It’s that time of year where I like to blog about the the Triple Crown. The 2020 Triple Crown took forever to get here, but ended with a rarity, with a filly winning. The last time a filly won was in 2009 when Rachel Alexander (that was actually the horse’s name!) showed the boys how it was done, and then trotted off to buy some Jimmy Choos. But that’s not what this blog post is about. It’s about why horse racing and the Catholic religion are similar and why I gave them both up.
I love horses. I love their spirit, beauty, attitude, and especially their smell. As soon as I could say the word “horse,” I drove my parents nuts with constant and unrelenting requests for a horse. Around the age of 8, I started horseback riding lessons, which morphed into more expensive horseback riding lessons, showing horses, my own horses, and my rescued-for-free, but very expensive, ex-race horse.
Over the years, I have visited various race tracks. Race tracks are where you see the most exciting athletes in the world… thoroughbreds! But owning an ex-race horse forced me to research and learn more about thoroughbreds and racing so I could better take care of my free, but very expensive, ex-racehorse. This research opened my eyes to the dark side of the horse racing industry. Now, I rarely visit race tracks. Since horses do not talk and do not have unions or commissioners to oversee their well-being, they can be treated poorly. Yes, some are treated very well, but it’s a small percentage. So when it’s time for the Triple Crown, the ultimate in horse racing, I lose my marbles. I can’t decide whether to set aside my contempt for the horse racing industry for a few days, or to boycott all three races. It’s hard to ignore the fanfare, the mint juleps, and the really large hats. So if I participate, it makes me a hypocrite.
What does this have to do with Catholics? Well, I grew up as a Catholic. I was baptized as a baby, served my first Holy Communion as a 7 year old, confirmed my religion in 9th grade, and was married in the Catholic church where I grew up. I loved the pageantry and glamour of mass, especially when they spoke Latin. But from a very early age, I had this nagging feeling I didn’t belong. As my brothers served as alter boys, I sat around twiddling my thumbs contemplating the only opportunities for me, become a nun or get married.
One church-specific memory I have is my mother sending me to church to confess my sin of calling my brother “a dork.” There I was sitting in the pew, saying my Hail Mary’s on my rosary beads and thinking, “This is a bunch of crap. Why do I have to tell some old dude in a dress sitting in a dark room what I did wrong? This person knows nothing about me.” Then, as an adult, came my divorce. When I found out how much an annulment from the Catholic church would cost, I had to say goodbye to all the outwardly glamour of the Catholic mass. I decided the church had nothing to offer me, and I didn’t want to pretend I belonged.
I still love the fanfare and the glamour of both the Triple Crown and a beautiful Catholic church and mass. But now, instead of participating in those things, I support organizations that rescue and re-home race horses, and humanitarian organizations that help the homeless. You might think my donations are an effect of guilt either from turning my back on horse racing or turning my back on Catholics, but these are things I really believe in, and I’m happy to help. I still enjoy the Triple Crown on television (no betting) and an occasional visit to a beautiful church or a good Catholic wedding with a mass. (I do try to limit the funerals though.)
My wish for everyone is to enjoy what you do, enjoy what you believe in, and keep on truckin’.