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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

God at work in my life

Since May, I've been talking and thinking a lot more about God and His place in my life. I'm a lifelong Catholic...Catholic grade school, high school, and 3 years at a Catholic university. I don't have any big issues against the Catholic church, though I was deeply disappointed by the institutional reaction to the priest sex abuse scandal. By big issues, I mean that there's no big thing that made me made at the Catholic church.



That isn't to say that I have agreed with the church in every area or followed its teachings in every respect (pre-marital sex and birth control are two biggies there). In spite of, or perhaps really because of my Catholic upbringing, I've never thought a whole lot about my beliefs. When everyone around you believes the same basic thing, there's not such a need to examine or defend your beliefs. They're just...there. I went to church more or less regularly, even ministered in the Children's Liturgy, but going to Mass never meant to me what I felt like it should. So, I kept going (missing liberally for vacations, camping trips, and leisurely breakfasts), and hoping that something would eventually kick in and church would really start to mean something to me.



That's where I was in May when a friend asked me why I was Catholic. For me, the answer is pretty close to why I have blue eyes...because I was born that way. He started asking me questions and arguing (sorry, debating :D) with me about my answers. The more we talked, the more I realized how little I really understood what I professed to believe. Rather than believing with a depth of feeling, it was more an attitude of, "Well, if the Catholic church believes it, that's fine with me..." Except, of course, where I disagreed. Then, my thoughts were more like, "I'm sure that God doesn't want..." OR "I don't think God would expect..." You get the picture.



A big place where we disagreed was homosexuality. I have always believed that homosexuality is, for most people, how they are born rather than a "lifestyle choice". I know that, if the tables were turned overnight and heterosexuality became "wrong", I couldn't change my attraction to men. And what seems wrong to me is that idea that people who are gay aren't able to share love and build a family (as far as the church is concerned) based on who they are. Seems more an issue of civil rights vs. morality. Well, the Bible couldn't disagree more with me.

In the words of my friend, though, "Do you think you know more than God?" Well, no, but I do wonder if our understanding of His take on this issue is limited. It's not for me to judge, though, and I'm leaving that whole issue to God. Those words touched me, though, and made me want to read the Bible and read more about faith in general.

While we were talking about religious issues and Catholicism, my friend invited me to visit his church with him and his wife. While I was happy enough with my church (or, unsatisfied but not looking to go elsewhere, anyway), I was curious about what had caused such a change in him...because he seemed visibly different from the guy he had been in the past. I went to the church, a non-denominational Christian church, and liked it, despite vast differences from the Catholic Masses I was used to. I've been going since, only missing once or possibly twice since the beginning of May.

And here's the thing: I don't want to miss church. I love going. I like the music (and I do still love many of the hymns sung at my old church), but I really get a lot out of the pastor's messages. The funny thing is that the services are about 1/2 hour longer than the Masses at my Catholic church, but it doesn't seem like it at all. I could listen for longer. And it's amazing, because every week the pastor speaks on something that is an issue for me or that my friend and I have just discussed. I have talked and thought more about God in the past few months than in the rest of my life combined.

All this change isn't without a cost, though. My Catholic mother is really unhappy that I'm going to a different church. Luckily she's not the kind of mother who'll guilt me or harangue me about it, but knowing that she's upset bothers me. I'm the only one of my siblings who goes to church regularly, and in the words of one of my brothers, "Apparently it's worse to go to the 'wrong' church than not to go to church at all." Indeed, it seems that way. And I've never felt that you had to be Catholic or say this or that prayer to go to Heaven or be a good person...but somehow it matters very much to my mom.

My husband is also not happy with the change. He's a Catholic as well, but the kind of Catholic who (up until I started going to a new church) could take church or leave it. I was the one who decided if we were going to church or staying home and sleeping in, cooking a big breakfast, whatever. He did go with me once to the new church and hated it. By the second song he asked, "Is it almost over?" Not open to it at all. Which was disappointing, but fine. What really bothers him is that now I don't want to go away for the weekend because I don't want to miss church. I really look forward to it. Well, that makes a mess out of our camping schedule and annoys him to no end. He, like my mom, isn't one to be very vocal about his displeasure, but it's pretty evident. And, curiously, now he goes to Mass regularly. Go figure. (And I go with him, so I'm getting plenty of church these days!).

I've got a lot more to say on the subject, but it's getting late.

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