Catholic Religion: Rituals and Role Models and my Own Way

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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271 thoughts on “Catholic Religion: Rituals and Role Models and my Own Way

  1. Bernadette,
    I can remember a time in my life where I was looking for God, so I took myself off to church. I can still remember the judgement that I felt coming through the minister as he delivered a sermon on the harm of prostitution. The absolute dis ownership of women who were in this line of work. At this time I somehow just knew that what was being delivered was not from God, for I knew deep down that God loves us all, and that we too are the same, all of us.

  2. Reading your very informative blog about the catholic religion and what seems like it’s very controlling dogma. I am so thankful that my paternal grandfather denounced the catholic faith as a young man. He then chose to bring his children up with a very deep connection to nature and the universe, but with no connection at all to God, which then my father continued with his children. To me, experiencing this deep connection to everything around me and being told there was no God, just didn’t make sense; but I deferred to what I saw as my father’s wisdom and lived my life in this disconnection, to God and to myself, until very recently. Now I know that what I felt as a child was true; that God is in nature, in the universe, and in me.

  3. When we are repeatedly told that we are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under thy table, it’s not hard to understand why people spend lifetime after lifetime feeling unworthy of love and therefore resisting the grandness of the love we are from and which is our very essence.

  4. It’s very interesting how those rituals come with an idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with us. In a way, the fact that we made a choice to separate from the Divinity – which was against what was true, deep down we must all know we made a big ‘Whoops!’ somehow – but that choice doesn’t change who we are in truth.

  5. There feels no guilt or shame or doing in this – “What if I already know in my innermost heart what love is and I just return to being that?”. Much simpler.

  6. So beautiful when we finally come to this question “What if I already know in my innermost heart what love is and I just return to being that?” So simple really – we just need to be LOVE!

  7. What good is good if it only serves to butter your bread and that of others but not nourish your relationship with your Soul? Show me a person who has spent a life of good and I will show you a person who’s frustrated, has been so ignored it has turn bitter with age, and whose anger has been so deeply buried that it festers unseen even unto themselves.

    1. Very true Adam, under the guise of living in a ‘good way’ of self sacrifice (which was ultimately for a reward of approval and being accepted into ‘heaven’) I have come to observe and feel the frustration, bitterness, anger and deep sadness that I myself have carried, for living life in a way that while seemingly good was not true and void of me in it, and lacked living the innate connection with God that is already within us. Knowing that this is not judged, and that I am not ‘a sinner’ as a result, but that I do now have an alternate choice to take greater responsibility and let go of the shackles of good and piety and live and express my truth is amazing.

  8. Reading this blog I can see the big dogmas that are created by the religions that have been ruling over the aeons. It is incredible to feel how this is holding us from the truth of who we are.

  9. I thought I grew up in a family where none of us practised or followed any religion or religious beliefs, however I have discovered even in a situation like mine there is no escaping the false religious indoctrination as society is riddled with it – it is simply everywhere in one way or another.

  10. I find it crazy how ‘main-steam institutionalised religion’ has got it all so backwards. To say that a baby is born sinned and needs to be cleansed is pretty outrageous in my opinion. From what I know, can feel and have observed about babies is that they are totally tender, harmless and absolutely at one with the universe, you can see it in their eyes. To tarnish this as anything less than divine is a tool to control the minds of many from the get go.

  11. Militaries throughout history have used young men to fight in wars and to me this is because they are pliable and can be shaped and moulded to do things that contradict what we know is not right. The church selling us that children are born with sin seems to me to be a master advertising scam. But they are doing God’s work so it must be true, right? The Catholic Religion is slowly being exposed for what has been hidden away for far too long. We only have to feel into what feels true and the illusions begin to dissolve.

  12. Hi Bernadette, I was also bought up a catholic with good and bad, and right and wrong instilled into me from an early age. Now I focus on being with myself rather than beside myself, being real, and bringing myself back when I find I am lost in my head.

  13. Letting go of getting it right or being right and of being good according to the standards and expectations set for us as we were growing up is huge. Recognising that religion is not a system to follow but an inner calling to reconnect changes everything . We are no longer bound to anything outside ourselves but can begin to deepen the connection we have always had, however tenuous it might seem, with our true selves, the love and wisdom we hold within that is not tainted by beliefs and ideals we have taken on.

    1. ‘Recognising that religion is not a system to follow but an inner calling to reconnect changes everything .’ Yes it does Elaine, as you have beautifully explained, we already have the love and connection to God within us, our essence, our soul.

