catholic, not religious

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“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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

life doesn’t have to be complicated

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Toni is a lover of the outdoors, and an avid sports person. She can hike, bike, or paddle more miles in a day than I could in a month. Okay…many months!

Toni is also the National Coordinator of LIFE Ministries for the Marianist Family. LIFE (Living In Faith Experience) is a summer camp experience for high school students. The latest LIFE e-newsletter came today, and included a Lenten reflection written by Toni. She has kindly given me permission to share it with you.

Last Lent, I picked up Fr. James Martin’s Seven Last Words. My intent was to read a chapter a week, but of course, the busyness of life & LIFE got the better of me. On Good Friday, I rode my bike out to the Wissahickon Trail and hiked a little up Forbidden Drive. I sat next to the creek for a solid hour or so, and I read the entire book. I was having a truly difficult year, and being able to reflect on the meaning of Good Friday, even if just for a short time, allowed me to put my challenges into perspective and move on.

I think the biggest blessing about that day, even more than reading the book, is that I got out of the city & had some desert time. I was alone, I had time to think in the quiet, and I was able to just “be” me. Sitting with nothing but the sound of the water, the birds chirping and the wind rustling through the trees reminded me that life does not have to be complicated. Choose your battles. Breathe. That is what this time of year is for. How can your life be simpler? How can your life be better because of this simplicity? How can you be of better service to others through this realization?

(Toni)

I like Toni’s version of Lent, focused on BE-ing more than DO-ing. Stopping to Breathe. Seeking – and finding – the wisdom you need at this moment in life.

Toni reminds us that “life does not have to be complicated”. Her “simple” questions hold so much wisdom and truth. How can my life be simpler? Better?

Seeking this simplicity isn’t just for my own peace of mind and soul. How can it free me up to be of better service to others?

May we all find our own desert moment this Lent. Time to BE amid the busyness. Time to Breathe. Time to…

Be still and know I am God.

(psalm 46:10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

of good and evil

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The problem of evil remains one of faith’s greatest mysteries. If God is so loving, why, OH WHY does so much evil exist? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do horrible people reap benefits while others suffer?

In today’s gospel reading, a leper came to Jesus asking to be cured. “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus, moved with pity, healed him. (Mark 1).

How many humble prayers are raised each day? Prayers for healing. Prayers for peace. Prayers for good to overcome the darkness and uncertainty that overwhelms our lives.

“God, I know you can…if you wish…please make it so!”

And yet, our prayers remain unanswered. Bad things keep happening to good people while the truly rotten thrive. We try to be people of faith, but our faith is tested over and over. Words that comforted us in the past now sound like empty, pious platitudes. All we see is the evil before us.

Life is not fair.

The world is heading to hell in a hand basket.

As each year ends, justice and peace seem more unattainable.

And yet…

There are glimmers of hope around the world. Pockets of resistance are morphing into national and global movements. Women are rising together against violence, inequality and sexual abuse. The young and the old are filling the streets, raising their voices against unjust leaders and governments. There is a renewed urgency for peace.

Evil has always been, but so has goodness. In the midst of the darkest times, brave women and men have risen to speak truth to power. They know what they “wish”, and they aren’t going to sit back and wait for someone to make it happen. Moved with pity, they are determined to make it so.

And, so we pray.

And, so we do.