Last month, I moved into my godmother’s home after she vacated it for an apartment in assisted living. My godmother lived here for thirty years, and while her daughters had cleaned out most of her possessions, a startling collection of Catholic paraphernalia remained: Virgin Mary statues and night lights, rosaries, variously decorated crucifixes (sometimes more than one in the same room), and even a bottle of holy water.
The presence of these items in the house brought me comfort; like the family photos she’d left on the wall, they were familiar and part of my history. Although I was given free reign to dispose of what was left behind in the house, I couldn’t part with any of these objects. Now that I’m more settled, one of the Virgin Mary lamps is in my bedroom, a Virgin Mary statuette in the living room, and Holy Water in a little cup outside the door. I also found a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the garage that I plan to dust off and hang somewhere, although I’m sure it will offend my parents’ decorating sensibilities (but that’s really too bad).
I feel as though I’ve turned into an uber-Catholic overnight, gone from someone who didn’t even own a Crucifix to someone whose Catholicism is proclaimed from every room. I’ve reflected a bit on what this might mean to visitors who don’t know me well; will they walk in my home and assume I’m too religious to have a reasonable conversation about the Church, and the ways it has and hasn’t failed its members? Will I be seen as horribly old fashioned, or perhaps a little heretical? Will the Virgin Mary statuette on my bookshelf and the feminist and queer-themed books within it give people stress headaches? Different facets of my identity are each so loaded with assumptions that in any given crowd there is probably someone who is uncomfortable with one of them, let alone an intricate and somehow baffling juxtaposition of them all.
Ultimately, I’ll take the same approach I’ve always taken, which is to be who I am regardless of how easily it does or does not sit with other people’s preconceived notions of what it means to be Catholic, progressive, queer, feminist — of what it means to be me.