Easter is probably my favorite holiday. Definately my favorite Catholic holiday. A season of sacrifice and hope, new beginnings, and forgiveness, I've always felt that if you understand Easter, you understand Catholicism.
Before anybody gets the wrong idea, no, I'm not an extremely religious person. I was raised in the Catholic church and I enjoy the history, mystery, and ritual of that institution. I am a person of faith - I believe in a genderless Creator, the miracles of Jesus Christ, and that reading the Bible can create as much confusion and conflict as it does comfort and enlightenment. I do not believe in Papal infallibility, that premarital or homosexual love is sinful, that the sole responsibility of a Catholic is to make more Catholics, or that traumatized women should be forced to carry unwanted children to term.
Despite these and other rather stunning philosophical disputes, I do consider myself a Catholic. I do pray the Hail Mary and believe in about 80% of the Nicene Creed. (I'm not really looking for the resurrection of the dead, for example. Zombies are more Westley's thing.) And the truth is, I know many more Catholics who openly embrace gay marraige, birth control, and the consumption of beef on Good Friday than those who oppose these practices.
All I can really say to explain this seeming paradox is that I am, and most of the other people (and therefore Catholics) that I know are, American. America is a pluralist society. For the most part, we believe in a prismatic nature of truth. Just as the angle of the light as it hits the prism will alter the shape and strength of the rainbow, so the experiences and influences of a person's life will effect the way each of us sees the world. This doesn't stop some of us from being obnoxiously stubborn, but it does protect our right to disagree with the status quo and think through to our own conclusions. In the end, it's really the Golden Rule that most of us try to follow - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Disagree with respect. Don't attempt to legislate morality. Recognize that faith is beautiful, but fanaticism is hideous. And so on...
In any case, I had a lovely Easter this year. Westley's family had us over for brunch and an egg hunt with the kids, then we joined my family for a delicious lamb roast and shared a film together. It was a busy, beautiful day, full of sunshine and love. And as I broke bread with not one but two diverse groups of Catholics, all of whom have shared intense disagreements and debates with one another over the years, I realized that this was a true Easter - a celebration of our miraculous, unconditional love for one another, and our resurrected faith in family.