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I can so!

Thanks to <lj user="sweetmusic_27"> for prompting this walk down memory lane.  This isn't quite the same post as I put in her feminism thread.

My mother raised her girls to believe that we could grow up to be anything.  She started young, knowing that we would get other messages from society about what it means to be “a girl” and “a woman”, and not wanting those ideas to stunt us. 

People being inherently complex and contradictory, I was also raised Catholic, and my parents sent us to Catholic grade schools from the start.  When I was 6—still too young to be required to go to Mass—we lived next to a convent and across the alley from the rectory, and my parents were on the parish’s PTA.  The grade school’s playgound was right next to the rectory, where the priests lived (mind you, we were under strict orders to walk around the block to and from school, making that dozen feet or so of alley a forbidden shortcut.).  But we could stand in our yard and talk to the priests in their yard, across the alley, or to the nuns over the fence.

One day, I was standing in the alley (well, almost in the alley, I was a good little Catholic girl at the time).  I was talking to a very nice younger priest, I believe a newcomer to our parish, who asked me the perennial question adults ask young kids.  Now, at that time, I had figured out that priests are as close to God as you can get in this life, and had decided I wanted to be a priest when I grew up.  (The essential vocation never left me, though my understanding of deity, of religion, of the priesthood, and of my own vocation has changed a lot since I was 6.) 

I smiled up at him and answered his question.  Looking quite shocked, he blurted out ungracefully, “you can’t be a priest.” 

“Why not?” I demanded, equally shocked.  When he told me it was because I was a girl, I ran inside to find my mother to tell her a priest was lying to me.  Admittedly, it was unthinkable to my very young self that a priest would lie, but it was impossible that God wouldn’t want me to be a priest merely because I was female. 

Of course, my mother had to tell me the priest was not lying.  This really shook me.  Initially, I questioned my belief in God, but I have always felt a strong connection to the Divine, so I had to conclude instead that it was the men who’d been running the Church for 2000 years who got it wrong.  That led to me questioning everything I was taught.  If my elders and ancestors could be wrong about something so fundamental, and so important, they could be wrong about anything.

In my charitable moments, I noted that there was no reason God would have told a bunch of men in Judea thousands of years ago the things I, a girl in the 20th century, needed to know—and even if such a God did try to tell them those things, how could they understand such advice?  But I also noted the power struggles and violence and veniality of so much of Christian religious history.  And in too many ways the Christian religion wasn’t a good fit to me (for instance, I was never willing to settle, as my High School Dominican teachers were, for the lesser role of "Sister" and a lifetime of working to try to change the Church from within).  And the Deity (or Deities) I sense didn't seem to be a part of the hierarchies that are so inherent to organized religion.

There’s lots of thought-paths I could travel from here, but I'm running out of lunch hour; I think I’ll end by sharing my two favorite word-images of Goddess.  The first is that of an artist, of course.  The second, an image that I’ve had atheists find intriguing and even say is compatible with their beliefs, is that Goddess is the universe, and people are the instruments of Her Consciousness.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 10th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
Your post
I like this a lot, and thanks for sharing. There are other things to note about the stuff allegedly sent from God a couple of thousand years ago: All the laws about "not committing adultery," etc., came down at a point when nobody had heard of birth control. One of the things I have heard, when people are discussing the Goddess, is that the Goddess can be viewed as the personification of whatever force makes the flowers bloom and the grass grow. And no matter how you object to this personification, it remains incontrovertible fact that the flowers do bloom and the grass does grow. I don't know how common this is among other self-identified pagans, but I have passed this on to a few people. In event, thanks for letting us get to know you better, and I hope to see you at some Milwaukee house filk in the next few months.

Apr. 10th, 2008 08:19 pm (UTC)
A time when no one ever heard of ...
or DNA-based paternity tests. Not that those lead to any more sanity in how people treat each other than we had before they existed, as far as I can tell.
Apr. 15th, 2008 10:24 pm (UTC)
New Friend
I saw that you added me to your Friends list -- thank you! -- so I added you to mine and stopped by here to browse.

That's a really powerful story above. Thanks for sharing!
Apr. 24th, 2008 12:05 am (UTC)
Re: New Friend
You're very welcome. That's one of those occurrences that ripples through a person's life, shaping so many many things...It's something I've shared in different places before, but it's so central to who I am that I'm glad it's the first bit I managed to get into writing here.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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