I can’t remember a time when the word “religion” didn’t make me itch.
My family didn’t go to church. The religious kids at school told me I was going to hell. Religious people just seemed nicer, cleaner, richer, better.
I’ve never known how to act around church people, or at a church function. I turn into a drink spilling, stammering, f-bomb dropping mess.
For most of my life, I sneered. It was a defense mechanism to look down at people who’d “found God”. Clearly, they’re delusional. How easy it must be to attribute everything, good or bad, to some deity. The older I get, I realize nothing’s quite that black and white.
But I’m still not religious.
I have a friend who is, though.
She’s hardcore Catholic. Umpteenth generation hardcore Catholic. And she has no problem buying into it. (She’s married to an avowed Atheist, so it’s not like she’s not open-minded.)
In Montreal, we went to Notre Dame Basilica.
One step inside, and I couldn’t breathe.
The silence of the place sat on my chest.
It was an enormous space, where all light seemed to be eminating from religious icons. It was gilding on top of embellishment. It was probably built on the backs of peasants who trusted that their money was going to get them in good with God.
I wanted so badly to be a part of it.
I wanted to sit in a pew, kneel on a hard wooden bench till my knees screamed, have a piece of bread placed on my tongue, and know that all was being taken care of by God.
When it was time to go, my friend and I found each other at the back of the church. Huge tables of candles waited.
“Oh man! I’m outta change!” my friend said, when she saw the “Each Candle – $1” sign.
I silently passed her a loonie. In one smooth motion, she took it and lit a candle. We both stared at it.
And for a few seconds, I was a part of it.