Having spent more time in mosh pits and pro-choice rallies than kneeling in a pew, Kaya Oakes was not exactly a poster-child for Catholicism. But, despite a youth spent immersed in the Bay Area punk rock scene, proudly waving her atheist flag, something kept drawing her back to the religion of her Irish roots.
Maybe it’s the so-called God-gene? Or maybe, just being a practicing Catholic amidst her atheist Gen-X peers was the most rebellious thing she could do. Whatever the reason, after running away from the church for thirty years, Kaya decides to return. In spite of her frustration with Catholic conservatism, nothing brings her peace like Mass, and after years of searching to no avail for a better religious fit, she realizes that the only way to find harmony – in her faith and her personal life – is to confront the church she’d left behind.
Rebellious and hypercriticial, Kaya relearns the catechisms and achieves the sacraments, all while trying to reconcile her liberal beliefs with contemporary church philosophy. Along the way she meets a group of feisty feminist nuns, a “pray-and-bitch” circle, an all-too handsome Italian priest, and a motley crew of misfits doing their best to find their voices in an outdated institution.
The result is a story of transformation, no only Kaya’s from ex-Catholic to amateur theologian, but ultimately of the cultural and ethical pushes for change that are rocking the world’s largest religion to its core.
Kaya Oakes is the author of Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture, the poetry collection Telegraph, and cofounder of Kitchen Sink, winner of the Utne Independent Press Award for Best New Magazine. She teaches at the UC Berkeley.