Monday, February 23, 2009

A Psychoanalytic Critique of Cults in the Catholic Church: Part IV

Mexico. I never understood this move as a "community" initiative, it was more of a family decision. In fact, the entire web of relations we had there seemed somewhat different and removed from Bread of Life. Ohio and the community over there was only referred to distantly and, for me, it had always been distant to a certain degree. But I wished it wasn't. As far as daily life went, nothing changed significantly from the previous ways of living according to the norms of the "Cultural Approach." In fact, things got a bit more rigorous. Living in daily proximity to the others set a frequent list of engagements and meetings. The most frequent one was 6:30 am daily Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan. After Mass, everyone would go through their routine prayers which involved certain postures of standing sitting and kneeling. I never knew them exactly, but I tried to mimic them as best I could. In Mexico we were meeting with the local charismatic community, Palabra de Dios, and seemed to be poised to integrate our movement with their social network. Their big meetings were different. The people were very secular looking. The men wore jeans and cowboy boots and the women wore make-up. I couldn't help but notice that these women were astoundingly attractive. Especially the one that played the tambourine and smelled like roses. One of the men there had an "Ovation" guitar and I was sure that it must be the nicest guitar I'd ever seen. These people provided us with a house in a quaint Mexican neighborhood. They helped us get settled and came over frequently for meetings and gatherings. There were some men working on the house next door and they seemed very amused by my still-developing Spanish. My sister and I went to the school where one of the women from the Mexican community taught, and we sat-in to listen to classes. I loved learning Spanish and meeting all these new people. Sometimes I worried about my sister. Mr. Herman had a house in Pharr, Texas where we would have important meetings, none more important than a visit from the Bishop of the Mexican Diocese of Matamoros. It went well, I was told. My dad was very important in all of this--crucially important. His fluency in the language and culture made me soon realize that he was being underappreciated by Mr. Herman. When the Hermans moved to a house in Mexico where we would have morning meetings with pan dulce and hard boiled eggs, I started to sense a beginning tension between my Dad and Mr. Herman. With those first intuitions I left my idolatry of Mr. Herman behind and began to see him a stifling disciplinarian. But there were really fun people too. Keith was one of the single guys who always got into trouble for things and he became my new idol. But, with time, we became very distant from the "community" way of doing thing. At the same time, we still lived according to most of the basic norms of community life. Many of them were being integrated with the new movement for family renewal that was starting at all these meetings. When Grandpa Rocha got sick, I remember hearing that Mr. Herman recommended that my Dad send him to a home or something. When we moved in with them I left the community behind. I no longer had any desire to be in it, not even remotely. My Grandpa was the most fascinating person I had ever met. He had taught me math when I was doing my make-up lessons during second grade and now he helped me with my times tables. He could tell me stories of growing up on the rancho all day long. My dream went from being a community coordinator to being a vaquero like my Grandpa. Grandpa never quite understood the life-style we adopted from the community and, when he started feeling better after his knee surgery, he started speaking up about it. Especially about the food. I agreed with him. I began to resent the community and the movement, especially Mr. Herman and his peons like Ms. Murphy. When Mr. Herman's son would get into trouble and I'd hear about it, I would smile. I was still devoted to my Dad's work though. We would go to Weslaco on Thursdays and help Fr. O'Malley give the Life in the Spirit Seminar there. I was the photographer. Eventually I became the music minister. The best part was going to Wendy's afterward. When we went back to Mexico, I took some joy in the movement but for my own reasons. When I was told that I would not be allowed to play music because I was called for the drama team, I was convinced that these people were nuts. I started to outright hate them. My memory began to transform my one-time allegiance to them in Ohio into painful memories of spankings, rules, and a cold relationship to my family--especially my parents. We had a "formula" for everything given to us by order of Mr. Herman and the inner circle, Servants of the Cross. I began to find it all so formalized and stale. When we visited our relatives in Colorado, we were told that they lived shallow lives aimed at pleasure and entertainment, which were empty. What I found to be amazing was how they treated each other, it was so warm and so natural and fun! I wanted that. I wanted the world. Even if it was bad; I wanted it anyway. I didn't care if it was "for the Lord" or not. And that made me feel sneeky, guilty and free all at once.

1 comment:

angcopp said...

I'm glad to see that you're putting your Facebook vacation to good use... and that your story is progressing positively. Both families that I lived with while going to school with the People of Hope were also very judgmental and aloof towards their extended family. It must have been the conflict between feeling like they should love them and be part of their lives, versus the community brain-washing them to think that because their [relatives'] lives were "different" they should be regarded with caution. So sad.