  14. Simple… “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?” You have captured the essence of true religion thank you Bernadette.

  15. The Catholic Church consolidated a role as a religious ‘broker’ and as the maker of an idea/an image of religion and God that are simply not true. Powerful as they are, one day this empire will crumble under its own weight.

  16. Thank you Bernadette for sharing, I can so relate to what you experienced growing up in the Catholic Church, though I left that religion some forty years ago only over the last few years has the indoctrination of the good, and being born in sin, resulting in unworthiness, come to the fore to be seen as the evil of separation that it truly is. I have at last come back to me, to know that it is not in the good that I am defined but in the being, being connecting to, and living from my innermost heart of love, that defines me as a divine Son of God.

  17. All the established religions, including Catholicism, make women to be of lesser value, in fact they denigrate women as being sinful and dirty. The Way of The Livingness however teaches us that the quality of femaleness (stillness) that is embodied in the female form, stillness is what will lead us forward and out of the mess we are in as a human race. Isn’t that interesting then how much women are suppressed in our societies when they can in fact bring us salvation so to speak?

    1. There is much in what you share here Judith. Until we truly honour the place of women – and femaleness – as equals in our world and within our own hearts, we will struggle and live with the disharmonies this brings.

  18. Bernadette I can so relate to what you have shared here, having also been bought up Catholic I was often confused by the Religion and it’s teachings and the obvious lack of love of most within the church. The most empowering and pivotal point for me was claiming to my mother that I was no longer going to attend church, as I was sick of all the false ideals and beliefs that I could no longer pretend was ok. The feeling in my body was one of expansion and true freedom and began the search for truth and true love.

  19. Thank you for sharing about the origins of the word religion, religio and how “it felt harmonious and true, to work on oneself with diligence and love for self and all others.” It feels true to me as well, it feels honouring of the walk the talk approach in life. It we do not know ourselves as love, what love feels like below the marketing sell, then how can we possibly be love with others?

  20. We are born pure and divine and then we go to church to…what? Confirm and keep growing in that connection or do we do all sorts of things that is supposedly done to get closer to God? God wouldn’t make it hard for us. If it’s hard then it must be us that cannot yet accept how easy it can be, and I put my hand up to say that it’s not easy all of the time to let go and realise that I’m already everything, that I just have to let it out.

  21. We have allowed ourselves to look at religion as a form of worship, as an organised body, as a place of salvation rather than purely a way to reconnect with the Absolute Truth, Love, Harmony and Stillness that we innately are.

  22. Baptism is a heavily charged practice given that it tries to cleanse the fact that babies are born sinful, with a stain on their heart. Have we ever stop and discuss what lasting effects this ritual has on the body of a person?

  23. “What does being “good” really mean? And “obedient”?” – Great questions and well worth pondering on what they mean to us or what we may have been told they are… Serge Benhayon has helped me to understand and be much more aware of the way we use words and to consider what they mean to me on a deeper level.

  24. Reading this article again tonight I felt my body cringe at the rediculousness of confession. So many confess things they havent done, tell half truths and don’t accept any responsibility for their behavior. Confession doesn’t support another to adjust their ways. It only confirms the lies and falseness we as humans would rather abide by, than taking a true step and accepting responsibility for our actions, and making choices to bring a greater quality of integrity to our lives.

  25. Why do we still call Catholicism a religion? It does not honour ‘religio’, (devotion for oneself and everything), and it does not really help to ‘religare’, (to rebind or reconnect – our connection to God).

  26. Thank you for sharing this here Bernadette. I have had very similar experiences in the Anglican Church. What really struck me in what you express here is how we still denigrate women in our society, how women are still treated unequally, how the male has dominated the female – especially within the religions such as Catholicism. I can feel how this energy pervades our thinking and our attitudes and approaches to life. Yet this is plainly not the will of a God who created all his children equal. Neither is it the truth of our own inner hearts where equalness is the very cornerstone of everything. In fact I can even feel the impact this has on my own being, my own body where maleness dominates femaleness. There is much healing to be done.

  27. An article to be read not from the point of catholic religion alone, but of all mainstream religions. An offering to ponder on what we each truly support if we choose to be a part of the doctrine that they bring, and to ask the question, does this bring us together as a humanity to live equally with everyone, or are there parts of it that actually divide and cause one to think they are superior because they are a part of that particular religion? As is shared above there can be nothing but equalness for all if the true meaning of religion is lived.

