It’s difficult to talk about being Catholic. I actually hate talking about religion; it’s one of those things you never bring up in conversation to avoid things from getting awkward. The reality is that I am Catholic, accepting of what that means, warts and all.
Rituals, Culture and Tradition
Stand. Bow. Sit. Kneel. Repeat. Yes, this is all part of attending mass. But in all honesty, I really do love the feeling of being inside my church. I’ve gone to several churches after all the moves I made from childhood to adulthood and there’s a feeling of peace, wonder and joy that fills my heart each time. The moment of quieting my mind and my heart. This is the moment I also allow the good feelings to wash over me, reflecting on what I feel grateful for each time I’m there.
The rituals of practicing are not foreign to me, and they are part of the culture and tradition of my family, as they’ve been for several generations. Just knowing this offers a sense of security and connection to my past, present and future. Though the language and location has changed, the acts of prayer and allowing God in, those remain unchanged and forever present. And though the quieting of my mind doesn’t necessarily need to happen inside the physical confines of a church, I can make the practice of gratitude and peace happen wherever I go.
The Pope, Priests, and Humankind
While I love the traditional aspects that remain the same, everyday life in the modern world has definitely changed. I hold true the basics for the Church and Bible, even the Pope and priests, however, I know that these are all the works of humans. Heinous acts have been committed within the Church; I acknowledge this. I don’t want to gloss over the negative. However, I also know that turning my back on my faith will not make those terrible things go away, nor will it stop every horrible thing in the world from happening. It breaks my heart thinking of how these acts are committed both inside and outside of the Church, but my faith and my own actions are what I can be responsible for.
As virtuous and pious as we would all like to be, we are all human and flawed. I am not expecting everything from the Church and the people of the Church to be perfect, but I know that the morals and values of faith are from a place of caring and love. As a parent, I feel this hits me harder, now more than ever. For as much as I want to be the best parent, teaching and guiding my child(ren), I know that I’m prone to missteps and less-than-perfect decisions. All I can hope to do is provide the guidelines of what are right and good for my child(ren). I will pray that my child(ren) will be guided by their own moral compass, making the best decisions without my presence, yet with my trust. We make decisions, we make mistakes, we learn and we grow.
Women’s Rights, Sexuality and Personal Choices
As the mother, wife, daughter, and sister, I am pro-choice. Being pro-choice would be deemed inappropriate and controversial of a practicing Catholic. Not everyone I know is a practicing Catholic. I believe my religion alone should not dictate the decisions of others, Catholic or not. Just as I choose to be a practicing Catholic, I feel that others can choose their own path. Moreover, I grapple daily with being a Feminist Catholic. I’m learning to find ways to be better at being both, because they are equally important to who I am.
Additionally, I have family members and friends that are part of the LGBT+ community. They also choose to identify themselves as Catholics. The two aspects of their identity are not mutually exclusive, as media or those strictly abiding by religious boundaries might make it seem. This is their personal choice of faith. They too may find solace in prayer and comfort in the traditions they were raised with. They may suffer judgement and hypocrisy whether they go to church or not, yet they still choose to pray by my side as Catholics. When I say I am pro-choice, I pray for the the safety, health and love of all people, regardless of how they identify themselves or their chosen faith practices.
My Faith, My Way
Perhaps I should confine myself to pray the rosary for the sin of writing this piece because it’s not aligned with what a good, strict Catholic might say I should abide by. I’m not looking to be converted or start a debate about why religion is confining or horrible. All I want to do is confess that I’m aware that the Catholic Church is not perfect. Moreover, as a Catholic, I am not perfect. I probably don’t pray or attend mass as frequently as I should. However, each day I am trying to do my part in living a life full of faith, hope and love. I pray that my child(ren) make positive choices, whether or not it means following the same religion. There are many things I pray for, and the Peace Prayer of St. Francis seems to sum it up best.
Peace Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.