It dawned on me today that with this Easter Vigil it will mark 5 years since I converted. It’s been a wild ride, never thought in that time I’d go through so much including our three years of miscarriage and writing for a Catholic women’s ministry as well as contributing to Catholic books.
So I wanted to take a few moments and reflect on where I am in this journey and what I’ve learned over the last few years.
I’m still learning and reevaluating the difference between doctrine, dogma, disciplines, etc. and how that applies to our lives and teachings. I’ve hit a wall with certain teachings and their applications recently and my biggest breakthrough has come from remembering that there is one commandment Jesus gave us above all others and when I strip away everything down to it’s bare bones it needs to reflect that love first. The closer I get to that primary idea the clearer I see doctrines and disciplines in the light of their essential Truth.
The Church still has a long way to go in reaching out to the marginalized. As I mentioned last week it’s very disheartening to still see hurtful assumptions and opinions regarding things like family size, sexuality, race, justice, socio-economic issues, etc. come from so-called “good Catholics”. There’s still such a long way to go and I need to do better. I’ve stopped reading and following many people this year because of this, and am finding firmer ground to say “I’m not THAT type of Catholic.”
I’m never going to fit into certain molds within the Church and that’s okay. I’m not a theological deep contemplative or driven to uber traditional practices. Learning more about the Jesuits and their “faith in action” ideas recently has really helped me see my place in the world and my faith.
I don’t need to be a liturgical maven! Oh, I love seeing people home oratories and constant and consistent liturgical celebrations… but that’s just not my jam. I love and respect those traditions, but they have their time and place and while some are called to make little monasteries of their homes and families I’ve been feeling more and more called that our place is a bit more public, a bit more action-driven than a constant cycle of feast days and private practices. I feel like we’re called to be good examples of Catholics out in the world, interacting with others and let God’s love shine through our interactions outside our home. This has been a big struggle, because I love those beautiful traditions – but I live a different life and in fact I live in an area that doesn’t have those roots (most of our parishes are committed to either certain ministries of social justices or a general support of families, not traditional holy days and other liturgical celebrations and that’s okay!). If it comes down to taking the time to develop these little celebrations or being active in ministries and other aspects of our community the tug on my heart is the later. It’s not putting those activities above God, but rather how I feel God is leading me to show my faith AND to teach my faith to my children. I really believe that whether you’re called to an active life or a more internal life it is the joy of faith that encourages our children more than anything else and there are many ways to show that.
The last and most recent thing I’ve learned is that I don’t need to deny or ignore my religious upbringing and that there are things I can take from my Protestant past to help my faith. I don’t need to disregard that part of my life in order to be a good Catholic. This has come out in how I look at teaching our faith to my kids. I’ve come to realize that right now what my kids need is to learn to love God and take joy from that – the theological truths and teachings can come later. Without that love and joy, all the catechism lessons will be for nothing. I’ve taken time to remember that I grew strong in my faith this way and this is how I know to raise kids in the faith. I can relax a little and do things my way which draws from both my new Church and my old life. It was such a weight from my shoulders to give myself permission to do this over the last few months.
This also relates to how I approach my day to day faith life too – remembering that I can draw on the things I learned growing and finding ways to incorporate them into my life instead of casting them aside. Things like it is okay if I don’t know ALL the Catholic prayers, but can draw on my Protestant upbringing to pray fervently and joyfully off the top of my head. That I can still celebrate holidays in the way I did growing up and still be faithful and fine. That I can be inspired by others outside of my faith because I’m strong in my foundations – I do not need to ignore the writings and joy in God found in Protestant or even non-christian books and things. I can use my own reason and intellect to find inspiration and information from many sources and that it can be good to break out of a Catholic only echo chamber sometimes.
Really, five years in I think I’ve finally given myself permission to discover who I am as a Catholic woman and forge my own path with how I interact, how I teach and raise my kids, how I inform myself and where I draw certain lines. I’m definitely not perfect and I’m not even sure I’m trying for perfect. I’m trying for better than I was and closer to God.