Questioning My Faith

I in no way want this article to be interpreted as Catholic-bashing, or putting down any friends or family who are practicing Catholics. I respect that they believe as they do.  These are MY issues with the Faith I was brought up in, but in truth cannot say I practice with any sort of fervor.  I guess you could say they are long standing issues – starting when I was little. There is much I don’t understand –  or can’t agree with – about the why’s and wherefores of Church doctrine and practice.

I remember as a kid being bored in church.  Same thing every Sunday – same words, same songs, same everything. I liked the ceremony, the candles, the incense, the pageantry. But come on – same script EVERY.SINGLE.WEEK.  As a kid, I was not interested – just didn’t get why we had to sit there and listen to the same things every week. “Because I said so.” just didn’t cut it – not that I would backtalk my parents, mind you. So I mostly “suffered” in silence. Catholicism by rote and recitation.  UGH!   Then we had to go to CCD every week.  Again, same stuff every week. Whats Mortal Sin vs Venial Sin?  OK, got that…. but we never, ever moved past that in any of the CCD classes I attended. Nobody ever explained anything else, and we honestly didn’t know what to ask – we just wanted to get the heck out of there. And, when my dad’s mom passed away, we kept getting her tithing envelopes from her/our parish/church – where her funeral was performed – for quite awhile after she was dead.   Weird.

Then I did something I should not have done.  In seventh grade we had to walk to the elementary school on Saturdays and take a school bus to the next town over for CCD classes.  So, I would walk to the school, scoot behind it to the playground and stay there until I saw the bus return a few hours later. Then I’d walk home.  Really Really REALLY a STUPID thing to do in hindsight. My parents certainly thought so when they found out 2 days before Confirmation that I had not been going to the classes.  Needless to say, I did not get confirmed – nor could I sit  down comfortably for several days – and I missed out on a months worth of TV and socializing on the phone. And justifiably so. (in retrospect and speaking as a parent now)

In high school, one of our long time family friends’ son (and a good friend of mine)  would come up on weekends occasionally to help out my dad with some of the heavier chores – and help me work on my car.  Tom’s mother (Aunt Lucille)  insisted he go to church so we’d go together on Saturday afternoon – but we’d always sit in the back and take off after the gospel was read – having heard that that was the most important part of the Mass and one could technically leave afterward. So we did.

As an adult,  I do find a soothing comfort in that sameness, and pageantry of the Mass.  I understand now why the structure is pretty much the same week to week. Also, a  co worker/ friend who once aspired to the priesthood finally explained the rosary prayers and the mysteries to me when I was in my thirties.   But there is much I do not understand.

The bible says it is ” better” for priests to not be married. But it does not expressly forbid it. One of the most committed, caring pastors I know (Lutheran) is married with several children and his entire family assists with his wonderful ministry.   Could not the Catholic Church attract many more faithful and committed people to the calling if they were in fact allowed to marry and have families?  A ministry life does not preclude having a family life and in fact may lend a deeper understanding of problems families run into. Which would provide better insight and an ability to counsel.   Hmmmm.

And then there’s the whole  “lets not let the women in” thing….. Just don’t get that AT ALL.  I know several women, my friend Kelly and my Aunt Jean in particular  – who would make Super Stupendous and Amazing Priests/Pastors.  Yet they are not allowed to do so.   I think they are pushed into lesser roles in the Church simply because of their gender.  Speaking for myself:  My female-ness does not make me less of a person, nor am I responsible for the sins of Eve. I wasn’t there and had nothing to do with any apple eating.   And this is the message I get from the church when I see that women are not allowed aspire to full ministry if they want to. Its sort of like saying that I’m responsible for the death and persecution of colonists during the Salem Witch Trials because I had an ancestor who lived in Salem at the time.  I’m not responsible for that, either.  Wasn’t there, had nothing to do with it. So I guess you could say I’m not on board with the concept of original sin either.  Don’t see why I should pay a price for something I did not do. With all the sin that we humans manage to create for ourselves, why must we start out burdened with someone else’s?

The Church is anti-gay.  OK I understand that the bible says its an abomination.  Truly 2000 years ago, it was. There was zero chance of the  relationship being fertile so you were wasting your genetic material in a same sex relationship.  Lifespans were so short back then that a person really did have an obligation to procreate – literally for the survival of the species.    Times have changed, but the Church has not evolved. Surrogacy, IVF, IUI and other fertility procedures can assist any family in having children if they so choose. (Adoption is also fine, but should not be the only option a couple has if they cannot conceive “naturally”) What a wonderful thing for any stable, committed couple who otherwise would have no chance of having a family of their own.  And if ANYONE tells me that children conceived in these methods have no souls I will reach through my computer monitor and punch them in the face…. jussayin.  So if that’s what you think, please keep that to yourself. Thanks.   I also had the honour of working on the AIDS quilt patch for Father Robert Arpin.  He wrote a book everyone should read: “Wonderfully, Fearfully Made”.  “Father Bob” was an openly gay priest. I worked with his Aunt for many years which is how I came to have the privilege of working on his quilt patch. His book raises much food for thought. I highly recommend it.

