Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

It is Tough to Be Catholic

Please take the time to read this post from Red Neck Woman and this post from Erika and the comments from this post. Take your time. I’ll wait.

Then consider my experience a couple of weeks ago. I was attending a social gathering of ladies. I would consider most of those attending more of acquaintances than close friends. One woman was discussing a recent wedding. She was perturbed that the priest was adamant during the rehearsal that the readers bowed as they came up to read. I merely commented that the priest felt compelled to ensure proper reverence was given especially if the tabernacle was located in the sanctuary. She didn’t think the priest needed to be so picky. Well, this unleashed a diatribe of mean priest stories. Interestingly, most of those offering stories call themselves Catholic. I had no idea so many in this group were Catholic. We heard about the Baptism where only one of the parents was Catholic and the other was Jewish. The Jewish in-laws were present at the Baptism. And can you imagine, in this Catholic Church during a Catholic sacrament this Catholic priest clearly stated the Catholic teaching about the necessity of Baptism for salvation? How insensitive to the presence of the Jewish in-laws. And you know the younger priests are the worst. They are so “rigid”. Of course there was the “former Catholic” who declared she left the Church when a priest proclaimed in his homily that women should not work outside the home. She is a mother with a career so she obviously couldn’t stay in such a church. I didn’t offer much of a defense other than to say priests are human and they each have strengths and weaknesses. Should I have said more? I didn’t want to cloud the evening with an argumentative discourse on religion.

Somewhere in this experience and these recent readings there is a theme. I can’t quite put my finger on it but all of this seems to be pointing in the same direction. I guess the easy analysis is there is a whole lot of ignorance out there and we catechists and evangelists (which we are all called to be) have a big job before us. But I think the issue is bigger than that. It is more than just a lack of education in the faith. There are so many who think they know what the Catholic Church is and what the Catholic Church teaches. They haven’t read the Church documents or studied the writings of the Church fathers or read the analysis of modern faithful Catholic authors or even read the teachings of our modern bishops and popes. Their whole schooling in Catholicism is based on anecdotal rants like I heard at my gathering. This ignorance is rampant among Catholics. And you know what? They don’t want to know anything differently. To acknowledge the true teachings of the Church would be to acknowledge the counter-cultural demands of our faith. To accept these teachings would mean they have to challenge themselves. And that is too hard.

For example, if you really understood and accepted the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, would you separate yourself from it because one priest gave a homily that you didn’t like? I actually know the priests at the parish of this “former Catholic”. I can almost guarantee you that none of them ever preached a woman shouldn’t work outside the home. I can guarantee that they preached about the sacredness of the parenting vocation. Your responsibilities as a parent far outweigh your career advancement and success. Every mother with a career outside the home (myself included for many years) spends a lot of time second guessing herself as to whether or not she is balancing the demands of work and home properly. To have these doubts raised at Church was probably uncomfortable. But rather than use the teachings of the Church as a gauge to judge her career decisions, this "former Catholic" chose to leave a Church where those uncomfortable issues would be raised. She says she is so much happier to be someplace with peppy music and lots of hugs. It is just so comfortable.

But there is the rub. Christ doesn’t call us to be comfortable. Christ calls us to pick up our cross and carry it with Him. Read the Beatitudes. We will be poor and meek and hungry and mournful and persecuted. And this is a good thing! Christ calls us not to seek earthly comfort but rather eternal joy. His Church, the Catholic Church, is tough.


Anonymous said...

Great post Denise. My brother is a priest and my father was a deacon, and I can't tell you how many people think that they know what's right for the priesthood or the Church without having one friend or relative who is actually a living priest. Seriously, if it wasn't so sad, it would be comical. I don't pretend to know anything about the army or the NYPD; nor would I lecture someone on their vocation and how to improve their job.

Barb, sfo said...

Great post!

I think part of the problem is that we have all come to think of everything as a democracy. We want to "have it our way." Well, the Church is not Burger King, and it is in our best interests to trust the priests, magisterium, and scholars whose purpose is to guide us in leading a better, HOLIER life.

