Cultural Forces: Day 10 – Beginnings


A little over 3 years ago I went to see a one of my clients giving a talk in London. He’s an American very active in the Catholic community, so his talk was in St Patrick’s Church on Soho Square. He told me to meet him at the door of the sacristy afterwards and we were going to go for dinner. When I got to the door the Parish Priest, an Irishman, was there. My client introduced us and we got acquainted a little. I immediately liked his vibe. It took all of about 30 seconds for him to say, “Well, if you’re from Derry you must be Catholic then?”

I was caught off guard by the direct question. I laughed and took a second to gather myself. “I’d say lapsed would be the most accurate assessment of the situation, Father.”

“Well now,” he said, “I’m not touting for business or anything but you’re welcome here any time.” I knew I liked this guy. All the same, I had no plans to return.

I didn’t yet know it at the time but I was pregnant with my daughter when that exchange occurred. John and I got married in a theatre in East London. A Catholic church was never even on the table as an option. John was born into a Catholic family and was baptised but when the time came to be confirmed he opted to watch The Simpsons on a Sunday evening rather than go to preparation classes. Once our daughter was born conversations about baptism began.

“You want to do that?” John asked. “I think so,” I replied, “I don’t know really.”

“You’re not religious, you don’t go to mass, you don’t believe in the whole thing… why would you want to baptise her?” He made a good point.

I was very resistant to all this questioning. I couldn’t explain myself or my thinking but I felt like he was out to get me somehow. Eventually he very wisely suggested I should think about what I wanted and then we could return to the discussion.

Easy for him to abandon Catholicism, I thought, it’s just a religion to him. But when you’re born a Catholic in Northern Ireland, it’s a lot more than that. Catholics in Derry didn’t have a fair and equal vote until the 1970s. My parents’ and grandparents’ generation brought about that change. People gave up their lives in all kinds of ways for my civil rights. And that’s only the very recent history; this stuff goes back 800 years. And now – what – not only have I left home and made my life and started a family across the water, I’m going to fail to pass on my culture as well?

But John was right. I wasn’t practising. I didn’t believe in the church. In fact, I had a lot of opinions about the institution of the Catholic Church and how it operates in Ireland, only 1% of them positive. Wouldn’t it be hypocritical to have her baptised?

I was all over the place. The fact I was sleep-deprived, breastfeeding what felt like every 5 minutes, and filled to the brim with hormones wasn’t helping.

I had clarity around one thing, though. I had no interest in having Méabh baptised in a chapel in London. It would be in Derry or not at all. And another thing, one of my dad’s best friends is a priest. I only really wanted it done if he’d be the one administering the sacrament.

Finally one day in the shower – the only place I was ever alone and had space to think during the postpartum period – I had a realisation. Regardless of my religious beliefs, or lack thereof, I’m still culturally Catholic and that’s what I wanted to pass down to my daughter. I wanted us to gather as a family for this ritual to root my daughter in the place and culture of her ancestors.

In the shower that day I decided to give myself a break. I decided it was ok to want to have her baptised for cultural reasons. And so we gathered in Derry, John’s family and mine. Méabh was baptised by the same priest and in the same chapel as her mother, her uncles and cousins.

We are all rooted in something. Whether we think about it or not. And our work and direction in the world is rooted in that too. Understanding your historical context is a powerful thing indeed. You didn’t just appear here on Earth one day, you are an extension of a line that goes back to the beginning of humanity itself.

Megan Macedo HeadshotAbout Megan

The most important work we can do is show up in the world as our real selves. I write and consult about authenticity in marketing, helping individuals and companies be themselves in every aspect of their work.

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