Monday, March 24, 2014

One Person's Saint Is Another's Sinner

I have huge objections to the declaration of some people as saints, as I know from experience that one person's saint is another's sworn enemy. This was the case with me and my mother. I accept that I simply brought out the worst in her, as did most of her motherhood ministry. Woe be to anyone for whom she felt the responsibility of leadership! Even homemade exorcisms were not beyond her attempts to drive the demons out of those for whom she was responsible. For this, she was never without much "holy" water.

As a very strictly devout pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic, she spent her life ministering to all the poor and priests in the parish, in which, unfortunately, she did not include her husband and nine children. We were left to fend for ourselves as she filled our home with drug addicts, whores, and unwed mothers. Daddy would come home after weeks on the road with his job and find no room for him in his own bed. When any of us objected, we were banished, many to mental hospitals.

Banishment was consistent with her religion, as Roman Catholic hierarchy regularly denies the sacraments to those who displease them. They even claimed the power to either hold open or closed the gates of eternal banishment into hell, which closely resembles a mental hospital ward.

My mother was greatly honored by the archdiocese in which she lived for fifty-five years, even receiving a medal from them for her services to their religion. Though she will probably never be officially canonized, many in her church parish and beyond considered her a saint. I have had to protect myself and my children from her "ministry."

Mama rejected the idea that any of her children who had left the Roman Catholic religion after much abuse at the hands of priests and others of the church, could ever live as "Christians." This meant that she was going to her eternal reward in heaven with her "God" without most of us, and she was okay with that idea. Daddy followed her religion, even as he beat us until we bled to purify us to the standards that Mama thought we should live, as dictated by their religion. He would be in heaven with her, and without most of us. How does a mother live like this?

I accept that my mother's ministry to others sanctified her and brought much peace to those to whom she ministered. I even have flashes of times when, to me, she passed on some of her saintliness.I have flashes of memories of my mother in the kitchen that make me feel at home with her. I still see her joy when her wealthy relations sent clothes that fit me perfectly, and when her wealthy aunt sent her money for a brand new coat for me. We went shopping together, just the two of us, and picked out a black and tan herringbone pattern wool coat with offset large black buttons and a matching scarf. It was so elegant! I see her fitting me for the dresses she made for me the summer I was sixteen, before I went away to a Catholic summer camp in Ashville, North Carolina.

I learned to cook through watching her and made that into a way to make a living. I learned to dress elegantly from watching how she reacted to my attire, and used that elegance to draw much money and other ministry to many worthy causes. I brought up two children who serve others every day of their lives with their open arms and hearts, while still prioritizing their own families. In her eyes, all of this was simply arrogance because I did not attend her church and worship her jealous, vengeful "God."

My avoidance of my mother was not because I didn't see her saintliness; it was because she continually pointed at my father, me, and my siblings as barriers to her perfection in the eyes of her church. "How could such a devout mother have such a non-Christian family?" she would regularly ask of other adherents of her religion. We were simply crosses that increased her suffering with "Jesus." Motherhood was her entry into heaven, with or without her children.

I believe that saintliness is a personal thing that we pass on through service to individuals. I will never understand the inability to see and speak of saintliness in one's own family and friends without it being sanctioned by a bunch of people who never really knew that person. I will also never understand the resistance to singing the praises of those who do righteous things with their lives, while we are never at a loss for words about the evil people perpetrate.

I embarrass many with my enthusiasm for their goodness toward me. They seem to think that any acknowledgement on earth for their efforts somehow diminishes the price that they must pay in this life in order to cleanse themselves for the next. I simply don't understand why anyone would worship, or even acknowledge, a "God" who would make them for such a lousy life.

I don't care who the Roman Catholic Church says are saints; one person's saint was surely, toward many others in their lives, a sinner. Nobody is meant to know how the scales were balanced by each person by the end of their time on earth. I am simply sorry that what I often attempt to do as good makes so many feel so bad. My mother probably felt the same way while she was performing her "holy" water "exorcisms."

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