Easter doesn't have quite the same meaning for me as it did when I was an altar boy, ringing the bell for Father Persano and filling the cruets for Monsignor Tappe. In those days it felt like the biggest of big deals, although I'm not sure I ever fully appreciated what it meant that this was the most sacred day of the year. I'm not saying I didn't believe it, because I'm sure I did. It's just that it was too overwhelming a concept for me to grasp.
As the most chocolaty good day of the year, though, it has always had a place in my heart. As the day when all the Lenten restrictions were lifted, I looked forward to Easter with great anticipation when I was a child. Maybe, in fact, that's why I didn't think about the religious significance of the day as much as I could have. It was the day I could eat candy again.
Candy was pretty much all I ever gave up for Lent. The sins I confessed were pretty small potatoes, too. I never had to say more than one Our Father and three Hail Marys for my penance, because I never hit the big time in confession. So maybe that made gorging myself on chocolate bunny ears and creamy candy eggs on Easter more important than it should have been.
I didn't really have to suffer for my sins (or anyone else's, as far as I know), so the real meaning of rebirth and renewal was a bit lost on me. I accepted everything the nuns taught us in Saturday morning catechism as a story out of a book. It's not that I didn't believe it, just that I didn't connect with it.
And yet, I was a pretty religious kid, especially compared to most of the other kids I knew. I was also better behaved than most, if it doesn't seem too boastful to say so. If I ever got into any trouble at all, it was a shock to everyone who knew me. It's no wonder I took my religion for granted. I just took it on faith that life was pretty easy, after all, and nothing I did would keep me out of heaven.
That changed when I went away to college. Well, maybe not all of it. I was still a kiss-up and a goody-goody who was left behind when the rowdy guys were out looking for fun. But I drifted away from the church, and all my religious background became part of my personal history, a bunch of not very interesting anecdotes from my past.
I'm still a pretty decent person, as far as I can tell, but I don't really believe anything I learned in church or catechism class made me that way. I am who I am because of the people in my life, and the things that have happened to me along the way here.
All the bits and pieces I've collected along the way, no matter how big or small they seemed at the time, have had their influence. As an altar boy, I even thought the next logical step would be to become a priest. I'm not disappointed that I turned in a different direction, because I think the process of living takes most of us where we're meant to be, and the choices we make are only a part of that process.