catholic, not religious


“I will no longer listen to priests and bishops telling me what to do!”

I nodded in enthusiastic agreement with my friend. He spoke for many of us; baby-boomers who are serious about our faith lives, but have become more and more disillusioned with the institutional church.

I am not a lazy, apathetic catholic. I care about my faith life, sometimes too much. My faith has been a source of both joy and pain; moments of soaring inspiration and times of dark doubt and anger.

I’m not a theologian or academic, but I’m well-read. A decent understanding of doctrine and church history feeds my mind. Inspirational reading, music, prayer, lively conversations and faith-sharing nourish my heart and soul.


I used to reside in the front pews of my church. Energetically involved. Happy to be present.

Disillusionment and anger led me to the back pews, where the view was much different. I eventually snuck out the door for awhile. The view from the other side of the church doors was eye-opening. Exile time forces you to ponder and judge what has been, and vision for what could be.

Many years have now come and gone. Today, I have an imperfect attendance record on Sundays. When I do go, I battle boredom. My impatient, 59 year old self struggles to sit patiently. To listen. To pray. To stop looking at my watch. If it wasn’t for my faithful hubby, I’d probably spend every Sunday morning with a good book and second pot of coffee.

Today, it’s popular to identify oneself as “spiritual, not religious”. I’ve been pondering this term a lot, recently. Is this what I am? Who I am becoming? And yet…

My spirituality is catholic in its roots, and in its foundation. Catholic with a small “c”, focusing on the “whole” rather than obsessive details and squabbles that too often overshadow the simple message at the core of our belief.

  • We believe in the Incarnation, that God became one of us so that we could become more like God – not in power, but in loving like God Loves.
  • We recognize God’s presence in the every-day and the every-time.
  • We listen for God’s voice in silence, prayer, scripture or the wisdom of community.
  • We seek justice, peace and the integrity of creation in all we do.

I’m fascinated by the many diverse paths and experiences that seek the same goals as we do – to love God and love our neighbours. It is sheer arrogance to believe that the path we have chosen is the one and only true path to salvation.

Yes, at this stage in my life, I am focused more on spirituality and less on religion in its institutional form.  Like my friend, obligation and voices of authority no longer hold sway over me. And, yet, my spirituality remains catholic. I remain catholic.

catholic…not religious.








8 thoughts on “catholic, not religious

  1. Don’t mean to be presumptuous …but….I suspect that your “spirituality” is finding religion.
    Like you, I think, my “spirituality” is firmly stuck in catholicism. It’s cultural mostly, but it also makes sense. It is the core of tradition, the essential root- too much manure, needs pruning, etc. It’s like diversity without a core dissipates and a core without diversity shrivels and dies.
    My sense of Incarnation is a bit different. It seems to me that it means that real love for God is being/becoming fully human. “Redemption” is something different, something that is beyond, actually evolutionary in a way.

  2. I don’t understand Incarnation any more. With billions of galaxies each with billions of stars, why would the Creator choose inconsequential Earth, a tiny spec in the vastness of the Universe to manifest Himself in human form? We on Earth can’t be that unique. Slightly more than two thousand years out of an estimated fourteen billion years since the creation, is a very small number. The Earthly Incarnation, it seems to me, must have occurred innumerable times in the Universe, in one form or another.
    I think God must love all His creation equally.
    Have we just drifted into anthropomorphism, and fashioned a creation narrative to meet our needs?
    What used to give me comfort now brings me to a philosophical/theological place of uncertainty.
    Attributing all this to mystery does not satisfy me. Sometimes I wish I didn’t think so much, but the Creator did give me a brain and curiosity. I have come to a point where I have to accept that I cannot get the Infinite into my finite head, and that those religious doctrines that purport to explain it all don’t bring me any reasonable level of comfort or certainty.

    1. Are you saying that you actually understood it? Or, that the mystery deepens?

      1. If one focuses upon one star, one grain of sand, one “truth” therein lies a danger and a choice. The danger is resting there as if that is all there is or that the all is there. The choice is to image the immensity of the many of the “each”, the other; to glimpse the edge of the infinite and accept its real possibility. In awe. Faith is not without its anchor in what we can see, hear, feel. The irony is that the anchor is what should catapult us to freedom.

  3. Dennis, I have come out of the other end of this thought process and determined it was one of my, not infrequent, lapses in humility. Thank you for your response.

  4. This is an interesting line of thought. I am still in the camp that the Catholic Church is the best answer to the mystery of our existence. There are certainly plenty of things wrong with the sinners that compose the Church, but I like the idea that Jesus, our spouse, loves us anyway. Maybe focusing too much on the imperfection of the bride is deterring us from the perfection of the bridegroom? Seeking to deepen my love for Jesus, and trying to find ways to help others understand how great He is keeps me from getting discouraged. Thanks for sharing.

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