be between two spouses, nobody else. So we need to try to maintain its integrity.

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It May Be Winter Break But That Doesn't Mean It's A Break From Following Jesus

How do we keep ourselves "focused on God" and following Him in our time of break?

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It happens far too often for me: I begin my school year by investing time in my weekly small group and larger campus Christian community (for me, that's Campus Christian Fellowship at WWU). Throughout the quarter I'm building spiritual friendships, cultivating a consistent devotional life, attending larger gatherings of worship during the week...I'm really rocking the whole following Jesus thing through and through.

And then winter break comes. It seems to be the same story that I write for myself. Classes end, so I do away with a daily routine. My campus Christian community doesn't typically meet weekly for small groups or weekly worship gatherings, so I do away with seeking community and just manage with who I can find to hang out with.

From my experience in disciplining college students, just like myself, they have experienced (or could potentially experience) this type of winter break too: the type of winter break that is ultimately a break from following Jesus.

So how do we avoid this? How do we keep ourselves "focused on God" and following Him in our time of break?

Hebrews is one of the last "books" in your Bible, way back into the New Testament. It's actually not really a book, but more so a letter, written by an unknown author. The audience of the letter is unknown, but we can assume that the community of Jesus followers being written to were Jewish, as the author assumes that they possess vast knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures.

Throughout the letter, the author is challenging his audience in their faith, drawing on previous scenes and characters from the Old Testament (specifically The Law, aka the first five books of the Bible) to help readers understand how powerful and important Jesus truly is, as well as what it looks like to follow Him.

But the more I have focused and reflected on a specific passage from Hebrews this past week, the more God has spoken to me about how to navigate winter break...and how you can navigate winter break, too!

The passage I am referring to is Hebrews 3:7-14, NIV:

So, as the Holy Spirit says:
"Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested and tried me,
though for forty years they saw what I did.
That is why I was angry with that generation;
I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.'
So I declared on oath in my anger,
'They shall never enter my rest.' "
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

Notice how the author is framing the reader's perception of their current situation: they are being equated to God's people who, in a very early Old Testament story, were led by God through a land of wilderness. While traveling this dangerous, treacherous terrain, they faced temptation and testing, fighting to not turn away from following God.

That is exactly what our winter break is: it is us walking through the wilderness, a period of testing that can tempt us to turn away from following God. And because of that, I believe this passage speaks clear truths about how to be on guard against turning away and continuing to grow in Faith this winter break.

First off, the author goes out of their way to say that the Holy Spirit is speaking the following stanza of poetry over God's people. But when you look closer, this selection of poetry is simply a quotation from the book of Psalms. It's abundantly clear: God's Spirit, His personal presence, speaks to us through His word. We need to have a cultivated, routine habit over the break of being in God's word, having time to read Scripture for the purpose of hearing His voice over us.

Secondly, we need to pay attention to what the Spirit is saying in this poem: that God's people are not to "harden their hearts." Practically, what I have found most helpful in keeping my heart soft, keeping myself open towards God's will and plans for me, is an active time of prayer. I keep a prayer journal and make it a routine to write in it, not just asking for requests for myself, but primarily I pray for God is open my eyes to "know [His] ways" (Hebrews 3:10, NIV). Even combining this with a time of reflecting on Scripture will help you build a daily (or bi-daily, but hopefully daily) time to hear God's voice in two unique ways.

But there is a final component that the author really hones in on a community. The contrast the author makes is between those who turn away from God and those who have a community, encouraging one another. While we are leaving behind our current community of college friends and community of Jesus followers, there is nothing wrong with daily praying for and sending encouragement via text or even phone call to them, too! Setting up and asking for accountability over break is an excellent way to continue following Jesus together.

Ultimately, why these practical steps work is because it is what God prescribes for those in the wilderness. He watched His own people hike into and through the wilderness, to terrible results of disobedience and sin. God knows that if His people meditate on Scripture and pray daily, that they will recognize His voice, hear His instructions, and posture their hearts every day towards following His path through winter break (aka our own wilderness). Community is also at the focus of this: keeping each other encouraged and accountable means we allow God to use us, to speak to each other we strive to be and live obediently through the wilderness as His people.

This winter break does not have to be a relapse into your past, high school self. You have made progress towards following and living more like Jesus, the progress that God is proud of and wants to protect. We need to allow Him to protect us, through the instructions He provides for us in the Scripture above, so that we may also continue to "share in Christ," to continue to be citizens of the Eternal Kingdom.

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