  28. We all know how general conversations can circulate and the facts of what occurred can be changed into fictional accounts in the blink of an eye, and subsequently, passed on from the misunderstanding, misinterpretation or even the deliberate changing of what was originally shared. Why would we not think the meaning of words we use in our every day language not have been reinterpreted too?

  29. ‘What if I already know in my innermost heart what love is and I just return to being that?’ – The indoctrination to an organised religion does the opposite to what the true meaning of religion is. These institutions are set up to separate people from who they naturally are and then spend the rest of the time telling them they are not worthy. Claiming and living the love we naturally are is a reflection to the world that we are all amazing, loving, equal and Children of God.

  30. All the man-made religions miss the key aspect of connecting to our divine essence within where we know we are at one with God and instead focus on good and benevolence which is far from the truth and abusive to our bodies.

  31. I have found from my own experience how easy it is to give our power away to the church in the belief that they know God, and we are not worthy of him, yet in truth God does not judge or discriminate and he walks with us wherever we are, to know God is simply to know ourselves, with no ideals or beliefs.

  32. The fact that many religious institutions in the world today want to say what religion is and what it isn’t tells us there is a problem. Does religion belong to organisations, or does religion belong to each of us, representing our own person re-communion with God?

  33. Call me naive but I didn’t really clock how sexist the Catholic Church was until this blog. I mean what role models does a young devoted Catholic girl have to aspire to if they wanted to take a lead role in the Church? Words are empty unless an action follows; a well-known book named the Bible saying we are all equal but then having a male dominated staff doesn’t really send a message of equality.

  34. It is evident that we have walked far away from the true meaning of religion. My first encounter with organised religion was with the catholic church, where we were taught that we were born sinners. That is heavy going for a child to have to endure, as this was the opposite to what I was feeling. And so we learn to doubt our inner-knowingness from very young age and seek to discover the sense we give up through following doctrines and the recognition of trying to be good. Yet I now know that we can never discover who we are, our inescapable relationship with God and the universe, through what we do in the world outside of ourselves. For is not the rules and doctrines that we follow or the good we do that define who we are, but rather it is the quality of connection to our inner-heart that reveals the majesty of our Soul, the truth of who we are in essence as the Sons of God no less. To live in this way, guided by our inner-knowingness, is to live in a direct relationship with the quality of oneness, where God, the universe and all are no different and not separate, giving rise to a truly religious life that allow us to live the Soulfulness that we are here to live.

  35. Than you Bernadette for sharing your experience of organised religion and true religion, I had a similar experience to you in the church and the effects of the churches teachings stayed buried within me for most of my sixty years of life, even after embracing The Way of the Livingness as my true religion I still found after all those years of leaving the church that the idea of the stain of sin was still in my body. thank fully no more as I embrace myself as a divine son of God.

  36. That’s terrible. It leaves an empty feeling in my stomach that I have filled up with food ironically to numb it out. I’m pleased I have connected to my innermost where true salvation and fullness is found.

  37. I can so relate to this blog Bernadette as I also brought up in the catholic religion and struggled even as a young child to make sense about what this religion was saying was true. Most religions see women as being lesser which is a very deliberate attempt to control and reduce the true power and wisdom that women bring, for I am sure if women were in positions of authority within the church they would have exposed the corruption and abuse rather than sweep it under the carpet.

  38. Being religious as a student of your-self by connecting to the inner-heart seems a very simple way that provides the space for us to evolve and when there is respect for others and what they hold then love is being shown.

  39. This is a hot topic and has been for a long time. I was raised in the Catholic faith and it was a very confusing way to live. In saying that and now as an adult I am no less confused. If I look at all the rites and rituals we conducted and are still conducted they don’t make sense and how we have accepted them is even more confusing. Is it just the case that because it’s been deemed as being around for so long and because the majority have accepted it that that makes it ok? If we look at the Catholic faith alone, the wealth, corruption, child abuse scandals etc etc, is that really something we support? As I said and I am speaking from experience, our world and how we see things like this don’t make sense to how they actually are and I am bringing understanding why this is the case.

  40. Choosing to reject the dogma and control of organised ‘religions’ is a first step in being open to and aware that true religion is a connection to God through the inner-heart and expressed in the way we choose to live.

  41. It is interesting to note how hard the catholic church works at making everyone less, less than the priest, archbishop and pope. But essentially less than God. Is this all a very deliberate reality to hide the fact we are the Sons of God, and that our only true way to be with God, in equalness, is to nurture, love, respect and support our bodies, so that we can live with responsibility. Knowing no other can do this for us, but ourselves.

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