I have never met a “model catholic”. Nor do I pretend I ever have.

Long ago I made peace with this. They just don’t exist. At least, not where I’ve been. I think most people choose to follow the Catholic Church’s teachings in a manner very much like many other people that are raised to follow a certain religion: by nit-picking their way around things. Let’s face it. It’s a more practical, more beneficial, and ultimately, a more suitable guide for everyone, in terms of getting to experience and learn what “Jesus really meant”, compared with what is taught by most religious institutions, and what they considered to be “true”. In my own experience, before finding my own spiritual answers, I frequently found myself in conflict with what I was led to believe, because it usually crashed head-on with what I really believed. In the beginning, there was a guilt that was present, every time a dubious thought or a “what if” came to mind. It was guilt all around at first; guilt, that was doused with a bit of shame here and there. It was: No room for questions. Either you believe or you don’t. Faith cuts no corners. So I heard. Now, after having experienced different religions, different beliefs, and different spiritual movements – through different means - I have even more to nitpick from. Sufism in Islam. Kabbalah in Judaism. Baruch Spinoza’s Rationalist Philosophy. Pick and choose. After a while, you start noticing that every religion, philosophy and movement is geared towards the same thing: the pursuit of happiness of oneself and others. The difference between these movements, however, is how they go about their way to get to the ultimate destination: eternal peace and joy. All these movements hold solid advice, and all have proven useful through the centuries, but some are more limiting and harmful than others, and it is those specific, damaging elements inside said movements that are backtracking the world into a standstill, and keeping it from change, and this way, holding the ignorant masses hostage. Mass beliefs start with the individual belief. Change enough individual beliefs and you’ve got something in full operation. Accumulate the number, and you might even start a new religion, a new set of rules that many agree on…except for that one ever-present black sheep who just won’t conform. Then the “leave and start something new” action starts all over again. Just look at how many different Christian offshoots there are from the Catholic Religion. One should note, for sake of understanding why, however, that before, religion was everything, and government was considered divine, so a different religion not only meant adhering to different values, it also meant, following a different leader (something with would make the Pope at the time very upset) and a different political agenda. Politics was at the root of everything. Now it’s not. This difference has not only made a mark in current governing bodies (separation of Church and State), it has also given ample way to its followers to think differently, and this, simply, creates change. And change, by some, is considered evil. “Evil” here meaning, “not convenient to my particular religion.” Otherwise why would it be evil, if most change that is desired promotes more good than harm?

That took a long paragraph to explain. It’s amazing how such a simple thing can turn into such a complicated matter. Much like finding answers in life, especially when those given to you, are just not enough (not all of us can be satisfied with dogmatic argumentation). To find one’s place in life, after having been told “what is”, “what will be” and “what was”, with 100% certainty, with the same facts coming from the mouths and minds of one’s loved ones, friends and teachers – all this, makes one’s “personal enlightenment” certainly hard to achieve, as one by one, our person decides to negate not all, but some of the beliefs we have been taught since day one. In essence, the path to one’s enlightenment almost always starts as a lonely process. The process is completely dependent on every individual, obviously. There are no magic answers, or quick results. Everything one needs to be certain of spiritual matters in life is dependent on personality, personal history, environment, life experiences and one’s peers and family. I stress that personality be on top of the list because, I firmly believe, that one’s own abilities to “tough it out”, if need be, is certainly tied in with one’s personality. If a person has a dependent personality, roughly meaning a person that is completely dependent on others’ approval, the “finding oneself and what matters” situation becomes almost impossible. Wreathing and wracking inside, these dependent souls battle with their personal beliefs, constantly putting their own sinful thoughts before the establishment’s and incessantly burdening their minds with an unfounded sense of guilt: “I wish I didn’t have these crazy thoughts, I just want to believe what is true: what soand-so says.” So-and-so will tend to say whatever the so-and-so leader says, so the soand-so’s beliefs, become the dependent personalities’. Unfortunately, these people cannot be helped by anyone but themselves. I believe that most people that go through such mental battles endure them for a while, then compose themselves, go forth and claim what’s theirs. However, this cannot be said for everyone. There is always that obedient, numb soul who day after day follows a regimen he is not sure of, prays in ways that feel “right”, yet empty, and believes that if he follows what the religious establishment has proved as a means of salvation (through hundreds of years of changes from ex-leaders, some corrupt, some not, and through the rules and regulations stemming from some antiquated set of cronies, hell-bent on “keeping order”…), that he , will, in fact be saved. This completely egotist belief (although sold as altruism, to the masses) sets forth the tortured soul’s only sense of happiness: basically a sense that states, that if he, endures, actually, if he searches for pain and sacrifice in the right context, in the name of God and all that is good, that he will taste the most delectable sort of joy once life is over. What a way to live. Do you know anyone that lives like this? Sacrificing happiness in themselves and others to conform to a set of rules? Not likely, although I wouldn’t discard great-grandparents. Go back a hundred years. You’ll find more people that did believe that the world was literally created in seven days. Go back to the middle ages. Everyone lived in an ignorant mire of beliefs based on the great need to be saved from the fiery pits of hell, through means established by the all powerful Catholic Church (and we’re afraid of reaching a Big-Brother type dystopia now?). All of this is gone. What happened to us? Why are we so far from being obedient serfs, as were our descendants,

