In mid-December, Husband and I had dinner with one of his former co-workers and his family. After dinner, Husbands and his former co-worker walked off into the other room, talking engineering nonsense excitedly with one another, and our kids all ran off to play. This left me alone with former co-worker’s wife. This was totally fine. I liked her and all, but to be completely honest she really intimidated me.
You see, she happens to be a very devout Catholic woman and a leader of our local Religious Ed. programs. Now, I’m a Catholic and I’m proud of this. But I’ll be the first to admit that I can get raunchy sometimes (…always) and I don’t always say or think the most… erm… “christian-like” things. That, and I’m a newbie when it comes to Catholicism and faith in general. It’s hard for me to keep up with a religious leader, especially when they’re so passionate about what they believe in. It’s embarrassing for me to admit (which is very often) that I have no idea what they’re talking about.
My conversation with this woman, whom I will call “Devout”, began by my asking her how her job has been going directing the Religious Ed. classes. Well… let me tell you… this woman was born for this job. I mean it. I tried to do the polite conversation thing and keep the subject on her and ask her questions about herself. I tried to stay engaged in her life, but she’s just too good. Before I knew what was happening, she had me in so deep I was almost drowning in my bad-Catholic confessions.
Now, this is where I pause and address non-Catholics. Before you go rolling your eyes and clicking away from this blog post because it’s a bunch of stupid religious bologna coming from a closed-minded Catholic, I encourage you to read on. My hope is that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome of this conversation and give you hope that not all Catholics are mean old goblins.
My confession went as follows:
As a “newer” Catholic, my faith has been dwindling. I say this because I find it very hard to concentrate during mass and take anything home with me when I just don’t understand half of the readings, references and comparisons. Especially when I have to go without Husband and I can’t ask him to explain things to me. Because I just can’t feel that connection in church lately, I’ve been skipping more and more. I know mass is required, but I just can’t… do it. I know, I know. I need to go if I want my blessings and the Eucharist. But I just don’t feel anything there like I did in the beginning. I almost always leave mass feeling like a failure or just plain bored rather than feeling inspired and renewed.
I then went on to explain my theories and feelings on my faith:
Despite feeling like a total failure as a traditional Catholic, I’ve still really wanted to keep my faith alive. Not only for myself, but for my husband and my kids. So I’ve been trying something slightly different for myself. I’ve been trying to live my faith on a daily basis and go out of my way to inspire my faith. I know this isn’t a new concept. In fact, it’s widely encouraged that all Catholics/Christians act as the pillar of hope, respect and love for everyone they encounter in life. To do what they know is the right thing in their hearts. (Something that, honestly, I find incredibly lacking in both myself and almost every other self-professed “good Christian”.) But the fact is that when someone who is faltering in their faith is given two choices – go to church every Sunday OR live their faith every day – most people choose church. It’s just so much easier to set aside an hour a week to show up and blank out.
And that’s what I had been doing for over a year. Just blanking out. I didn’t really care. I just showed up.
When I finally made the decision to switch it up, I found a huge difference in the way that I look at my faith. I find much more inspiration in daily life compared to mass. I’m not talking about running up and down the streets wildly singing the praises of Jesus Christ. I’m talking about those crossroads you hit and you subconsciously make a decision. Those crossroads where you see something happening and you think, “Do I let this run its course on its own, or do I intervene and try to make a positive outcome?”
I’m trying to intervene more.
I’m trying to step in more and make a positive difference. In everything that I can. Helping a friend get through a hard time with encouragement. Giving something to someone who needs it more than me. Letting someone go in front of me in line at the grocery store. Saying thank you. Buying a friend a coffee or lunch. Giving more money. Giving more time. Giving more love. Giving more kindness.
Giving all that I can.
In all of these incidences, big and small, I truly believe that my actions are a reflection of my faith. And my faith is in God, Jesus Christ, the life he led and the power of good.
Some people would argue that Jesus Christ never existed. Okay… but even if he was fictional, that doesn’t take away the essence of good that he represents, right? With or without Jesus Christ, good is good. Giving is giving. Caring is caring. Loving is loving. I feel like so many people are losing sight of what’s important and putting so much stake in a person’s integrity based on their faith or lack thereof. It makes me sad.
Even though I’ve been skipping mass more and more, I’m still trying to teach the kids what I believe are important values.
- I help them understand generosity and giving without expecting anything in return. – Proverbs 11:24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
- I show them what it means to be content with what they have in their lives rather than always desiring more – 1 Timothy 6:6-8 “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
- I explain unconditional love for everyone, even monsters and bad guys. – Luke 6:37-38 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
So, no, I’m not going to mass so much anymore, but I’m trying to do what I do understand. I understand love, generosity and kindness. I understand that, for me, it means more to act rather than listen.
As I explained all of this to “Devout”, she just sat back and nodded her head, letting me get it all off of my chest. When I finished she shook her head and said. “I honestly think you’re a better Catholic than 90% of the Catholics out there. No, you don’t go to mass regularly, which I can’t say is a good thing, but what you’re doing, I think, is more important. You’re trying to live as Jesus did. You’re teaching your children good values. Whether you’re Catholic, Agnostic, or anything in between, that’s what’s most important.”
That response floored me. I was so ready for a lecture on what I was doing wrong. Soon I was asking all kind of questions and “Devout” had an answer for everything. But for once, it was a good answer. It wasn’t scripted or recited. It wasn’t a lecture and it wasn’t belittling. It was always encouraging and uplifting. She explained the “why” and the “how” in a way that I could understand and respect. She redirected my frustrations into optimism. She didn’t disregard my non-traditional personal beliefs. She listened to me and she educated me. And, most importantly, she has rejuvenated my faith and reassured me that I’m practicing my faith exactly as I need to be practicing it right now in my life. It just made me so happy, and surprisingly relieved, to hear such a devout Catholic in every traditional sense tell me that I was doing it right. And, more importantly, that I was doing right by my kids.
Those words were just what I needed to hear. I feel good about how I’m practicing my faith now. And eventually, hopefully sooner than later, I’ll be going back to mass regularly again. Either way, I want to keep trying to live my life through the “positive outcome” side of the crossroads as often as I can. Knowing that I have truly made a difference in the world, a difference for the better; knowing that I am teaching my kids values to live kind and generous lives, feeds my soul more than anything else. And that’s what I’m taking with me in the end – The knowledge that I’ve made a difference and hopefully inspired someone to pass it on.