Christine the Soccer Mom said...

In the rec league for homeschoolers in this area, there are few Catholics on my daughter's teams, but there've been a few former Catholics. One woman holds no grudge for the Church, and actually told me that I remind her of all the wonderful things about the Church she grew up in. (Made my week!) I'm always amazed at people who leave the Church because of a person within it. It makes me so sad, because it means that person doesn't understand that the Church is not just the parishioners or even the priests - it's the Mystical Body of Christ.

Do you think this is a result of years of "We Are Church" theology being taught in catechism? Are we reaping the rewards of telling children through their CCD years that they are the Church - not the Magisterium, etc.?

While trying to emphasize the fact that we, the parishioners, are certainly part of the Church and that it's not the building or the pope and bishops alone, have we over-emphasized the idea to the point that now we think that the people are the Church and nothing else? (Do you know what I'm trying to ask?)

Heide Seward said...

Thought-provoking post, Denise. I find myself in similar situations now and then, and it always strikes me as odd that a convert should find herself explaining the Catholic faith to Catholics! We really do have our work cut out for us.

I think you are correct that one of the main reasons people desert the faith is that it is HARD. In other words, it has STANDARDS. That's one of the very things that drew me to the Church. It seems to me that the Church has lost ground precisely to the extent that it has relaxed its standards. It is gaining ground where it is unapologetically Catholic.

Tony said...

People affected by the "cafeteria mentality" have never asked themselves the question:

Do I believe that the Catholic Church is the one true church founded by Jesus Christ to lead the world to salvation?

If the answer is yes, you really can't justify picking and choosing to yourself. If the answer is no, why are you Catholic?

Pertaining to "bad priests", I always explain that Jesus, Himself, chose Judas Iscariot as one of the first bishops.

Michelle said...

I like to remind people, "It's not about you." Jesus taught the disciples the Mass and commanded we do this. He didn't say we had to like it. I have suffered through many "bad" parishes and Masses and wished I had had (Catholic) alternatives. Although the Church "should" be fulfilling and the center of life with friends and community and all that good stuff, the truth is that we are frequently called to suffer in this regard and we may not feel the spiritual benefits of partaking in the Eucharist.

Several years ago my (Protestant) father told me he did in fact believe in the Real Presence. I stared at him in shock. "Then how can you NOT want to go to Communion?" That fall, he signed up for RCIA. If one were to truly understand and believe in the miracle of the Eucharist, how could one willingly walk away unless through the sin of pride?

Mhari said...

exceptionally good post, I love stumbling across blogs like yours :)

Denise said...

Good post! Barb, I once had a priest give a homily where he said this is not Burger King, your way right's God's way over a LONG period of time ;-)

Tony--GREAT question!!

And Michelle, I think you have said just what I needed to hear...its not about us.

THIS is what makes blogging so good...sharing, discussing, learning. Thanks ladies!

Milehimama said...

I think it comes down to authority. We don't like being told what to do. As Barb said, we want it our way and when it doesn't agree, we move on or at least tell everybody with an ear to hear.

RAnn said...

I used your post as a take-off for one of my own:

Chris said...

I found your blog on a Google search for "Catholic mom blogs". WOW, what a find! Really enjoyed this entry. I've subscribed! :)

Nârwen said...

" Every mother with a career outside the home (myself included for many years) spends a lot of time second guessing herself as to whether or not she is balancing the demands of work and home properly. "
I assume that the exceptions are those mothers who husband has run out on them/become permanently disabled/died. That last happened to my own mother, and for her it was 'put the job demands first if you want food on the table.'

Catholic Mom said...


I am sure your mother had the same conflicted emotions every mother has when she divides her time between a paying job and a family.(Actually, this same reasoning process goes into deciding not to take a paying job as well) Sometimes a woman is blessed with a varied array of options. The how much, where, when, of a job are wide open. For others the options are much more narrow. It may be essential that she earn a living, but she will still have to weigh the costs and benefits of any given job against the costs and benefits to her family.