Every Wednesday while in grade school, a bus would come pick me up and take me and the other Catholic kids to another school where we would spend the afternoon listening to the nuns teach us about being a good Catholic. Their lessons were filled with rules about what was right and wrong, what God liked and didn’t; what was a sin and what wasn’t; and how we’d be punished if we didn’t listen and follow these dictates passed down by the church.
I was brought up to be a good Italian girl and listen to my elders – especially the nuns – but there was something in me that usually resisted blindingly following rules I didn’t understand or didn’t feel right, so I’d question what I was being taught. In the back of my mind I seemed to ask, “Is this true?” I drove the adults in my life nuts with my insistent questions.
One Wednesday the nuns were teaching us about mortal sins. Along with murder, mortal sin – at the time – included eating meat on Friday or missing mass on Sunday. We were told that if we died with any mortal sin on our soul – unconfessed – we’d go straight to hell! This seemed a severe punishment for breaking a command that really didn’t hurt anyone or make you a bad person. It made God seem vindictive…so I raised my hand.
With my voice shaking , I timidly said that I believed in a loving God…that I couldn’t believe he would send us to hell for eating meat or missing mass? I’ll never forget the look of shock on her face that I would even question this, or the tone of her reprimand. “This is your religion and it’s beyond questioning” was what she strongly replied. I remember feeling shamed, but unconvinced. Many others, I’ve since found, questioned this too.
A few months later, Vatican II changed this decree…and I changed my belief in the Church. “How could a meeting of men change what was divinely written unless it wasn’t divine in the first place?” I wondered. This caused a fatal crack in my faith and sent me on a journey to find what was true – what would always be true.
In the process, my belief in a loving God only grew stronger. This connection, though sometimes forgotten, has never left…and neither have the questions. They’re questions we all ask. How does a loving God allow such misery and suffering in the world? Why does a loving God punish innocent children? Why do bad things happen to good people?
None of this ever made sense to me until I found a brilliant blue book, A Course in Miracles, about 10 years ago – actually it found me 20 years ago but I wasn’t ready. In it was the answer I was looking for. He doesn’t. If He did, He wouldn’t be loving! How simple! It explained everything!
But the question still remains, “If He doesn’t, then who does?”
We do? How is that possible? I don’t want to suffer and I don’t want anyone else to suffer either…but we all do. We’ve come to accept that suffering is simply a part of life. But what if we’re wrong? What if life simply, patiently, lovingly waits until we’ve had enough, so it can show us another way?
The unlearning of much of what I was taught so long ago by my tribe, by the nuns and by the thinking of the world propelled me on a grand adventure that’s been chipping away at all the ways I’ve lied to myself, slowly revealing the treasure within – like Michelangelo so beautifully demonstrated as he chiseled the dense marble to expose the masterpiece that was The David. It’s an adventure of a lifetime and begins when we ask, “There’s got to be a better way.”
Somehow we got everything backwards and straightening things out is a lifelong process. Whether we think we were duped by our religion, our education, our upbringing, or the thinking of the world…none of that matters. Duping is duping and it all belongs to the ego’s world which did make suffering and guilt into a “religion” we’re all members of.
So I’ll never stop questioning, “Is it true?” and asking for a better way. The ego’s world is what we see with our physical eyes. A better way sees the world differently – through the eyes of Spirit. It’s a choice we make, moment by moment, situation by situation, person by person…until inch-by-inch, this upside-down world is right side up!
With love, Silvia
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