Offbeat Catholicism

I read the blog post entitled “Why I Don’t Go To Church,” which talked about how always going to one church and subscribing to one particular set of doctrines and rules, and only talking to the same group of people about spiritual things might not always be the best thing for you. I found myself agreeing in many ways. However, I do go to church just about every weekend (not bragging, I just do), and here’s why:

The “pomp and circumstance” of the Catholic Church used to annoy me a lot. As a teenager especially, I wanted nothing to do with structure, rules or tradition. I didn’t like (and still don’t love) a lot of the simple, traditional hymns, and I often felt that there was not enough energy in this kind of worship. We often call the Eucharist the Celebration of the Mass. The word “celebration” seems to imply high energy, at least in the modern understanding of English. However, I’ve come to understand that celebration can be much deeper than that. I go to church to celebrate. I go because I feel like I should; not because I have to, but because it makes me/lets me focus. Saturday afternoon (or sometimes Sunday morning) is when I can (at least try to) stop thinking about my life, my problems, and how scary the world is, and reaffirm that I am saved, God is good, and all will be well.

There are other reasons I go to church too, though. For one thing, I’m a sentimental person. Maybe that has some not so good connotations for some people, but I mean it in the best possible sense. I was baptized in the Cathedral in Portland Maine. My parents were married there, and even though we lived in Massachusetts by the time my brother was born, he was baptized there, too. If I ever get married, I want to be married there. Whether I liked it or not, my childhood and my family are deeply connected to the Church, and this church in particular. Many of my extended family members have also been baptized, confirmed and/or married in that church.

In our hometown, my family and I attend what is quite possibly the ugliest church in America. It was built in the 60’s, and was recently remodeled, which only made it worse. The building itself is a ridiculously odd shape. The roof is basically four triangles sticking off at odd angles. The interior is fairly simple: wooden pews, ugly carpeting on the floor, and weird wood paneling on the walls around the altar. There is one stained glass window at the front of the Church with an obnoxiously huge crucifix in front of it. The ceiling is peppered with a million tiny lights that I guess are/were supposed to be stars. I can’t quite do it justice here, but take my word for it: it’s bad.

Aesthetics aside, though, This is also my home church. I made my first communion here, made my confirmation here, and am now teaching religious education here. I’ve sung in the choir (though I don’t do that now), and I’ve helped out with other, less formal worship stuff.

There was a period, probably in my Senior year of high school or my freshman year of college, but maybe earlier than that, when I didn’t go to church. I didn’t feel like I was getting anything out of it. I thought it was boring, and I wanted to form my own ideas and opinions about God. Ironically, it kind of felt like there was something missing during that time, and it took going to a nondenominational, mostly protestant college, and learning some things from my Godparents that made me want to come back. Now that I’m older, I really appreciate the weekly mass. There’s a time and place for high energy worship with contemporary music, etc, but I also need time quiet down and rebalance myself.

Another thing I’ve heard people mention or occasionally complain about is the whole hierarchy business. For example, I’ve heard a lot of questions about the authority of the Pope. My understanding, in the simplest terms, is that the Pope is just a really nice guy committed to a deeply spiritual life, and to helping lead the Church in the right direction. The criticism I’ve heard is that we shouldn’t need a human to lead us in the right direction if we have God. However, I know that I’ve needed spiritual guidance from other people a lot, and I like to have someone to look to. I’ve always instinctively been more of a follower than a leader, though I’m good at being a leader if I have to be. Plus, I feel like Pope Francis has done/is doing some really good things for the Church.

I’m actually probably not the best advocate for traditional Catholicism, though. For one thing, I’m a universalist. I don’t believe in the traditional version of Hell, in which people suffer for all eternity. I do believe that (as awkward as it is to talk about it) terrible people do go to some sort of place where they have to face the consequences of what they’ve done, but I believe that Jesus came to save all mankind. Eventually everyone is redeemable because there will be a new Heaven and a new Earth, and everything that’s wrong will be righted. I could be totally wrong, and I accept that. I’ve also decided that “I don’t know” is a perfectly legitimate answer to a lot of questions about spiritual stuff. I haven’t come to this conclusion just because it sounds nice, though. I’ve done my research, and it just makes sense to me.

