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Religion vs Faith


I was eight years old at the time of this Event. And strangely out of all of the Events I could have spoken about this was the first one that came to mind.

Trusting my intuition I felt the need to surrender to the child within that wished to speak about her experience.

Before I get to the re-telling of the event I need to give you a bit of the back-story. I was brought up as a Catholic, and when I was seven years old, in 1964, I made my first Holy Communion.

For those of you who don’t know much about the Catholic Church and its traditions, you can read an explanation of the First Communion at the end of this blog.

I was very much looking forward to taking Holy Communion. I remember feeling grown up and excited to be included in something that up until then I had been excluded from.

I looked fantastic in my beautiful white dress, painstakingly made by hand by my mum. Vanity and pride are frowned upon in the Catholic Church, but I was determined to feel good about myself.

This snapshot of time where I was preparing to take Holy Communion and the celebration on the day was a bright light in a somewhat shadowy childhood.

It was not long after this event that I turned 8.

Sadly my father was an abusive alcoholic, and most of the time my mother was pretty desperate for support in trying to make him change by giving up drinking.

He not only drank, which robbed the household of money, but he was also a gambler, and other than smoking who knows what else he was addicted to.

Mum had used the resource of her doctor to get help, as Catholic women did not get divorced. (Although leaving him would have been my idea of a good solution to the problem.) So doctors did what they could, and prescribed many women in abusive relationships with drugs to cope.

In those days the drugs were perhaps not monitored as well as they are these days, and my mother was often out of it, sleeping a lot when she wasn’t working. (That story will definitely be a future blog post.)

In one of my mother’s attempts to change my Father, she eventually asked the Parish Priest to come over after church on a Sunday and have a chat to him.

You have to realize that most Catholics in the sixties were overly proud, and often pretended everything in their life was wonderful, when really domestic life was one often with too many children, not enough money and very often living with an alcoholic. Something so shameful most Catholic women could not admit to it.

I can only imagine how much shame my mother felt when she asked for the Priest’s support. Poor Mum.

The other thing is that on Sunday’s, well most Sunday’s my Father tried not to drink. So it was quite a shock when the priest turned up with a substantial amount of alcohol that he proceeded to share with my father, ending up with them both getting drunk together.

I was pretty shocked as you can imagine and, I knew based on my father’s capacity for drinking, he wouldn’t stop drinking once the priest had left. And as a consequence the family were probably in for a rough night with my Father’s argumentative nature. But, mostly I remember feeling ashamed about how our Parish Priest could treat us so badly. And I also did wonder if all men were alcoholics.

I know this is when I first began to feel disappointed in the Church and uncertain about Catholicism. Up until then it had been my salvation.

I proceeded to dutifully do what Catholic girls do, but my heart was never really in it after that. Eventually at the age of sixteen I left the church in search of something else.

As I look back it does feel like a remarkable event, and pivotal to my life now. My amazing eight-year-old knew what was right and wrong. The adults in this story were behaving badly, and it was not right. Basically she was unsafe in their care, and every child deserves to feel safe.

I know now as I did then, we all have the choice to change our reality; nothing is permanent, and nothing has to remain the same. No one has to remain a victim to his or her upbringing.

I guess the more we can trust in our inner child’s innate wisdom, the more we can create the reality we wish to live, and the code of ethics we choose to live by.

I am therefore truly grateful for this experience, as it has allowed me an opportunity to strengthen my will, to know there are other ways to live, and certainly other things to have faith in spiritually.

And finally I feel genuine compassion for my father and mother and of course the priest. As they have all passed, may they rest in peace.

Love Claire

* Explanation of Communion in the Catholic Church

The sacrament of First Communion is an important tradition for Catholic families and individuals. For Catholics, Holy Communion is the third of seven sacraments received. It occurs only after receiving Baptism, and once the person has reached the age of reason (usually, around the second grade). First confession (the first sacrament of penance) must precede the reception of the Eucharist.


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