The Churches position on same sex marriage: UGH!  Marriage is not just a sacrament in the church nor is it solely the reason for procreation anymore.  The Catholic Church – to my current understanding -recognizes no reason for marriage other than for the procreation of children.  But – Marriage is a social institution also.  People marry today that want to have companionship and a legal standing with and for another person that they love.  This does not negatively impact any religious institution. (Any church has the right to decide what practices they will allow It has nothing to do with the state or society at large).  I do have the right not to subscribe to that,  however. Of course, I highly recommend marriage if one wants children.  A two parent family is best – raising children is quite difficult for a single parent. Not to mention costly to taxpayers. Why can’t the church recognize the duality of marriage as a sacrament AND as a social institution?.  If I am recalling my sociology and ancient history correctly the concept of marriage and family was initially set up to provide  a method of protection for children and companionship for adults. Set up to define roles and responsibilities, and make it easier to provide for those who could not yet provide for themselves.  Not really a religious element there as far as I can see, but definitely a social one.  In my opinion, nothing wrong with a dual definition of marriage.  And, it manages to be all inclusive.

Abortion:  Truth be told, I agree with the Church regarding its stand on abortion – up to a point.  The line is drawn for me when the Church says the issue is Black and White/All or Nothing.  I cannot support  policy that states an abortion cannot be performed for a woman who’s health is threatened by her pregnancy AND she wishes to terminate it. Women should not have to wait until their pregnancy imminently threatens their life to be able to get an abortion. (Fortunately Roe v Wade opened the door that says they don’t have to) I cannot support policy that states a woman must carry her rapist’s baby to term. Its not her fault she’s pregnant, why should she pay the price for someone else’s sin?.  Does the church realize the psychological damage they are forcing a woman to endure beyond the trauma of the rape itself?  There are always exceptions to any rule and these things should be decided on a case by case basis – if the woman chooses to discuss it with her priest- not by blanket, all or nothing medieval doctrine. In my mind, this completely anti abortion policy translates to  just another way for the Church to keep women out of power.

The Church should be a vibrant entity that evolves to support the needs of its flock whilst providing a moral compass for them.  That the Church refuses to step forward into the 21st century, acknowledge and institute true reform is a real stumbling block for me. They’re still shuffling abusive priests around to other parishes instead of dealing with them appropriately – or letting the law do so. The American Catholic Church is withering on the vine, unfortunately. Fewer and fewer young men called to the priesthood.  Wouldn’t it be great to open it up so that these men could marry – or even better allow women of faith to get on board too? I’d bet a whole slew of awesome people would aspire to the calling AND be great at it; reinvigorating the Church with new blood. (no pun intended)  I’m not saying throw the baby out with the bathwater; but I do think that an update needs to be done – and its long overdue.

As another example, years ago a family member gave birth to a stillborn daughter at 22 weeks gestation in a Catholic Hospital. The priest there refused to baptise the baby.  OK, I understand that the baby was born dead. But if the Church thinks that life begins at conception does not also “original sin”? So the Catholic Church essentially told this family that there is no chance of reuniting in the afterlife with their daughter because she was condemned to limbo simply by being born lifeless and not in a state of grace? Medieval thinking,and another example of Catholicism by rote. Is not the priests job also to minister to the comfort of the grieving parents?  Providing the comfort of a baptism -even a “meaningless” one – should have been the first priority of that priest, not dogmatically following a policy that provided no relief to the family left behind.  As Captain Kirk pondered in the Star Trek episode  “Who Mourns for Adonis”  – ” Would it have hurt us, I wonder, to have gathered a few laurel leaves?” I think not. My family priest at the time actually agreed with me on this one – at least on providing a baptism for the baby in order to comfort and support the family. And why can’t a baptism be performed in utero if life begins at conception and “original sin” needs to be gotten rid of?

So yeah, I guess you can call me a Cafeteria Catholic. It fits. Has a  “Catholicism for Dummies” been published? If so, I might need to read it.  I believe in much of what the Church says – the Trinity, Heaven and Hell, The Ten Commandments, The Resurrection. Don’t subscribe to the concept of “original sin”.  Don’t really get the whole  intercession thing – why can’t I confess any sins I might have directly to God?  Not sure that a virgin birth status is necessary for Jesus to be both human and Divine/The Son of God. Which hey –  if you think about it – if Mary did not have sexual intercourse to conceive Jesus then he had to have been conceived “unnaturally”.  Which negates the opinion that children conceived via non- sexual methods have no souls.  Because of course I believe Jesus had/has a soul.  Life, no matter how created, is imbued with that divine spark we call a soul. But mostly,  I do believe that whole  LOVE ONE ANOTHER thing.  Because if we truly do that – everything else falls into place, and falls into grace. Thanks for listening while I thought out loud.  Peace, out.