Furthermore, I think I take a more liberal stand on certain things than a lot of old school Catholics, but of course I’m generalizing. I believe that gay marriage should be legal everywhere, I believe that abortion should be legal, but only when absolutely medically necessary, and I’m unsure how I feel about euthanasia, and suicide in general; to mention a few. What I am absolutely sure about, however, is that we’re meant to take certain things Jesus said very literally. Two of those things are that we are supposed to love our neighbors as well as our enemies, and we are not supposed to judge others.

I do feel that, through the Catholic Church, I’ve been able to form a close, personal relationship with God, and it’s given me a basis on which I can form my own ideas and beliefs about morality, etc. In many ways, yes, the Church and Christian culture in general fosters conformity, but only if we let it. The Church is made up of people and free thinkers who, ironically, are often considered cultural nonconformists. It takes a nonconformist to follow Jesus. Back when he was alive and the Church was just a baby, people thought he, and by extension his followers, were crazy. History tells us that the Church is guilty of some pretty terrible things, but it also tells us that, at one time, the Church was persecuted, and in some places, is still persecuted. The fact of the matter is, however, that it’s still alive and well, and that’s pretty cool.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

 

The Things My Subconscious Does

I had a very odd dream two nights ago, and I thought I should write it down before I forget. I was riding down a dirt road in my wheelchair (which is weird because I almost never actually use a wheelchair in dreams), trying to get to my family, but the road was muddy, and my wheels kept getting stuck. For some reason there were all kinds of trucks and cars stopped at odd angles, some of them clearly very stuck, all over the road, which made it even harder to get through.

Eventually I got so stuck that I just couldn’t move no matter how hard I tried, but luckily, a woman who I’ve clearly never seen before in real life came and rescued me and brought me to this weird store, where she proceeded to tell me about how teeth work. Then she started putting teeth into a plastic bag to give to me, and told me to take good care of them like I was supposed to put them in my own mouth or something. However, right before I woke up, I saw two pictures on the wall behind her.

The first was a picture of Jesus carrying a cross. The second was of Jesus carrying a very large shovel, standing over what appeared to be a grave; possibly his own. I don’t know what to make of it, and it’s kind of freaking me out a little bit. What’s with the shovel? What does it mean? Why am I seeing this? Was I supposed to have this dream, or is my brain just being a psycho? Usually I know for sure, but this dream was super weird. I don’t understand what stuck-in-mud and bag-of-teeth have to do with anything.

I do know that when you dream about teeth it’s usually because you’re stressed out about something. I guess I have been a little stressed out about school lately, but no more than usual, I don’t think, and I never have teeth dreams. The other somewhat odd thing is that I haven’t been remembering as many dreams as usual lately. Even just a year ago I had a crazy dream every night and I remembered it. Lately I’ve been having a much harder time remembering my dreams, which is annoying to me because I like my insane little adventures. I feel like I might have been supposed to remember this one in particular, but I don’t know why. I guess I could do a little research and try to figure it out.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

We Are Of The World, And That’s Okay

I was taking a walk yesterday, and I was amazed at just how colorful the trees in my neighborhood were. It’s kind of funny, actually; it’s like I forget that they get this way every year. They really are beautiful, and they drop giant piles of orange and red leaves that smell amazing.

I take a walk just about every day if it’s warm enough outside, and yesterday was about perfect. It was a bit cool, but not uncomfortably so. There was a bit of a breeze, and the sun was warm. My walk takes me around the horseshoe of the street I live on, then down a busier street, and onto the street that leads to the cemetery. I then wander down to the back of the cemetery, which is connected to my friend’s back yard, and I cut through there to get home. I sometimes sit in the back of the cemetery for a while and look at the sky or follow ants, or sometimes talk to my grandmother on the phone. Sometimes I just talk to myself. Yesterday I just sat there with my eyes closed. It was very nice.

