I was brought up in a Chronically Catholic Family where the church ruled our existence in every aspect.
We had the added bonus (not) of actually living right next door to the Presbytery (they call them Parish Houses these days), which just so happened to be next door to the Parish Church itself. This enabled both my parents to attend mass pretty much every single day.
I remember one year when I was around 9 years of age, that I decided to accompany my father to the daily 6.30am mass for Lent (this period is from Ash Wednesday through to Good Friday). I would get up early and we would walk together in the dark, as dawn was still nowhere to be seen that time of year.
What I do remember was the peacefulness at this time of the day, no cars whizzing by and everything as quiet as a mouse. I also remember the mass itself, there would only be around six regulars who went along each day and it was very still and calming. Half an hour later after mass ended we would walk home with the day now started, dawn had appeared during that time and I never ceased to marvel at the experience of walking to church in the darkness, to then walking home to the new day.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realised that my father made this his daily ritual because that was probably the only quiet time he ever got to himself. Whether he also went from obligation or hoping it would erase his sins, I am not sure.
This was a lovely memory to have of being with my father. I realise now that it was probably the only time that we ever did something together, just the two of us on a regular basis for those few weeks. It wasn’t going to mass every day that was special, it was just being with my father each morning that made it special. I am not even sure whether we even spoke to each other on the way there or on the way back, it didn’t matter, it was lovely being with him in the stillness – and him being sober.
My father was a very heavy drinker and would start his drinking session each day at 4.30pm on the dot. By the time dinner time came along at 6.30pm (not a minute sooner otherwise he would be cranky as it would interfere with his drinking time) he would be pretty intoxicated and during those two hours, mum was sure to have had a go at him over something and so she would be pretty wound up. We were then expected to be hungry and eat dinner!!
However, after dinner each night we were made to say the Rosary, so everyone would leave the table except for me as I was usually still there spooning this liquid that was once ice cream back into my bowl hoping that somehow it would magically disappear or evaporate into thin air. I did not enjoy food and I certainly loathed pretty much anything dairy.
I would like to point out here that I was a sickly, scrawny child and ice cream was not given to me as a treat but as a way of trying to get some nutrition into my body. Anyway, the family would line up in rows, the kids being in front and dad and mum at the back in the lounge room on bended knees facing the table, which meant me. The boys constantly tried to get out of saying the full ten Hail Marys when it was their turn to lead the Rosary, which composed of five lots of repetitive prayers that included amongst others ten Hail Marys that were recited concurrently.
However as intoxicated as dad was, he would be keeping a count by throwing matches down on the floor until there were ten. Invariably each night one of the boys copped a slipper thrown at the back of their head if they were one short. This was a nightly ritual, such joyous times we had in our family home!
Another recollection that is indelibly lodged in my memory bank is that my siblings and I were made to feel incredibly guilty if our mother asked us to go to mass on a day other than a Sunday, for instance, when we were home from school on holidays, and we dared make any sort of sign of not wanting to go. All we would hear is an incredibly irate woman ranting about "Jesus died on the cross for you, and you can't even give up half an hour of your time to go to mass and honour him …”
Of course at that point we didn't argue but went along. Life would not have been worth living if we had been brave enough to stand our ground and say we are not going.
Being the youngest child, I had firsthand experience of what would happen if one of my older siblings tried to stray from the Catholic dogma/teachings.
There is one particular memory about growing up in a Catholic family that I feel to share, when my sister turned 20 she bravely moved out of home, whilst my parents were away on holidays I might add, and moved in with her boyfriend at the time. When my parents found out, she was told that they would not so much as give her a tea towel to help her and in fact our mother dragged her next door to see the Parish Priest who promptly informed my sister that she was a whore. When I say brave she really was, none of us kids were allowed to leave home until we got married!
In another instance, I remember clearly when I was about the age of 15 and a note came home from school advising that it was healthy and normal for children to question and not just blindly accept what they were told. My parents nearly burst their boilers upon reading this and I swear that they must have been in a severe dilemma as to what to do with me, as they couldn’t very well take me out of school as it was the Catholic secondary school, where else would they send me, certainly not to a protestant one! I think they blamed this on the fact that there were hardly any nuns now teaching and that the whole system was going down the drain at a rapid rate!
At one stage my three elder brothers became altar boys for a very, very short period of time and when the new assistant parish priest arrived, they refused to be altar boys from there on in. Thankfully my parents agreed, how or why I don’t know, or maybe it was because this particular priest bragged about owning a gun and that unsettled them somewhat. All we know is that this saved them because this man was not only a paedophile, but also a very dangerous psychopath.
On saying that, the predecessor to this man also turned out to be a paedophile but he gave the impression of being very groovy and fun, how my brothers escaped harm I have no idea.
Even right up to when my mother passed away a few short years ago she refused to believe that priests had sexually abused children, she kept saying it was all lies. This proved to me that she indeed must have been brainwashed something fierce in her young life.
Our lives centred around the Catholic dogma and it was made very clear to us that the Catholic Church came first and us kids a very poor second. To the extent that unfortunately none of my siblings or myself could ever talk to our parents about what was really going on in our or our children’s lives because literally everything we did went against their beliefs.
Mum believed up until she passed away that we were all going to Hell because all of us had moved away from Catholicism as soon as we left home and five out of the six of us had divorced and had new partners. She also believed that she was going to Hell because she had failed in her attempt to keep us as good brainwashed obedient Catholics.
This taught me that love was conditional and came with a price tag of total obedience and submission. It wasn’t the healthiest lesson to learn I can assure you.
The absolute gem and positive aspect to my upbringing was that through these experiences I realised that this dogma had to be a complete lie. We were fed a never-ending fear of going to Hell if we stepped out of line. There was absolutely no joy anywhere in the way my parents chose to live their lives, there just had to be something better and I was going to find it one way or another.
Through my life I never gave up my belief in the fact that there must be a higher being. Although in my earlier years, growing up in a Catholic family, I wasn't quite sure that God was a loving being. Many, many years passed, and a lot of roads searched, different ideals picked up, tinkered with and dropped again as I could feel that they just weren’t right, before I eventually found the truth with the Ageless Wisdom, for which I am eternally grateful.
Upon going to my first event I immediately could feel the truth, the love, the equality and the absolute integrity of what Serge Benhayon and the Ageless Wisdom teachings were offering. There was no looking back and certainly no need to keep searching – the love and truth is within me. I had found the source of wisdom for my elder years.
Now I am home and here I am to stay.
Annie M., Australia
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