Today is Divine Mercy Sunday in the Roman Catholic Church. My mom, who was watching a mass on TV (after having earlier attended a mass in person—she can’t get enough of them) was “considerate” enough to remind me of this.
I know very well what today is. It was a Divine Mercy Sunday service in 2002 that delivered a shock to my sense of morality. A booklet on how to make a good confession was passed out, and in it I learned:
- Masturbation is a mortal sin (i.e., you will burn in hell forever unless you relate the juicy details to a priest, including how many times you did it).
- Too much yard work on a Sunday will also send you to hell.
- But failing to defend the Christian faith is only a venial sin! I could abandon other souls to eternal torment, then forgive myself just by talking to myself in my head!
This seemed to me the inverse of proportionality. I quickly checked the inside front cover of the booklet to be sure, and there were the magic Latin words, “NIHIL OBSTAT” and “IMPRIMATUR.” You ex-devout Catholics know what that means. There was no weaseling out of this.
That shock turned out to be a fatal wound to my faith. It took another 3.4 years for my faith to slip away: wrestling with my conscience; fearing the 7 demons that were attacking me (yes, literally); reluctantly accepting my sister’s request to become her daughter’s godfather in the hope that it would reinvigorate my faith; fearing my eternal fate if my 2003 overflight of Antarctica should go down in the icy wilderness; wondering if the RCC was as in touch with God as I thought it was; discovering philosophical skepticism; and eventually wondering if there was any god at all.
I told my mom that I knew what day it was, that in fact it was special to me because it triggered my loss of faith. She responded “reassuringly” that divine mercy is still real. She still speaks to me as if I buy into her premises, and am just in defiant denial of the plainly obvious Truth; I don’t even think she is capable of grasping the concept of me not accepting basic Christian premises. What could I do but roll my eyes?