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.

why do you stay…really, why?

Inspirations for blog posts and articles often come from the richness of discussion boards. Yesterday, Anthony Lehmann shared his first communion memories and then wrote the following,

Isabella, I marvel at your ability to rebound and remain faithful in spite of the obstacles you have experienced along the way. The nun removing your gloves, being estranged from your parish community because of a priest. The changes, challenges and the muck of dealing with the institutional church. Somehow you can see through it all, believe through it all. Amazing.

Amazing? Perhaps. After all, we’ve gone through our share of ‘kaka’. But it’s not me who is amazing. Those closest to me know my ability to hold tremendous grudges. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not my strong suit. My blood pressure still rises at memories of past hurts, or when I see certain faces in diocesan newspapers.

Anthony’s comment has made me stop and think. WHY? Why DO I try to remain faithful to our Catholic Church and her beliefs? What is the essence of my Catholic faith, and how do I stay rooted in it in the midst of questioning and anger? Who or what helps me stay grounded and faithful?

I’m going to mull this question over. Meanwhile, I would love to hear your responses to these questions. Our answers, I believe, might be the key to promoting the ‘new evangelization’ that we are hearing so much about.

Note: Hubby and I heading to Dayton tomorrow morning to attend the First Vows ceremony of four Marianist (Society of Mary) novices. One is a dear friend who spent time with us in Canada. I won’t be posting again until I come back. I look forward to sharing the experience with you next week.