by Bernadette Curtin, Australia
Last week I attended a presentation by Serge Benhayon where he and a linguist discussed the ancient and original meaning of the word “religion”. The latin root is religio, devotion for oneself and everything, and religare, to rebind or reconnect – our connection to God.
With Christianity, the meaning changed to define an organised body; it became something outside to connect to rather than to connect to one’s inner self. And it went from being to doing.
It felt very beautiful to return to the original meaning, it felt harmonious and true, to work on oneself with diligence and love for self and all others.
Recently I have been reflecting on how I, even as a grown woman, have been affected by a childhood indoctrination into the catholic religion.
What does being “good” really mean? And “obedient”?
What were the ideals and beliefs taught to me by religious authorities and my parents?
What were the role models and rituals I was given as a child that cemented beliefs and ideals, and a certain way of living and doing in my adult life?
The role models I remember being taught or shown were rather limited for women: there were martyrs, who endured torture and suffering for defending their faith; there was the Virgin Mary and the prostitute Mary Magdalen, whom Jesus befriended. The martyr and the prostitute were not really an option to my young mind, and the virgin was beyond the realms of possibility.
What about in real life? Well, there were no women priests or bishops or popes, so what was wrong with women and why were they somehow lesser? It was very confusing since somewhere in the teaching there was the idea that God loved everybody equally.
The rituals that further cemented a child into the catholic religion were baptism, confession or penance, and confirmation.
We were told that baptism was necessary as all new-born babies are born sinful, with a stain on their heart, and they needed to be cleansed.
Confession was a frightening ordeal: I remember feeling sick and frightened when I had to make my first confession, which is when you go into a black box and confess what wrong you have done to a priest who sits behind a screen. Sometimes I made up a list of sins as I didn’t really know what to say! I gradually developed a suitable list.
Confirmation involved the bishop placing a seal on your forehead to confirm your commitment to God by following the catholic religion.
All these rituals confirmed to me that I was not a worthy person, that I was born quite unacceptable to God and that I must work very, very hard at being “good” in order to get to Heaven when I died, which could happen any day.
I see now, how even though I have not been investing time and money and energy into being a good catholic woman, the ideals and beliefs have caused me to drive myself to “get it right” and “be good”.
But what if I can simply allow myself to be the true me?
What if I already know in my innermost heart what love is and I just return to being that?
This feels like a path worth following – my own way.
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