All I Need is Just a Little

Patience

PPerseverance. I gotta hang in there and deal with whatever comes my way, as it comes my way – and not before.

AAttitude. Keep it positively real, and really positive.

TTolerance. It is what it is.  Accept what I cannot change.

IInspiration.  Surround myself with people and things that nurture and inspire me. Give it to God when I can’t handle it.

EEndurance.  Buckle up, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

NNon-resistance.  I need to go with the flow.

CClarity.  I need to make sure I understand what is going on so I can react accordingly. I need enough information to work with. I must ask when I do not understand.

EEquanimity. I must remain calm.  ( every time I say that  I think of “Animal House” – and I giggle)

I must go to my happy place as often as possible – perhaps all of the above are good directions to get there?  I think yes!

Patience – Guns N  Roses

Young at Heart

My blogger friend Miss “Sarah on the Go” is approaching her quarter century milestone and wrote a wonderful post about her thoughts which you can read here. And it got me thinking…. what keeps us young? Why is it that some of us seem ancient at 50 and others of us are so vitally alive at 90 something? We can’t prevent the aging process, or those chronic conditions or illnesses that speed it up & make it difficult to function – but I’ve come to the conclusion that attitude is everything when it comes to keeping ourselves spiritually and psychologically young.

I hit the big 5-0 on New Years Eve. This type of milestone certainly does lead one to reflect. Am I where I expected to be at this point in my life? Have I accomplished any of the things I thought I would do by now? Am I happy? Have I made a difference to anyone? Answers: No – but then again I’m not exactly sure what I expected. Yes- some of them. Yes, I am happy. And, I sincerely hope I have. I’ve been working on my attitude a lot recently. My innate tendency is to be somewhat pessimistic and I’ve been working hard to overcome that – finding things to be grateful for, and seeking out people who reinforce a positive outlook. This hasn’t been easy – life events have a way of interfering with my best laid plans. But I’m rolling with it. I have to. Blogging/writing helps – and increases my exposure to a huge number of extremely positive, caring people from very diverse places and backgrounds. This is a good thing, a very good thing indeed.

So what contributes to a positive attitude? Humor – finding the funny can be difficult sometimes, but there’s nothing like a good laugh. And if you can laugh at yourself – even better. Creativity – keeping those little grey cells occupado. Having a hobby or even just reading has tremendous benefit, even if it’s just to ward off boredom. Relationships. Those connections are crucial to maintain in order to ward off depression or ameliorate it. Openness to trying new things and venturing down that road less traveled, at least occasionally. Me time. There’s nothing wrong with a little self pampering and we shouldn’t feel guilty about it as long as we don’t go overboard. Spontaneity. Being flexible is key to remaining spiritually youthful. Gratitude. As I’ve said, this is a biggie for me. When things go south its good to remind myself that despite my problems I still have it pretty darn good. I have a thankful list and I try to review it frequently. Another blogger friend, Kate, has a “daily gratitude” page on her blog, which you can read here. She is one of the most positive people I’ve ever encountered. Finally, there’s Faith, or Spirituality. I believe God will help us – even if it’s not the help we think we need at that time.

Getting to that positive place and remaining young at heart takes some work. But its worth it. Take my dear father for example. He was (only) 79 when he was suddenly taken from us. I guess you could say he looked his age, but he certainly didn’t act it. Dad was always busy. Working, socializing. Antique cars was a hobby – and he had a couple of them. He also loved to cook, and was a voracious reader. (I get it from him I guess). Dad was always up for an adventure, especially if the grand kids were involved. I could call him late on a Friday and fully expect him to go to the beach with me on Saturday. Or, maybe he’d just show up for dinner unannounced a few times a week. Young at heart? You betcha! I’ll leave you with this; which sums it up better than I probably can:

“Fairy tales can come true
It can happen to you
If you’re young at heart, for it’s hard, you will find,
To be narrow of mind
If you’re young at heart
You can go to extremes
With impossible schemes
You can laugh when your dreams
Fall apart at the seams
And life becomes exciting with each passing day,
And love is either in your heart… or on its way.

Don’t you know that it’s worth
Every treasure on earth
To be young at heart?
For, as rich as you are,
It’s much better by far
To be young at heart
And, if you should survive
To a hundred and five,
Look at all you’ll derive
Just by being alive!
Now, here is the best part:
You have a head start
If you are among the very young…
At heart.”

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