I am terrified of churches.
It’s odd. I grew up in church. I went to Mass every single Sunday, and often during the week as well. I was raised in a Catholic family, I went to Catholic school, I sang in Catholic choirs and bands, and I even taught Sunday school.
I was the perfect Catholic girl.
Until I came out of the closet.
There was a specific moment where I realized how far I had strayed from the Catholic Church.
I was talking to one of my friends, Matt. Matt wanted to be a priest. He just dropped out of the seminary this past year. He was trying to convince me to stop questioning the faith.
Don’t you just love irony?
Matt and I were talking in the massive lobby of our high school, Bishop McDevitt. We were supposed to be at musical rehearsal, but he had dragged me out to discuss religion. This was a common thing.
I had just started dating a girl at the time, A. She was friends with Matt too, and she had a bigger part in the musical, so she couldn’t rescue me from Matt’s talks.
It was towards the performance of the play. We had been having these conversations for weeks, and were both getting frustrated. We were seniors, and not ready for the “real world.” I’m still not.
We were discussing something about why I was unsure about the Church, both using our many years of Catholic schooling to try and outsmart the other. He was much better at this than I was, but I still didn’t want to be a part of the church.
I was sitting on a bench, looking up at the 10 ft tall crucifix that hung from chains off the ceiling. I couldn’t help but thing of how much I didn’t want to be a part of a religion that thought how I felt about someone was wrong.
He knew I was dating A, and he knew I was bisexual.
He kept reiterating what I already knew: the Catholic Church accepted people as homosexual, but forbade the act of homosexual sex. As a girl I didn’t really know once said, “God hates the sin, not the sinner.”
We got more and more frustrated with each other, until finally he started yelling at me.
“You can’t be bisexual, it’s not a thing! You’re either gay or straight. If you want to be bisexual you can’t be Catholic!”
My own theory is that he was bi too. He didn’t know how to handle it.
I don’t remember how I responded, or what he did. He probably stormed off. I didn’t tell my friends about it, and I don’t think he told his. We just ignored it, and each other.
What I do remember, is that the following Sunday, I was supposed to sing with the church band on Sunday evening. I drove to the church alone, as I did every Sunday. My parents preferred the morning mass.
It was the Church I grew up in. I went to elementary school across the street. I took my senior pictures there. I broke in late at night once with my next door neighbor. I had always felt at home there.
Until that night. I always parked on a side street, across from the Church, but instead, I just kept driving. I didn’t even make the decision to keep going, I just did it. Matt’s words thundered in my head and I didn’t know how to stop them. I felt like I didn’t belong there anymore.
I turned my car around and tried to go back, but passed the church twice more. Finally, I surrendered to myself and drove to the library. I sat in the library parking lot until I knew mass had let out, then drove home. I didn’t tell my parents where I had been, and I continued to spend Sunday evenings in the library parking lot until I graduated high school.
I don’t go to church anymore. On the rare occasion that I do, it’s for my mom’s benefit. My grandmother’s funeral and Christmas were the last two times.
And then, I somehow wound up in three different Catholic churches in the span of three weeks.
It started in Travel Writing class.
We went to see St. Patrick Church in Pittsburgh.
As someone who loves architecture, it was beautiful.
As someone who grew up learning Catholic guilt, it was terrifying.
The following weekend, my mom and I went to New York City. She wanted to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral, so we went.
Once again, beautiful and terrifying.
The third church was for Travel Writing again. We went to see the Vanka Murals, which are inside of the St. Nicholas Croation Catholic Church.
And guess what? Beautiful and terrifying.
I don’t think I will ever feel at home in a church the way I used to. However, I can still appreciate the beauty. Maybe for now that’s enough.
Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.Rudyard Kipling