Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Early Merry Christmas (Catholicism, Conversion, and Death: not necessarily in that order)

Peace on earth and goodwill to men.

I grew up during the cold war, that is the global backdrop of my childhood.  I have also eluded that the local backdrop of my childhood (i.e. family, friends, strangers, & church folk) was not...well it is the Christmas season and I am feeling charitable so I will just say it was not what you would see in Norman Rockwell painting.  I never felt safe as a child.

Full Disclosure: I have not felt safe until I started my conversion to Catholicism.

The world today is full of shooting wars as opposed to a cold war.  There is a lot of overt hate and intolerance, I say overt because I am sure people hated each other when I was a kid but you certainly did not see it manifest in such public and violent ways  People are vocal about their intolerance of "others" cultural, religious, and racial differences in a way that is alarming.

I look at today and I look back at yesterday of my childhood and put them side by side for comparison.  I put my objective eyes on and I believe there was less to fear when I was a child than there is to fear now, I mean overall...not like specific threats...that is like a whole another book, not even a blog post, like a book. so not specific just overall things are scarier now.

That being said I am coming back around and yes it is happening: this is a religious post, not a post with religious content, I have had those before, this is an outright, show it in the sunshine religious post. 

Nobody knows when their ticket ticket to ride is going to get punched, when the last train to Clarksville is, when we are going to get lifted up where we belong (miss you Joe Cocker), when we all out of love, when we need to walk that way, when we will become a dancing queen, when we are headed to the dirt, when the rain comes again, when the static from channel z ends, when we will get eaten by the werewolves of London, when Diana Ross leaves us to not hang on anymore, when U2 finds what they are looking for, when Luka from the second floor moves out completely, when Semisonic tells us that it is closing time, when you find where your mind went, when PJ Harvey sings that she is rid of you and knows it is for good, when the cowboys from hell kick your ass one last time, when all Patsy Cline has left is sweet dreams of you, when it is time to put down the pretty machine for the last time, when Sister Christian has to go motoring by herself, when you find out what the lead singer of Morphine found out (the only cure for pain is death), take that final crazy train and find out where it leads, you head like bat out of hell for your final reward, and finally you are no longer a subterranean homesick alien.

Just to be clear nobody knows when they are going to die.

Few people in the world live like they are dying and we are all dying just at different speeds and definitely some deaths are more easily predicted than others.  I am certainly no exception to this rule and even after my diagnosis of sarcoidosis I did not live any differently but after a couple of years of being sick....it was oh shit I am going to die and possibly sooner than even the little dark man in the back of my head had thought.

When that realization finally sunk in I started to live like every day was precious and I wanted to be the person I had always wanted to be and I wanted to do the things I always wanted to do.  The irony (and not in that Alanis Morissette bullshit kind of way) is that by the time I realized the gift and beauty that is a day of life I was no longer able to do all the things I had wanted to do but wait it gets even more ironic.

Not to be deterred I set off on the list of things I always wanted to and I did my best to do the things I could.  The first thing I wanted to do was not be an asshole to everyone and if you are someone in my day to day life you know that some days I am better at this than others.  Second (this should have been first but I am only human) I wanted to be Catholic.

Generally speaking the program you go through to convert to Catholicism as an adult takes a year and usually all the adults converting complete the program and are baptized at Easter and Easter is coming soon.

Before I get into the religious finale I just wanted to say you should live each day like you are dying, kiss your wife, your mother, your father, your sisters, your brothers, your friends (maybe only kiss your friends that are Europeans) and tell them you love them (if applicable) and if you do love them act like it and spend those days with them enjoying their company, life is shorter than you think and it is much too short not enjoy each precious day as much as you are able and don't be petty (I am still working on this one) but really whether you are religious or not there are only a few days spent on this earth and everyone should live like it (in a good way).

In the past nine months that I have been actively converting to the Catholicism, I have been reading books, going to a weekly class and of course weekly Mass and what has got me you may ask?  Peace, in a word peace.  I am not Pollyanna and everyday is not filled with joy and I have trouble embracing pain like the saints but instead of dark little man in the back of my mind there is light and that is light from God and is something I lean on.  I know that does not make sense and I will not try and explain it.  It is transcendent and I feel like a kid on Christmas eve waiting to open presents and the anticipation is building until Easter and my baptism.

PS

I am also less of an asshole, not completely not an asshole I am still working on it but much less of an asshole.

PPS

The non-spiritual support I get from the clergy and members of my parish is indispensable and now I am part of a community, it is a community of believers and it may be the first time I have ever been part of a community (in a good way).  We also laugh and joke about non-Catholic things and I have made friends and trust me when you are sick having friends that are not freaked out by your potential death (at least freaked out less because they all know where I am headed (knock on wood)) and being in a social group again is really awesome (sorry I could not come up with anything better than awesome).

PPPS

I know I have had a lot of run on sentences and I have abused conjunctions and I ask for your forgiveness.