Catholic Guilt

My kids don’t have any…well, not much anyway. This became abundantly clear to me yesterday. It was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the most solemn time in the Catholic church. It is supposed to be a day of fasting, abstinence and spiritual reflection. There was not too much of any of those things going on in this house. Of all three kids, Zach has the most Catholic guilt ~ probably from the three years he spent in Catholic school. He was not very happy with himself yesterday after he ate meat ON Ash Wednesday. Claire has a little too. She at least feels giving something up for lent is the right and proper thing to do so she is giving up meat. We’ll see how it goes. Lucas has zero Catholic guilt and I do mean ZERO. He ate meat yesterday, didn’t feel remotely remorseful and he’s not thinking about giving anything up for Lent. I guess Stan and I aren’t teaching them very well. He and have boatloads of Catholic guilt we have failed to pass on.

I really can’t believe, of all of the things we have passed on to our kids, Catholic guilt isn’t one. It doesn’t even register on their guilt-o-meters! Like I said, I have boatloads of it. Whenever I do something really wrong, the good ol’ Catholic guilt pops into my head and I KNOW I am going to Hell! I know if stray off the path just a little I will pay the next day. I think to myself, “God is punishing me for…(whatever the infraction was)” Repent! Repent! Repent! It’s like having a nuclear reactor warning system in my head. I apologize to God like crazy, “PLEASE, forgive me!” I beg. I guess Catholic guilt is kinda like Karma only scarier to me. Venial sins, Mortal sins those terms equal SCARY! At least we have gotten away from carrying scapulars, which, I guess, were believed to have privileges and indulgences attached to them. Thank heavens for small favors but I think my kids do NEED a little Catholic guilt to keep them on the straight and narrow. The question becomes how the heck to I impart this guilt into my kids?

Yesterday as my friend, Julie, and I were sitting in Mass at the Ash Wednesday service we were talking about what our kids were going to give up. Her daughter, Emma, is a trip. She and Claire were riding home from swim practice talking about what they were going to give up for Lent. Emma said she was going to give up homework. I told her I didn’t think it would work, her parents wouldn’t go for it. According to Julie, Emma went on to tell the family at dinner she was going to give up vegetables for lent, she doesn’t like them, she reasoned, so she’ll give them up. Julie, God love her, gave Emma and earful AND passed on some Catholic guilt in the process! She asked Emma how she thinks Jesus felt carrying the cross and getting nailed to it for us. Did Emma think Jesus liked that? Why then, Julie asked, would Emma think it is OK to give up something she doesn’t like when Lent is supposed to be about sacrificing a little in honor of Jesus who sacrificed himself for us. Emma’s six year old brother said “Wow, Mom. That was harsh!” I LOVE it…passing on the Catholic guilt. What is it there for, if not to pass on?

Well, I’m off to figure out how to slough off some of my guilt onto my kids. After all, it’s only fair. My parents did it to me, their parents did it to them and their parents before them. Gotta keep these family traditions passing down from generation to generation. Gotta do it for the love of my kids…

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