Personal Column: The passionless passion play

A+darkened+cross+reflects+my+detachment+from+my+Catholic+faith. and edited by Karla Berrueto

A darkened cross reflects my detachment from my Catholic faith.

I swung my sword, left and right, up and down, over Jesus while he lay unconscious on the floor. 

A group of tiny, adorned followers, who were no taller than a bench, surrounded him. 

The crowd looked at us in awe as if we were performing something straight out of Broadway. But it was a school play. A Catholic school play. A reenactment of Jesus’s death.

Our curriculum was made to strengthen the students’ connection to Catholicism, starting at an early age so they’ll naturally spread the faith once they reach adulthood. Forced participation in religious holidays. Daily bible readings. Classes that were made to strengthen one’s belief in God and shape one to fit the church’s ideals. Shows with biblical references. Dances to religious melodies for the local Catholic community were all part of our curriculum. 

A spiritual education, I guess you could call it. 

We gathered in a circle, clasping each others’ hands as we sang the days of the week. This might not sound any different from something you’ll see if you were to walk into a random kindergarten classroom on a Monday morning, but it was. Following “Wheels on the Bus,” we would listen to a speech about morals and how we have the Lord to thank for the piece of macaroni lying on the icky, glue covered table at the opposite end of the classroom. 

Forgiveness by one for all.  

The sound of children happily crying out loud filled the air as I walked hand in hand to the school’s Church with a tall and somewhat older figure who the staff assigned as my “guardian”. The colorful mosaic windows will always take me back to when I sat on those waxed wooden benches, holding the cold, leathery scripture in my hands. The priest’s words echoed throughout the cathedral. Words that did not resonate within me. I imitated those who prayed, prayed to “our” lord, the lord who’ll (supposedly) make their prayers come true. Now whether those greed-filled prayers came true or not will always remain a mystery, as my empty prayers obviously didn’t. 

Powerless he surrenders. Carrying the weight of people’s hopes and sins on his shoulder he met his end. 

These religious rituals made their way into my life after school too. Such as having to watch the “Animated New Testament” as a way of bonding with my mother and younger sister. The series was centered around Jesus and both the “told and untold” tales about him. Merging the multiple events that supposedly occurred throughout his life starting from his birth. It included his most famous miracle, making five loaves of bread and two fish feed 5,000 people, which is honestly kind of absurd and unbelievable unless he gave every single person a piece the size of an ant to eat. Not that it would make any difference to their chances of dying from starvation. Of course in this scenario, starvation isn’t a thing and his so-called miracle saved the lives of thousands. Completely ignoring all the religious propaganda and moral lessons, which I cannot recall, I can’t deny I found the series somewhat entertaining.

Entertaining perfectly describes the way I viewed these experiences. Growing up surrounded by people who lived according to the words in a Bible gave me a glimpse of how they go on about self identification and ethics. I saw that not everyone viewed the world the same way, which was perfectly normal until views were forced onto others. Sure I engaged in every activity, but I had no reason why I was doing so. “In a catholic school, do what Catholics do.” And that I did. Dances, plays, mass, you name it! It was like partaking in a game without knowing the rules. Just something I had to do. And something I knew I’d grow out of once I left. 

The nails “pierced” through his skin. “Blood” dripped down his face. An awfully majestic crown sat on his head. A symbol of mockery as the man who people referred to as their savior was now being crucified for their salvation.

At last the play had finished. Placed in a horizontal line, I looked at the crowd, sword in hand, and bowed. The crowd cheered as we slowly made our way off the stage. The lord was dead and so was my “faith.”