My Gram lived her life as a Catholic, and raised me as one also. I have her Polish missal. She also had her rosary and her statue that sat on her dresser and the palms tucked into the corner of the mirror that were replaced each year on Palm Sunday that were fixtures in her home. I spent most weekends with my Gram growing up and my memories of Sunday morning were waking to see her at the mirror getting ready for church, her hair all done and her hat on, and the rest of her still in her pajamas and robe. That was the routine. Get up, get the hair done, wake me and then finish getting ready so we could be at church for 8:00 mass. The hat went on before anything else. She always went to 8:00 mass because it was the quickest mass and she wanted to get back home and start her day without interruption.
When I was little, the mass was still in latin, girls wore hats to church, you dipped your hands in holy water when you walked in, you genuflected before you entered the pew and you prayed on your knees before sitting, during the Canon and after Communion. The music was choral and you sang the hymns with the big pipe organ accompanying you. During Lent you attended the Stations of the Cross and if you missed church on Sunday, you went to confession the next Saturday so you could take communion. We sat in the back with Aunt Fran and other members of the family. I secretly loved the lacey doily like caps that many of the girls had bobby pinned to their hair for hats but did not tell Gram. She kept a kerchief at the house for me to wear to church which tied under my chin. I remember it as being pretty colorful – red and black and white and green and blue.
Going to church and being a Catholic was just a part of who Gram was. I don’t think she ever questioned her beliefs. However, she also taught me respect and tolerance for other beliefs – she did not judge how anyone believed-it just was not how she believed. Even when my mom changed her religion and let us all know that we were not going to be saved because we did not belong to her church, and started knocking the faith that Gram held so dear to her, Gram did not judge. Gram did not knock anyone’s faith. She just lived hers – and her life reflected her Catholic values.
When I was 16, and going to a Catholic high school, I found that I could not believe – really believe – the same way Gram did and I started on my own path to find my spiritual center. I bought my first Tarot deck with Gram and started studying it at her house – spreading the deck across the livingroom carpet, staring at the images and trying to understand how the images related to the ideas behind them. At that point I was living with Gram full-time. She never told me not to use the cards, not to go in different directions, not to question – and I would still go to church with her on Sunday mornings.
I have since learned alot about the Tarot and through it, alot about other religious beliefs, mythologies, symbolism and the wonderful understanding that there are archetypical ideas which exist in all religions that are just expressed through different metaphors. My spiritual life is very important to me – I got that from Gram. I also got from her the understanding that the metaphor is not what is important – it is whether you understand the underlying ideas – the archetypes – and if you live your life in accordance with those ideas.
Life can be hard, it can be long and it can be alot of work. During the latin mass there was the portion – the Canon – where you knelt through the entire time the priest was blessing the hosts and the wine. It was long, the kneelers were hard and your knees would get sore as you knelt in prayer. As a child, I would listen for those words – Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso – as that was the beginning of the very end of the Canon. Through him, in him and with him . . . . Soon I would be able to get up off of my knees.
Gram’s life was long, and at times hard, and alot of work. It is my fervent hope that whatever we believe in during our life will be what we experience after our death and that, as a result, the end of Gram’s life brought her to the heaven she believed in. Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso . . .
Part of this blog will talk about spirituality and tarot and archetypes and church. I am raising our three boys as Catholics to give them the spiritual base that Gram gave me. I expect that they will form their own beliefs as they get older just as I did – which is fine by me. And I wonder if they notice at the end of the Canon, that I am saying, very quietly, as the priest is speaking, “Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso, est tibi Deo Patri, Omnipotenti, in unitate, Spiritus Sancti, omnis honore et gloria, per omnia, saecula saeculorum.