About the ritual of apostasy. Program text
My name is Hana Umeda, I am 36 years old, and between the ages of seven and nineteen, I belonged to the Family of the Nazareth Movement.
At around the age of eighteen, during the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in a small church somewhere in Masuria, I experienced a revelation. I felt that light was shining down on me, and I distinctly heard a voice: GOD DOESN'T EXIST, AND EVEN IF HE DOES, HE'S NOT A MERCIFUL GOD.
For the next year, I tried to fight this thought, convinced that it must have been the voice of the tempting Satan or rather a test sent to me by God, which would serve to strengthen my faith. However, my faith in God disappeared, and with it, the image of myself and the world that had been built upon it crumbled. Shortly after leaving the Family of the Nazareth Movement, I went to Japan and started practicing classical Japanese dance. Despite structural similarities, the practice of dance allowed me to regain a sense of agency and control over my life, redirecting my attention from mystical notions to the reality of the body. After more than a decade of living in denial, I finally decided to break the shame and fear and share my experience of religious belief and its loss with the audience of the Contemporary Theater in Szczecin.
The Family of the Nazareth Movement is a Marian community within the framework of the Catholic Church, founded in 1985 by Father Tadeusz Dajczer. At its peak, it had over forty-five thousand members in Poland alone, and it also operated in forty other countries worldwide. The spirituality of the Family of the Nazareth Movement is formulated in Dajczer's book "Reflections on Faith" and in a series of blue booklets titled "Towards the New Evangelization." This spirituality offered a simple path to holiness through complete devotion to the Mother of God.
The act of devotion was supposed to involve relinquishing one's own will in favor of fulfilling God's will, as conveyed to the faithful through Mary via the spiritual director. The religious practice of the Family of the Nazareth Movement was based on daily participation in the sacrament of the Eucharist, frequent confession, participation in adoration, as well as spiritual training, which involved receiving teachings during "conferences," sharing experiences during "sharing groups," and attending regular retreats. In 2007, a conflict arose among individuals holding the highest positions within the hierarchy of the Family of the Nazareth Movement. As a result, in 2009, Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz issued a decree articulating accusations, including leading to dependency, passivity, and the complete subordination of penitents to spiritual directors; the requirement to sever family ties; belief in the Marian charism of Sławomir Biel, through whom the Virgin Mary was believed to directly communicate, and the conviction of community members that any form of satisfaction from a natural human good must be sinful. Despite the crisis, this community continues to operate within the Catholic Church to this day.
The ritual of apostasy does not exist. While the number of apostasies in Poland is on the rise, they are often driven by disagreements with the Church's policies. Apostates often focus on formalities - submitting documents, obtaining a stamp, and dealing with the removal of their data from the Church's statistics. Rarely do we consider how a person who decides to leave the Catholic Church feels. Do they have any doubts? Is it an easy decision? After all, the experience of religiosity bestowed at baptism flows through the bloodstream, and it is difficult to erase. It is an ambiguous experience that raises many doubts. The act of apostasy, at its core, results from asking questions. Perhaps it's time to ask what a person who makes such a gesture feels? And maybe an apostate needs a ritual to cope with this experience?
Hana Umeda, Daria Kubisiak