I was a good church girl. I never missed a Sunday. I liked Sunday school, the friends, the cookies and thinking about important issues like how to be good to your family and good to your neighbors. How to be good to God.
I especially liked the importance of Mary. I liked saying “Mary, Mother of God,” and I liked thinking about how she would do anything for her son Jesus. She tried to put things right for Jesus and I had a sense that she would help me keep doing the right things. I loved Mary, felt safe and liked knowing that a woman could be so important.
Everything changed in junior high. I was taking CCD class with my friends to learn about our Catholic church. The games were fun and I really liked learning about all the rituals we could do in order to be a good person and to grow closer to God. We learned more about Mary and I felt even closer to her.
Then we had an overnight retreat. At the end of this intense weekend, the priests had us sit in a circle. They read aloud letters that our parents had written. The letters were beautiful. Each one talked about how much the parents loved their children, how they prayed for their children and always wanted them to be happy and feel the love of God and Jesus.
The priest paused when he got to me. Then he shook his head and got sad. He said that he was sorry, but that my parents hadn’t done what he’d asked; they hadn’t given him a letter for me. The priest told me that my parents didn’t love me. That he was sorry and that he would pray for my parents and for me.
I immediately started crying. Right there in front of the priest and all my friends. Then I stood up, left, and walked home, crying the whole way. I wasn’t crying because my parents hadn’t written me a letter. They were busy and sometimes forgot things. I was crying because I knew that the priest had lied to me. He said that my parents didn’t love me. That wasn’t true. I lived with them. I saw them everyday and I could always feel how much they loved me, even when they were driving me crazy. The priest lied to me. What else had he lied about? What else was the church lying about?
I never went back to the church. I had no interest in being around lies.
I do remember that walk back home. All the time I was crying, I was thinking about Mary and what she would do. She wouldn’t want me to lie. She wouldn’t want me to be around a priest who lied. She would always be with me and she would help.
She is and she does.