The story of one person’s journey away from and toward the Church.
February, 2016Calling It Quits The story of one person’s journey away from and toward the Church. My 14 year old self would say I left the Church because in 1971 an usher told me I could not come in wearing blue jeans. I told him that God didn’t care what I wore and marched out the door; indignant and knowing I was right. What a gift he gave to a rebellious little girl. I don’t think I consciously left the Catholic Church that day, I just stopped going to Mass. And then my life continued without the Church and I was too busy to go looking for it. Staying At A Distance All of the stringent rules people associate with the Catholic Church would be one reason I have stayed away; they don’t seem based in love. I have been to many Masses at which the priest was berating the people for not coming to church every Sunday. I have been at funerals where the priest made a point of telling those present who could NOT come up for communion, thus separating out the non-Catholics from the Faithful, instead of taking the opportunity for all of us to come together as one. I’m sure that all religions have occasions where they misplace the focus by emphasizing something other than God and community. The other reason I stay away is the authority given to the pope, bishops and priests instead of fostering a direct communication with God and a shared responsibility with the parishioners. Finally, I think that faith is experiential so that reciting a creed isn’t really authentic for me. In my mind, all religions are similar in their beliefs – basically to love God and people; it is just the rituals that are so different. Staying Open Fortunately the Catholic family I was raised in was not legalistic. We weren’t taught the little rules from the Vatican, but were immersed in the big rules from Jesus – to love God and love each other. I learned to love and accept all people and didn’t feel damaged by my Catholic upbringing as did many of my ex-Catholic friends. I do love so much what the Catholic Church does. I love the reverence in the Mass as that is how I like to worship. I love the songs, too – they make me cry. I love that it focuses more on liturgy with a little mystery so we don’t have to cheapen things with exact words. I love that when you visit a Catholic Church you still feel part of the community because Mass is about the same everywhere. The repetitive prayers are great to fall back on in times of need – they just come to you automatically as a way to cry out to God when you don’t know what to do. And the rituals work so well in keeping special moments in life sacred or in going through the motions during times of grief or when you don’t know what is the right thing to do. And, of course, I love the focus on social justice practiced by so many Catholics. Rethinking I am considering attending Mass on a regular basis at my local Catholic Church. The church I would like to go to is the Unitarian Universalists Church but it is too far away and it would mean being away from my husband every Sunday morning. I like that church because the sermons and principles draw on works of all faiths to help us down our path with God and the world. But the distance does not allow me to immerse myself in that community, to attend church functions and get to know people well. I know I really need and enjoy regular worship with God within a community of people, so I think I will return to the Catholic Masses which I know well and the parish is just down the street. I am hoping to hear my favorite quote – “But only say the word and I shall be healed”
Maria Gabriela Garcia, Debora Elkins, Tom Sweetser, SJ