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It is summer and I am thinking about God again

It is summer. Can you believe that?


What I like about summer is that it is inevitable. The sun, sure, and all that warmth, too. But each year, despite it all, summer will roll around and make everything right again.


I have a tendency to revert back to some kind of faith in summer, waxing and waning from lapsed to devout. I know that’s not how religion works, but I’ve never claimed to be a good Catholic. Hell, I’ve only ever claimed to be a bad one. Religion has been weaponised for me since I was a little girl. My grandparents and great grandparents were the kind to say God will be angry if you don’t finish your dinner. Threaten me with Hell if I fought with my sister. Still, when the weather warms and the sun shines I cannot help but stare up at the sky and search for tangible evidence of God and find it, or more so remember that the tangible evidence of God is this life itself. I was taught to seek God in times of hardship or lack, praying only for hope or forgiveness. Yet, I find I only seek God when everything is okay. Good, even. Where I see beauty I am reminded God might exist. Whatever that means. Anyway, right now the sky is a deep nutty orange and I am thinking about religion again. Perhaps it’s because recently I’ve been attending more services and perusing more chapels and churches. Perhaps it’s because I spent the last month or so in a particularly devout Roman Catholic southern Italy with company also vocal about their varying degrees of Christian faith. Or, and I hope, perhaps it’s simply because it’s summer. It’s easier to find God when everything is cast in gold.


Last week I was laying beneath the lazy Sicilian sun with two friends. One, like me, is a semi-lapsed Catholic from an overtly religious small town; the other is a Protestant Vicar’s son. Two lapsed Catholics and a Vicar’s son walk into a bar. Upon mentioning he was Protestant, us lapsed Catholics immediately started defending the Catholic Church as though we were devout; as though we were under threat, as though we had someone or something to protect. It was friendly fire; a sibling rivalry not all too dissimilar from the ingrained competitiveness between dwellers of Melbourne and Sydney. I bumped into two girls from Sydney in a little Sicilian town earlier that day and our banter had the same cadence, the same core. Your city is all skyscrapers. Your people think they’re so cultured. Silence. I love your dress. From where did you get it? Just hours later, two lapsed Catholics and a Vicar’s son would argue the same. We have prettier churches. We have better music. Your church harbours hatred and hushes assault. Silence. I'm hungry. What should we have for dessert? (Irrelevant but obligatory side note: it’s worth mentioning that I’m not even from Melbourne. I spent part of my life there, sure, but I don’t feel particularly bound to the city enough to defend it against another. I really couldn’t care less - I tend to just bicker for the sake of it. It’s a bad habit of mine. I have nothing against Sydney, just like I have nothing against Protestantism, or any other religion, for that matter. After escaping the Catholic schooling system I explored a plethora of religions as some kind of self-gratifying act of rebellion because we were forbidden from exploring them in school. Even Satanism. Again, I never claimed to be a good Catholic.)


Not long ago I attended a Church of England service and found myself spending the entire time comparing Protestantism to Catholicism rather than being present with God and seeking the beauty in the service itself. Protestants broke away from Catholicism way back when and more or less forged their own version of it. There are many key differences between Protestantism and Catholicism but the main takeaway for me is not the lack of rosaries or saints or the juxtaposing inclusivity - for context, one must jump through hoops to become a member of the Catholic church; baptism, reconciliation, eucharist, confirmation, all at key stages of one's life so as to prove utmost devotion - whereas Protestantism seems to open it’s arms to all (or at least from what I’ve seen) and I couldn't help but feel inspired but also a little bit jealous of thy neighbour, which I'm well aware is a sin. Oh, the irony! No, the key difference between the two churches I have not been able to stop thinking about since is the beauty. The boastfulness. The thing that waits behind all that gold. What’s there when you strip away all that famously alluring Catholic iconography? The Protestants seem to know.


It’s no secret that the Catholic Church is ostentatious. It’s easier to believe in something when it’s so loud, right? So glittery. So gold. Still, I try to be good to God. I don’t know anything else. I bow when I enter a church. I keep my prayers memorised, even if I don’t utter them for months, and truthfully, in the past I've gone years. Hell, I still wear a cross around my neck. I never take it off. I sleep with it, bathe with it, tug on it when I’m nervous. Somebody pointed that out to me not long ago, somebody I’d only just met. He noticed my cross, sure, but more than anything he noticed my idle hands wrapped around it. He asked me about it. I didn’t even know I was doing it. I met the chap in a little pub in East London and he felt perhaps compelled by my nervous-cross-tugging to tell me he had chosen to be baptised into the Catholic Church late, as an adult. I asked him: why Catholicism in a Protestant country? He replied, seconds before effortlessly downing a pint of Guinness, and I quote verbatim: we all worship the same God. Why rob yourself of all that beauty?


Beauty. Ah. And how I am so easily drawn to it. I will do anything for beauty. Anything. My month in Sicily was beautiful, in case you’re wondering. Perfect, even. All that dancing about, all that laying beneath the sun, all those religious undertones. The genuine human connection. The community. The beauty. Maybe that’s why I started to see God again. Truthfully, I’m struggling to adjust back to London - the greyness of it all. The routine. The sameness. I am looking for gold in the same places I have mined it before but that gold has already been collected. By me, no less. I store it in my pockets and my kitchen cabinets and the palms of my hands whenever somebody else holds them. How selfish of me to assume that the gold will reappear. I must dig elsewhere, now. I suppose that’s what happens when you stare at the sky, the sun, when you walk. You miss all the gold right before you. (God, gold. Same thing, maybe. I think that's what I'm trying to say.)


Anyway, it's all clearly been playing on my mind, because exactly three nights ago I dreamt I was crucified. Can you believe that?


Girl martyr crucified for her almost-belief. Girl martyr crucified for seeking God only in the summer. Girl martyr crucified for writing poems about it all instead of praying. Hell. Maybe that is praying. Maybe that's the closest to God I'm going to get.

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abby
abby
7월 09일

i was not raised in a very religious household, and not even a christian one at that, so i can’t say i hold a special place in my heart for religion, but i do find myself sometimes fascinated by these beliefs and rituals. i don’t believe in a god, neither this one nor any other; i suppose i find it irrational — believing in something without solid evidence of its existence, and moreover, finding meaning and purpose in it (might just be a result of my existential dread).

nevertheless, every time i walk into a catholic church, i do find, in these beautiful echoing halls, some great force that is beyond me. perhaps these are the thousands of years in…

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Ema
Ema
7월 06일

I was raised without a fate.

In post komunist country, that was religious at all times, due to the whimsical nature of its people, and their need for stories so strong, they will make them up, for better or worse.

In post komunist country where everywhere you look you are met with a lone bell tower so hight amongst the buildings, which wakes you up every morning - the bell tower of a church ringing at all hours of the day, just laughing in your face, or maybe pleading to be noticed.

In post komunist country were being religious was frown upon not so long ago.

That why I was raised without a fate.

The system took religion from people…


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so good

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this made me CRY and i don't even know why, it's just so profound. i love how you always put everything i've ever felt into words. i think that is your gift.

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The pursuit of beatuy drew this protestant poet into the catholic church. <3

I am so sorry you experienced threats of hell as a child... sin you'll find everywhere. The writer Hilaire Belloc famously wrote "The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight."


If I hunger for beauty I always go to eucharistic adoration, or read G. K. Chesterton. He always knows how to look for beauty. Did you ever read his "A defence of skeletons"?


I am reading my way through "100 Great Catholic Poems"…

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