Recently I have realized that I am slowly beginning to rediscover my Roman Catholic Roots. I’m still at my core very much a spiritualist, and I always will be that will never change. I can’t say that I can go back to believing in only One God – because to say that would discount everything the world has taught me about loving people regardless of what they believe in.
I can say however that I am finding my roots and I am doing so proudly. The first time I was molested I was told I was going to hell, instead of being allowed to be the victim I was, I was shamed into thinking I was going to suffer eternal damnation. The first time I was raped I was certain that this act of violation had cemented that. I was certain that Father Alex had written my name on a piece of paper and sent it to God. I was certain that everything I suffered through since that day was because I was being punished for allowing myself to be raped.
Yesterday I was introduced to this amazing piece called “Take back the Night” by Titilope Sonuga from Edmonton Alberta. If you haven’t heard this woman’s voice, not her just her words but the way her voice flows as she talks about how women are treated after abuse, you should. It might change your life.
I am taking back the night. I have been thinking lately about the fantasy I had as a child.
My beautiful white dress flowing around me as I walked down the aisle of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Calgary Alberta, the church pews filled with family and friends from around the globe watching me vow to love, honor and cherish the man I would spend the rest of my life with. The party celebrating our union and love and the limo ride to a plane that would take us on our honeymoon.
I have been remembering with a deep sadness about the fact that I was absolutely certain I would lose my virginity on an animal skin rug inside a log cabin somewhere in the mountains while the snow fell delicately outside. I don’t know why but this is an image I’ve had in my head since I first heard about marriage.
I’ve also been thinking about the way that fantasy dissolved the night I was raped the first time. I was violated and something I’d spent most of my childhood looking forward to was stolen. No little girl should have their dreams shattered – especially when that dream was shattered with the fear of never ending torment.
My thoughts have stuttered around the idea of how fucking ridiculous it is that instead of holding me close and telling me that it wasn’t my fault and chasing down the men who violated me, a Priest I admired and adored stole from me my childhood. Instead of playing with other kids and enjoying summer holidays and making lifelong memories I was surrounded by the fear of demons and hell and torment. I spent the majority of my life waiting to and in some cases, trying to die thinking that God himself would cast me out of his kingdom and into the seven levels of hell.
I’ve considered going back to the Church many times over the years. I admit I do miss the ritual, the connection to God that the Church is supposed to provide. I miss the community and the fellowship and the pure enjoyment of having a spiritual connection to other people. Which is why several weeks ago I went to speak with a Priest and ask for spiritual guidance.
Instead I was told that if I wanted to return to the church I needed to go to confession, repent my sins and then I would gladly be welcomed back into the fold.
You know what hurts the most? All I wanted was for him to say “I’m sorry that happened to you and no of course you are not going to hell for having been a victim. No it wasn’t your fault.” That’s all it would have taken and I’d have gladly gone to confession and to communion, I’d have gladly laid down my life to return to the place that had once brought me so much serenity and peace.
It was in this moment while I sat in a beautiful church in Vancouver BC that I felt the hand of God on my shoulder. I am certain I did, I am certain that as the tears rolled down my eyes, as I stared at Jesus on the Cross above my head that for a moment God was more with me than I’ve felt in a very long time.
It was then in this moment I realized…I will not be returning to the fold.
The Church as a society has nothing for me but more pain and suffering. More men telling me how to live life in a way that doesn’t fit with who I am as an individual. It is in this moment as I write this that I realize God is not in the men that stand in front of a pulpit but he is instead in me.
He is in the rain and the sorrow, the pain and suffering and in the laughter and joy, he is in the sunshine and the flowers and he is everywhere and anywhere I choose to see him. I do not need to confess anything to anyone but to myself. It is me that I need to look into the eyes of every morning. It is I that needs to live my life in such a way that I can be free and be happy. God’s hand is in everything I say and do and whether or not I go to hell isn’t something I am going to worry about any more.
God does not need you to be exactly the same, if that was what he wanted he wouldn’t have made 7 Billion different versions of us. He would have made us all exactly the same, but if we are to believe that God did create us all, then we must accept that we are exactly where we are supposed to be, and we are exactly who we are supposed to be. If this is true that God created us in his image then why cannot it also be true that God made 7 Billion different versions of himself? Who’s to say that He’s the only God?
I don’t know about you but I’m tired of worrying about the next life by being terrified to enjoy this one so I am not going to do it any more. I’m taking back my night.
All of that is to say that I am going to stay celibate until I get married. Not because of any archaic Catholic reasoning that all women should enter their marriage bed in purity (not quite demanded as strictly for men of course.) but because I want my wedding night to be special. I want to return to the idea that I will be sharing something with my husband, by choice, that I haven’t shared with anyone else.
I honestly believe that if Father Alex had tried to support me instead of trying to shame me my life would have turned out differently. Maybe I’d not be as tarnished as I am today, maybe I’d be a little more shiny and new, but I guess I’d be a lot less interesting.
Today my Literary Sister Rachel Thompson wrote “I reject the fairytale notion you MUST forgive the person who sexually abused you and then hallelujah, you’re healed. Recovery is work.”
I am not over the damage that Father Alex did to me that day. In fact I am downright fucking pissed off. It breaks my heart that a fourth grade little girl who was seeking help and support was turned upside down with the terror and lifelong nightmares that came with the fear his white hair and booming voice caused. I don’t know that I will ever allow my children to be brought up in a place that instills fear instead of love. I do know however that I will take all the good things I learned from the church and I will do my best to pass them on.
If and when God decides he’s going to end my life and send me to hell…he’s going to have one (ha ha) hell of a fight on his hands.
All my love,