Monday, December 3, 2007

White Christmas

I am addicted to my iPod and to iTunes. I have recently downloaded a ton of Christmas songs and thus created a Christma CD for myself. This might not seem odd to you, seeing as how many of you have probably festively donner your house with the appropriate Christmas lights, as well as cozily decorated your tree with loved ones while listening to Bing Crosby and drinking hot coco. But for this Grinch, it's a big deal. Huge.
I am a Christmas cynic. For all the years that I can actively remember, I have harbored an intense dislike for Christmas. The tacky yard decorations (those blow up monstrosoties are the worst), fighting the masses at the mall (or any store for that matter) and the sheer commercialism of the entire season.

I miss the magic.

As a little girl, I loved Christmas. And not just for the presents. I loved hte excitement of picking out and buying meaningful presents for people. I looked forward to lighting the completely decorated tree for the first time. It was always the most beautiful and mesmorizing thing - I could sit and stare at it for hours. I was moved to tears at midnight Christmas mass by the beauty and intimacy of the ceremony. My favorite thing to do with my family was to drive around and look at the Christmas lights on the houses, like little stars dropped from the sky onto the roofs. The Lent mini-masses that my family would hold on Sunday evenings, with only the light of the Christmas tree directing our ceremony. My brothers playing Christmas carols on the piano while my family was curled up around the room drinking apple cider and hot chocolate.

Somewhere along the way, that sentiment got lost amongst the cards to write, the presents to buy, the worrying about overdrawing my account, and hte final exams to take directly before the holiday break. I lost the true meaning of the season among the materialism and chaos that has unfortunately become attached to the Christmas holiday.

I sit here in my apartment, staring at the Christmas tree I broke down and bought, even though it directly contradicts the "style" of my apartment. At least the tree ornaments are in turquoise. I am listening to Otis Redding's "White Christmas" and Josh Groban's "Silent Night" and I am in tears, yearning for the magical feeling to return.

I have never felt so far from God in my life. I grew up in the Catholic Church, dutifully although sleepily attending Sunday morning 9:00 mass with my parents. Always nestled in the middle so I didn't have to sit uncomfortably next to strangers. I had an unnatural fear of people I didn't know. I was active in the youth ministry social and service events before I was even of age due to my mother's employment as Youth Minister. I served on the Diocesan Youth Council and went to the National Catholic Youth Conference. I got into fights with kids at my school over their harsh words regarding the Catholic faith. I was proud of my faith and deeply attached to the strength that it brought my mother and grandma. I never doubted the fact that I too, would raise my children in a faith filled Catholic home. I could already picture passing on my handmade baptismal gown to a beautiful dark haired little girl and then, several years later, giving her the cross lessed by Pope John Paul II that I received on my Confirmation from my mother to her on her own Confirmation.

For reason unbeknownst to me, after high school, my faith in God and his works gradually faltered and then finally dwindled into the nothingness that exists in my life today. I have such a hard time believing in a God that, despite his promise of so loving the world to give his only son, could allow such atrocities to occur to the children and families in Darfur, or allow men of such intense evil as Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong or Joseph Stalin to come to power. I know that I am blessed with the life that has been provided to me: loving and stable parents, protective brothers, a well maintained and safe home...but what about me makes me so special? Doesn't every child in the world deserve the same blessings that I have received?

I look at my friend Meggie who has the most amazing amount of faith ina nd love for the Lord. God and his plan for her have always driven her life and her actions. No matter what storm comes her way, she stands her ground with an unwielding faith in the love Gad has for her as well as the fact that he will provide her with the strength to withstand anything. I wish I could have that type of faith in something other than myself because it might make being me a little easier sometimes. I think that maybe I feel guilty for some of the actions and decisions I have made in my life and therefore I am ashamed to step foot in a church. Call it the ever present and always maligned "Catholic Guilt." Call it whatever you want. The truth is...I want to believe. I want to feel that same sense of awe and wonderment when I step into a cathedral that I felt as a child.

The Catholic faith is a funny thing. It's very different from other faiths that are prevalent in the southern section of the United States that I live in. There's not a lot of evangelizing, nor outward displays of faith and joy in God. There's a lot of ritual, some sitting, lots of standing, mixed in with the occasional kneeling. There are readings, songs and a homily. There is the Eucharst ceremony at every mass in which the bread and wine is turned into the Blood and Body of Christ. My relationship with God has always been very private to me, maybe because of the fact that it was always a "weird" thing with some of the people that I went to school with. I kept it to myself because I never seemed to have the same strident and passionate convictions that my Baptist or Methodist classmates had.

I want to believe, but like with relationships and love, I want to feel it. I want it to be real. I can't just go through the motions because that's what I believe will make other people in my life happy or proud of me. My mother tells me that in order to hear and see God, I first have to approach him. I'm afraid to I suppose. Maybe I'm afraid that because of certain ways in which I've chosen to live my life, he won't accept me back. Maybe I'm afraid that by relying on God I will be proving that I'm not as self-reliant and strong as the facade I put on.

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