After the pomp and circumstance surrounding the election of the first Latino Pope, one Catholic woman's personal reflection on her crisis of faith and the elusive promise of reconciliation. First published in The Wise Latina Club.
"We would be honored if you would be Baby L's godmother," Lil' Sis asked, the two of us choking up. My baby sister's prayers were answered when she was blessed with this perfect little girl.
Immediately, I accepted, as I had when Big Bro and SIL called seven and six years ago with their request to be godmother to their daughters who were born virtually back to back.
So what really is a godparent I wondered back then, besides an opportunity for Hallmark to print yet one more type of greeting card? My anxiety about the authenticity of my faith, always lying latent, punched through. As godmother, I am entrusted with raising my goddaughters in the Catholic Faith should anything happen to their parents. Me: a Chreaster Catholic who steps foot inside a church on Christmas and Easter more inspired by Mami's bribe of Colombian brunch of arepas and huevos pericos after Mass than promises of salvation.
Plus my on-again-off-forever relationship with Super Jew likely placed me closer to excommunication.
And then there was the time I "stopped talking to God." Only thing is my adolescent rebellion didn't realize cultural habits are much more stubborn. Default mode is as solid and uncompromising as dogma, every plea to the Universe prefaced with "Diosito, please..." followed by: ¡Doh, I'm P.O.ed at you!" Then a pagan, religious-baggage neutral, "Mother Earth, por favor..."
I walked up the heavy stone steps of St. Matthew's Cathedral in downtown Washington, D.C. -- the majestic church where President Kennedy's funeral mass was solemnly celebrated. This house of God was where I found my spiritual home Sundays at 5:30 p.m., when I arrived from Providence five years ago, reaching for my brass ring.
Then, everything I believed in -- job, love, who I was and wanted to be -- blew up.
My major pillars crumbled.
With arms flailing, legs thrashing, I gasped for air.
Messy, disheveled, with insomnia, wrinkled, fragile, wobbly, I survived.
My faith didn't.
I made it-if not through St. Peter's pearly gates-to a conference room with a round table and two chairs just a few steps from a matching office desk and a few bookcases.
A lightning bolt still had not thundered down from the heavens to prevent this ambulant heresy from soiling the Church and innocent Baby L.
I sighed, more like holding my breath: my mission was simple, getting a piece of paper that proved I am a Catholic "in good standing." My ultimate Reform, the Restoration of my Lost Faith would have to wait-perhaps a lifetime.
Father Regan pushed his glasses up the ridge of his nose. "Hi, Viviana. Welcome."
"Thank you Father," I said as I met his warm blue eyes.
We sat across from each other-the table, my MacBook Pro, my broken belief separating us. Before this man of the cloth, I bared my confusion, frustration, anger, disappointment and feeling of abandonment that came rushing out, bitter tears dampening our safe harbor pleasantries about fast-lane DC life and the clingy summer heat.
What am I going to answer when Baby L is old enough to ask me: Why do bad things happen to good people and committing selfish deeds seems to end not in punishment but reward?
How am I going to help her reconcile the temptation to make this world Heaven through self-promotion and hypocrisy, as opposed to living in a suspended spiritual state of grace, waiting-waiting-waiting for a world to come that may never?
How am I going to reason that "God working in mysterious ways" is one code she'll never crack?
No "My child" ever came, confirming my hunch that several times a day, Father Regan hears the beep-beep-beep of the spiritual dumpster truck backing up, unloading on his shoulders metric tons of guilt and rebellion.
Instead, Father Regan quietly listened.
Between us, silence settled. I felt lighter but not relieved. Lifting my burden-my frayed Faith weighed down with the concrete blocks and shackles of disillusionment-seemed as impossibly unattainable as turning wine into blood, bread into body.
"Will you come to confession, not to ask God to forgive you which he will, but for YOU to reconcile with yourself? That's what most people don't understand about the holy sacrament of confession: understanding that there is absolutely nothing you could have done that is unforgivable in God's grace but that confession will pave the way for you to forgive yourself," revealed Father Regan.
"No," I answered. "I wouldn't know where to start."
"Viviana, no matter how long it takes, He'll wait for you to be ready," assured the priest.
Then, he smiled and compressed the Church seal on a sheet of off-white paper, a proof of faith not quite-but almost-snow white perfect, a certification easier to secure than my belief.