A few days ago I received the following letter from an Army Wife whom I knew on active duty and for whom I have a great deal of repeat. I think she reflects the feelings and concerns of a lot of folks.
“To remain Catholic has always been a big question in my adult life. In the end, it’s the Eucharist that keeps me, like many other Catholics, I suspect. It’s also a big part of my family’s culture, although I know I would be supported if I decided to practice elsewhere (an aunt is a nun, an uncle is a priest, another is a deacon, my dad has a Master’s in Pastoral Studies from Univ of **). When my husband and I married, we promised to raise our children Catholic. We knew at the time it was a sincere promise but also understood and discussed that this might change when the time came. Now the time is here and it’s following a long couple of years spiritually for me.
You mentioned it’s important to find a local Church home. I completely agree. Moving around with the Army has made this more difficult than I could have anticipated.
While we were at Fort ***, things worked out really well. I worked for the Diocese of ** for a period and enjoyed my job in the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. Of course, I saw many bureaucratic and nonsensical things but overall, I knew it was at the local level that the good things happened. Individual people being Christ to each other even when the Church wasn’t reflecting Him. We also had the blessing of you as our priest. I can’t tell you how much it meant to hear you encourage children to feel comfortable in Mass, so that they may approach the altar as adults. I’m sure it’s not new for you to hear that as a “cradle Catholic”, I was not evangelized by the Church. I was led spiritually by my parents, my extended family, and a ministry called Young Life in high school. (Thus, working with teens was always a passion for me.)
When we moved from ** to Fort **, we initially attended Mass on post. It was the Year of the Priest at the time and the priest seized the opportunity during the Homily to explain that praying for him was our indulgence, and that in turn, he would pray for us as he passed us in Purgatory. I was incensed at his statements and by looking at the faces of those around me. Either people weren’t listening or I was in the wrong place, because no one else seemed to find anything wrong with what he was saying. We didn’t go back, and in turn opted to drive 40 minutes each way to another church. However, at that distance, it’s hard to become involved in the community.
A few months later, we left ** to go to ** and tried post again. We were both turned off by the priest who yelled, literally, that we all must speak up because he couldn’t hear us. So we found another church. A wonderful one, but again over 30 minutes from our house. The Msgr. there was encouraging and thought-provoking. For the first time in my life, I chose to go to Penance. It was very freeing.
Then, we moved to **, where we are presently. We tried post again. During that particular homily, the priest told the children that they shouldn’t go and tell their teachers or other adults bad things about their parents, because their parents deserve to die with a good name. I was incensed once again. And again looked around at others in the pews and decided people weren’t listening or I was in the wrong place. We have opted for another church here. It’s been okay. We aren’t allowed to speak after Mass in the church building out of “reverence to the Eucharist”. I don’t agree with this personally but it’s not nearly as affronting as some of the other remarks or rules we’ve encountered. I wish I could say I’ve made some of this stuff up. And while some of it may seem small, I see these comments as a reflection of the larger problems the Church has as an institution.
These experiences coupled with larger current events (like the treatment of the LCWR by the Vatican, Father Bourgeois and others, the treatment of victims of sexual abuse within the Church, the shaming of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters), really challenge me a parent and spiritual leader to our 13 month old **. I mentioned the Eucharist keeps me Catholic. But when I can count on one hand how many times I have received it in the last year, almost two, I hardly think I can claim that as my sole reason to stay anymore. I know my spiritual relationship is suffering as a result of these unresolved questions. I need a change. I know I will be **’s biggest and first teacher in his relationship with God, but do I want to do that in the framework of a Church that sees my gender becoming a priest as more of a gravely sin than harming innocent children? Do I want him to see his mom as part of an institution that has little to no regard for women in general, no institutional protection of children (real protection, anyway), and witness him most likely struggle as I have to understand what can only be described as an abusive relationship between Church and member? The shaming and the attempt at total control by the Church… How much are we expected to take? Will schism produce real change? Do I want to wait around for something that may not happen in my lifetime? How do I become part of the change when I can’t find somewhere locally to do it?
My greatest fear when it comes to my son being raised a Catholic is that instead of thinking critically about what ** sees around him, ** will just grow apathetic and walk away from it all. I know I can’t control this, but I do want to know that I’ve lived a honest faith in front of him. While I don’t necessarily believe in infant baptism (in short: Jesus wasn’t baptized as a baby), I don’t want to shut the door of the Church from ** forever. My husband and I have discussed raising ** Catholic and letting ** make the decision if wants to be confirmed. Then,** will be expected to attend all Confirmation classes but in the end, make the decision for **self (and explain it fully). I believe I’m at peace with this. But it still doesn’t erase all of the questions for myself.”
Just sayin . . .