There are a few particularly colorful trees on my street, and they, along with a video I remembered, made me think of something: The world itself is not evil. The world worships God. A similar thought came to my mind after seeing (or rather, hearing) this video in one of my classes. It is the sound of crickets slowed down to what they would sound like if they had the same lifespan as humans:

I remember a quote from John Keats that has stuck with me since high school. He said in his poem Ode on a Grecian Urn: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty–that is all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” An idea that is thrown around a lot at my school is that, as Christians, we should be “in the world but not of it.” Well, the fact of the matter is, we are “of the world,” and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Nature is beautiful and innocent, and we are natural beings. Obviously we, along with many things we create, have been corrupted by sin, but we were created in the image of God, and I think that somewhere within us, that innate goodness remains. If it didn’t, I don’t think it would be possible for us to know God. Furthermore, I don’t think it would be possible for us to be creative.

What I’m trying to say is that the trees changing color is their way of worshiping God. Birds singing; crickets chirping; water flowing and giving life; the sun rising and setting everyday; it’s all Creation’s way of worshiping, and saying “thank you” to the Creator. As humans, we often try and do it so elaborately, with complicated music and ceremony and what have you: but in a way, even just existing and acknowledging where we came from and our place in the world is a form of worship; possibly the purest form.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Thank You

I’ve recently made it up to almost 180 followers. I really do want to say thank you all for following me, because half the time I feel like I have absolutely nothing important to say; half the time I feel like a pretentious poop face when I talk about “important” things; and half the time I’m just an idiot student/musician trying to promote myself and/or “save the world.”

I’ve said it before, but most of the time I probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Most of the time, I’m probably wrong about something. It’s absolutely a thrill to find that people agree with me or are at least interested in what I have to say sometimes, so thanks.

I started this blog nearly three years ago almost on a whim. I’ve talked about a million different things, thrown out really stupid and/or random ideas, and I’ve changed, and it’s changed a lot. I’ve been terribly controversial, and incredibly boring, and for some reason people read this stuff.

I really do appreciate it, so thanks for reading, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for coming back!

Katie

Here Is A Thing

Hey, everyone!

I know I’ve been a giant pain in the butt lately, but I have one more thing I’m going to bug you with. I’ve recently created a bandcamp profile, and although some of you might have bought my album on iTunes (which is super cool of you), you might not have, and if not, you can get it here for slightly less monies:
https://katierosecurtis.bandcamp.com/album/replace-these-empty-spaces

Or if you don’t want to buy it, I think you can just listen for free. Anyway, it would be super cool if you could at least check it out.

Thanks,

Katie

Monday Morning

Yesterday was a long day. Mondays are always long for me. I usually get up early, around 7:00, to finish the weekend homework I didn’t get to. Then I have class from 11:30 to 2:00, then I come home for about an hour and a half, at which point I have to go back to school for a class from 4:30 to 7:30. Then I come home and watch The Big Bang Theory and Scorpion with my dad.

Mondays are a bit stressful, but I’m glad I don’t have to deal with this in the middle of the week. It’s good to get it over with.

Yesterday was a pretty exceptional Monday, however. I got up and was eating my toast with humus, when I felt like I should probably read something from the Bible. I don’t read it as much as I probably should, but yesterday morning I wanted to. Sometimes, the honest reason I don’t is because I’m a little afraid of what I might find. There’s probably something very questionable about that.

Anyway, so I decided to jump to Psalm 64. I picked it because 64 is my favorite number, and here’s what I found:

1 Hear me, my God, as I voice my complaint;
    protect my life from the threat of the enemy.

Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked,
    from the plots of evildoers.
They sharpen their tongues like swords
    and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.
They shoot from ambush at the innocent;
    they shoot suddenly, without fear.

They encourage each other in evil plans,
    they talk about hiding their snares;
    they say, “Who will see it?”
They plot injustice and say,
    “We have devised a perfect plan!”
    Surely the human mind and heart are cunning.