such a long time ago? Were demons let loose through today’s societies? Is this some sort of sick karmic situation, a weird spiritual voodoo act, coming back to haunt us…is it? Well, lo and behold, all in all, we’re actually happier now than we were before…so, there must be something wrong here. True Happiness, after all, is unattainable in this life; it is in the second life where the real happiness lies - supposedly. Happiness is a strange thing, in the religious (catholic) context I mean. I remember, as a child, feeling ridiculous in mass, sitting there, on the wooden bench, not budging an inch from my place and then having to recite non-sense, on and on in the most serious of ways. Not until later, did I realize, that everything was serious for reasons different to my own, but nonetheless, for years I was oblivious as to what was going on – not because I wasn’t instructed on the meaning of things, but because as a kid, I really didn’t understand why everything had to be so…serious. It seems like sometimes it is “correct” to express happiness, and sometimes it just isn’t. Attend a Christmas mass, to see what I mean. I’ve been to the Vatican’s. It was the most somber mass I’ve ever been to. You’d think that celebrating a birthday would entail a bit of smiling, maybe even a hip-hip-hooray, a “Happy Birthday!” None of that. The mass was overwhelmed with a mix of somber seriousness and a disturbing gratefulness…to be able to kneel and serve. Somehow I’d like to think that Jesus didn’t exactly want that. Somehow, I feel that Jesus is smiling more when he watches a southern U.S. congregation, shouting and singing, smiling and dancing, shouting to the heavens for everyone to have a merry Christmas and “praise the lord”. Everything is subjective though. There is, of course, much happiness derived from some people’s lifelong servitudes, and those abiding to the Church’s teachings are in fact, capable of reaching primordial joy. Religious institutions have made, and still make, many a people, very happy. But, the point here is not whether happiness is attainable or not, the point here is to not condemn those that deviate from following the same teachings, beliefs and traditions as the religion-abiding people. It is not fair, just, or Christian to condemn, judge, or determine what one’s fate will be, if one, does in fact, deviate. It is unwarranted to denigrate other religions (as the current Pope has) and consider them “unworthy” or “inferior” to one’s own. How is that moral? Justification through religion is the worst type of evil there is, because it warrants damage through adherence to one’s religion. If the religion’s rules and regulations establish that one’s actions are in fact, just, good and moral, albeit damaging to other parties, it is this type of rationalization and errant justification that makes way for the worst type of damage. I call it a “license to damage”. Centuries ago the license to damage was embodied in persecutions and the crusades. Most recently, it has been gravely misused for jihads, white supremacist beliefs, and personal convenience (political or otherwise). These are examples of the fundamentalists and extremists in today’s world, who religious leaders declare, “have nothing to do with the real teachings of their religion”. This is right, but it just shows how easy it is to misinterpret a set of beliefs and conveniently use them for one’s own advantage. At least

the fundamentalists are sincere about their intentions. It is the subtle jihads and crusades that more respected establishments embark on that should worry us. It is change that causes all of this to disappear. It is change, which would gradually put an end to this “license to damage”. There is so much change already, though. Much change from what things were like before. This is why I consider that all I am accomplishing in this article is stating the obvious. Religious people now, are a different religious sort of people. It is composed of nitpickers (an action, which they have been indirectly forced to resort to, given that not enough change has happened yet), and average, good, happy people who use the best parts of their religion and adhere the good parts from it to their lives. Average people. This is why I repeat: I have never a model catholic, nor do I think I ever will. It is much too difficult to be one. Even the “model Catholics” are not really 100% model Catholics. However, it is the “un-model” Catholics within the Church that have cause the greatest of benefits. The most unexpected of candidates, has now been revealed: Mother Teresa. It has been revealed, through a set of personal letters, that Mother Teresa expressed her struggling with her work, her faith and even her doubt of God’s existence. There has been debate as to why she had these doubts, and what these really meant. Religious folk say one thing, and non-religious folk, obviously say another thing. I believe that the simple existence of these letters (most of which were preserved, against the deceased’s wish that they be destroyed) show, how a good, honest woman, struggled with the same issues most of us do, yet, never gave up and kept on going. I personally believe that without this “Crisis of Faith”, the world would have lost one of its much-missed champions for life. It was this "Crisis" that promoted her purpose-driven actions. Her undying hunger for world peace and love was reflected on her own personal hunger for answers, something, which, in the end, only made her stronger. Not weaker. Here is the link to the full article: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1655415,00.html