Hello, world, whoever is still out there. I’m not going to lie – I’ve been absent from this page for a while now because I’ve been going through a bit of a dark period in regards to my faith. I think I tumbled out of the honeymoon period going about a thousand miles an hour and needed to get my bearings. I’m here, I’m still standing, I’m still Catholic, but it was almost by the skin of my teeth. It’s hard when something you love refuses to be as perfect as you had hoped – I think we go through this with friendships, jobs, marriages and in the end, you can either choose to run from it or run towards it.
I really, really wanted to run from it for months, but over the last few weeks, I’ve felt a breath of relief that has allowed me to recenter myself and let go of some anger and hostility. But with that comes a strength to stand a bit more firmly in where I am and what I believe, the resounding message in my head has been to declare “This is the type of Catholic I Am” whether or not that earns me friends or loses me, followers. I’m not trying to put my own opinions on a pedestal or even speak as an authority; this is me, trying to be truthfully, authentically Catholic. Maybe in another 5 years I’ll come back to where I am now and be embarrassed or I’ll disagree with my current conclusions, but that’s for five-year-from-now-me to deal with.
I need to be honest with where I’m at – I’m letting go of any type of legalism or a pretense of what a Catholic life or home should look like. I’m embracing that I can be Catholic without a prayer corner, or without feast day treats, or without certain opinions and prejudices. I’m embracing that I can be a Catholic who prays the way I do, who reads challenging things, who focuses more on acts of mercy and justice. I’m embracing being a Catholic who stands up better for the marginalized, who welcomes those who don’t feel welcomed, who chooses love and relationships over cut and dry theology – this is what I feel is the truth behind the phrase “Who am I to judge?” – letting go of trying to figure out on the universe and just walking with those next to us right now and trusting that infinite Love and Mercy can’t steer me wrong if I really listen.
Today I was part of a little discussion over at the FemCath facebook group about reconciling the idea of feminism and Catholicism and it made me realize that had I not been able to do this – if I had not found groups that said I could have a consistent life ethic, be pro-woman, be my own unique type of woman and still be accepted into a faith- I would not have converted. If I had only been able to find people who said “You can’t be a Catholic and be (fill in the blank)” I would not have come home.
To be honest, some of the responses I got from well-meaning, toe to the line Catholics about my struggles getting my kids to Mass nearly broke me completely. Yes, the probably “perfectly in line with the Catechism” advice and opinions almost drove me away completely. Let me be clear – perfection seeking, well-meaning Catholics have an amazing ability to turn people away from God.
I’m glad I can say that I fought and won, but I know that not everyone does and this makes me wonder…. how many people are we turning away when they hear people say “You can’t be this political affiliation and be Catholic” “You can’t care about this topic over that topic and be Catholic” “You can’t be LGBTQ and be Catholic” “Your family can’t look like that and be Catholic.” “You can’t be anything less than perfect and be Catholic”. How many people would come home if we did better at saying “Yes, you can be Catholic just as you are – we’re all works in progress, we all fail and need mercy, but we can walk together.” There are so many voices out there ready to tell us what part of us aren’t good enough, and the louder those voices are the more people are going to leave, the more people are going to assume there’s no room for them.
I’m still here, I’m still standing – I’m stronger, even though I probably now look like a worse Catholic to many – I still struggle with many teachings, heck I still struggle just to get to Mass on a regular basis more because life is messy and hard than from a desire not be there, I don’t agree with every Catholic writer out there (big or small), I want progress on many things many people are content with and there are even a few things, in the spot I’m in that I frankly disagree with. I’m an imperfect Catholic, but I’m still standing here.
So I offer these last two cents from these last few months of struggle – Walk with us instead, focus a little less on perfect liturgy and perfect liturgical living and perfect theology and open your arms, make room for us in the pews and let that person peaking in the back door know they’re welcome no matter what.