But God will shoot them with his arrows;
    they will suddenly be struck down.
He will turn their own tongues against them
    and bring them to ruin;
    all who see them will shake their heads in scorn.
All people will fear;
    they will proclaim the works of God
    and ponder what he has done.

10 The righteous will rejoice in the Lord
    and take refuge in him;
    all the upright in heart will glory in him!

I’ve been praying about the Middle East, specifically the problems caused by ISIS. It’s a really dire situation and I really do feel for the innocent people over there. Yesterday morning it was like God said, “I’m listening. Everything will be okay. Just keep it up, and do not give up hope.” The psalm just seemed to reflect so strongly what’s been going on in the world, and what I’ve been feeling. I was in a good mood for the rest of the day yesterday.

This weekend I started writing a new song. I got the idea from the priest’s sermon on Saturday. He talked about how the joy of the Lord is different from superficial happiness. It’s a joy that we can feel even in the darkest, nastiest places. He used the example of Saint Paul who freaked his prison guard out by singing, and who later wrote the letter to the Ephesians, which our priest called “the epistle of joy.”

All I’ve got so far is the chorus, but it goes like this:

This is a song to sing in the dark
This is enough, a spark to start a fire
This is a prayer you answer with love
Because you are God, and you are with us.

I don’t know what to do for verses yet. I ran into this same problem when I was writing “Good In Things,” where I had the concept and the chorus for the song, but I didn’t actually know how to concretely “talk” about it.

Anyway, my point is that God answers prayers. He doesn’t always answer them in the way we expect him or want him to, but he does, and he is always good. There’s a lot of crap going on in the world right now: war, disease, sickness, struggles within families. It’s always been this way, and it probably will be this way for a while, but God is listening, and it’s not going to be like this forever. I have no idea what he’s doing most of the time, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t doing anything. It just means he’s a lot smarter and sneakier than us silly people.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

My Enemy (Final Version)

My Enemy
by Katie Rose Curtis

We’ve started dropping bombs on Syria.
Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others have joined us in the effort to destroy ISIS.
Civilians will die.
Countless civilians have already died.
We will train “moderate rebels” to be our ground forces.
This will take a year.

Israel drops bombs on Palestine.
Palestine fights back;
and that’s not all.
We have never seen the
beginning of war.
It’s all we’ve ever known.

Parasitic.

Cyclical.

We watch it on TV, and change the channel
because we don’t want to see.
But it’s still there, somewhere.

Countless little countries whose names we’ll never know;
who we’ll never bother with because they’re not a trade partner
or a threat,
fight each other;
fight against themselves.

And we pretend we’re sophisticated.
We pretend we’re above it.
We hold conventions
and make movies
and write stories,
But somewhere there’s a riot.
Somewhere there’s a protest gone wrong.

Somewhere a white man has killed a black boy.
Somewhere a mean man yells and beats his wife.
Somewhere a straight man breaks his brother’s heart.

And someone somewhere is alone.
In every high school it’s the same.
There are the ones who hate each other
and the ones who hate themselves.
“Kids are cruel,” they sometimes say
and write it off.
They won’t read between the lines.

Some kids grow up broken and perpetuate the problem,
but the ones who survive
learn to love or die inside.

History is the great master of bitter irony.
It’s hard to deny that the nicest men,
the one’s who want the world at peace:
John Lennon
Martin Luther King Jr.
Christ,
are the first to die.

Someone once asked Jesus,
who is my neighbor?
who is my brother?

And Jesus told him.
Our brothers are the ones fighting far away.
Our brothers are the ones we’ll probably never see
and never agree with.
Our brothers are the ones who, like us,
need love.

But we fight in the name of God.
We’d fight in the name
of all our cousins’ cats if it came down to it.

The Buddhists believe that one should never harm a living thing.
One should love the least of these.

Forgive the people.
Don’t forgive the deeds.
People are wrong.
People are human.
It’s all a matter of degrees.

But the rhetoric is wrong.
We say we have to
fight for peace.
We talk about what it will take to
destroy the enemy.
Destroy,
break down,
eradicate;
these are people we’re talking about,
and I have no enemy.