helping each other to stay in the church

Writing is a lonely craft. It’s also filled with self-doubt. Whether I am sending an article to an editor or posting words instantly online, when I press the computer key that whisks my words into cyber-space my stomach churns a little. Sometimes it churns a lot.

Writing about faith has, by its nature, a confessional aspect to it. (No pun intended. OK…maybe a little!)Writing about your faith is literally baring your soul for all to see. This is what I believe, and why I believe it. And, this is what I’m supposed to believe but I’m struggling to believe it.

We have not always had the freedom to discuss our faith openly and honestly. In some circles, it was just considered bad manners, too personal for polite conversation. Besides, strict orthodoxy in belief was expected and questioning forbidden. There was nothing really to discuss. Theology and the internal workings of the church was the domain of priests and bishops. Few lay women and men had, or wanted, a say in ecclesial matters.

Today’s blogs, web-sites and discussion boards give us a freedom and a platform that past generations never had. We have a great tool at our disposal. Like all tools, we can use it for good purposes or bad. We can help to build up or to tear down.

I am a firm believer that honest and open sharing is valuable. Putting our own thoughts and feelings on the line has a cathartic effect. Whew! I got that off my chest! It also challenges us to enter into dialogue with others. Sometimes we find support in kindred spirits. Other times we are challenged by alternate views. Either way, we are nudged to further ponder our own beliefs and to perhaps do some tweaking along the way.

Regular readers of this blog know that I often need a good bitch and kvetch session. There are aspects of our church that sadden and madden me. Sadness and anger come from a place of love, when love has been disappointed. But, the love causes you to stay. I don’t plan to leave the church anytime soon.

And, I hope that my words would never be the cause for anyone else to head out the doors. Last week, I received a lovely email of support from a reader. His words are tucked away in my mind, ready to give me a boost when I question the value of this writing gig. He told me that my articles help him to stay in the church.

And this, to me, is the finest compliment I could receive. If he is reading this…thank you! I pray that in the dialogue we will all find the reason to stay, to seek change when necessary, and to ever deepen our faith.

17 thoughts on “helping each other to stay in the church

  1. Just beautiful! You’re so right. Not asking questioning may keep us in “Church” but only out of fear or inertia. Only questioning can draw as closer to Christ.

  2. Laura,

    My comment is a clarification of what Church means to me. I am a 71 year old who can well remember the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church. It was all about the Pope, Cardinals, rituals that were in a language we did not understand, and many many rules and sanctions. God was distant and a harsh judge. Clergy had all the answers, but were often unwilling to listen to any questions.

    Vatican II changed that dramatically when it proclaimed “We (you and I) are the Church, and that God is love. All of a sudden Jesus and the Gospel became “The Good News”. The Holy Ghost became the Holy Spirit and the source of energy in the Church.

    Some in high Church leadership seem bent undoing what Pope John XXIII began. They want a return to the authority, order and discipline which maintains their “special” power and privilege. Thus my distinction between the Church as Institution and the Church as the People of God. I may be driven from the former, but my faith is in the latter.

    Blessings!

    • “Thus my distinction between the Church as Institution and the Church as the People of God. I may be driven from the former, but my faith is in the latter.”…..well said, Jerry!

  3. Thank you for sharing this wonderful thought. I too am a writer and know how it feels to receive such words of affirmation and gratitude from a reader. May your writings and work continue to bring other people closer to our Lord. God bless you!

  4. I am a retired Catholic School teacher. I have watched the school and parish I love become a place where Latin Mass and choir reigns. Indulgences are back, in fact, my diocese ran a 2 page spread of all the steps to take to gain a plenary indulgence and even transfer it to a deceased person. Hmm, could we do this online? My bishop, lately a convicted criminal, has implied that Vatican II is a mistake and it will be turned over.
    I was born a Catholic and I am not leaving. I feel the Church today is a trial – much like the persecution of the early Christians. I have found a group of committed Catholics and we are led in study by nuns and former diocesan educators in learning about Scripture and Church History. Maybe in my lifetime, the clergy will not be consumed with the trappings of their finery and will somehow resemble the Jesus we wish to emulate. My fellow Catholics have learned to chuckle at the hierarchy and try to love our neighbors. Thank goodness for kindred spirits.

    • What a sad story, Mary. I keep trying to remind myself that the Church is large enough and universal enough to embrace a diversity of spiritualities and worship styles, but it is horrible when one style is forced upon you….especially if it does not reflect the needs and desires of the people. Good for you in seeking the community of kindred spirits. This has been my greatest gift in the dark times of anger and doubt. And chuckling is good! I read somewhere about the power of laughter. When you refuse to give the deference and respect that an egotistical leader demands, it helps to deflate their sails. Laughter is a great deflater! 😉

      Peace to you!

  5. Sadly this is not just a Roman Catholic plight but one of all Christians. Anglicans suffer in some (not all of course) of the same ways as RC brothers and sisters with communication difficulties and shortcomings related to internal/external issues as well as with ethical/moral ones. We have our “nones,” those who “”are having a gap,” others who have left to start their own orthodox parishes even with bishops in other countries or have officially linked to the RCC. I agree with you Isabella that it is better to stay although I shall add in our denominations than to leave or to jump across a fence and to work midst diversity and growing pluralism to move forward and especially to work at staying strong in one’s relationship with God. And if needed to find small groups (including ecumenical ones if so led by the Holy Spirit) for prayer, contemplation and study in order to have companions on the journey. God for his own reasons may have all of us as Christian denominations struggling “in the wilderness” for some years to come. My Mom used to get angry at the Anglican ways and would come home and slam the kitchen cupboards and mutter that one day she would go and be with the Salvation Army which she never did -so Isabella give those kitchen cupboards a try the next time! Keep on with your catholic dialogue as it is also appreciated by non Catholics.

  6. Oh, Sue, you should come and see the dents in my cupboard doors! There was many a Sunday when this Mama ranted and raved after church. Thank goodness we had a late morning Mass so it was afternoon by the time we came home….so I could have a wee nip to calm the nerves! 😉

    And thanks for the words of support. I’m so glad you came by. Welcome to the dialogue!

  7. There is a whole lot of anguish over our faith, our church, our God. I suppose if we really stopped caring we could just walk away. I was reflecting on how important our small christian community/faith sharing group has been to my wife and me. It may be the only way to survive and grow in the tangled web we call church.

    Keep up the good work Isabella. Glad to hear you have some dents in your cupboard doors. Shows character and passion!!!

    • I agree that having a small christian community to pray and share with is one of the greatest gifts in our faith journeys, Anthony. It’s been my anchor over many bumpy years….and dented cupboard doors! 😉

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