Last day, last post on this topic. EVER. Gah.
So! After four (five for Phillip!) blissful years in the NDCF, we decided to be Catholic. Or, to put it another way, commit to the Catholic church and not a non-denominational church or the Presbyterian church popular with young adults or the unwashed and dreadlocked sect of Lyndon LaRouche supporters who always had tables set up on campus- and don't act like they weren't trying to convert you to a religion.
And the reason for sticking with good ole Catholicism was that we were not at all interested in finding out the depth of my mother's wrath. The end!
(Calm down, mom!)
(I kid! I kid!)
PERHAPS there was more to it.
Every good Catholic will tell you that you don't go to church to hear a good sermon or to be moved by the music or because that's where all your friends are. You go because you're supposed to go. Bonus points for a priest who's a gifted speaker or an especially moving liturgy, but even if the priest is a dud and the music is sung by a woman who stands in for the fat lady at the opera (WHAT? You can't seriously be disappointed by a lack of culture from a Beauty and the Geek devotee), you're obligated to go. Here's a nice explanation of this idea, plus the reason you're supposed to go to Mass every Sunday and not, say, sleep off your gin & tonic hangover.
Because our mamas raised us right, Phillip and I almost always went to church on Sundays as soon as we were good enough friends to go together. We didn't have a Church, though. Our friends had Churches, but we had the Newman Center, which neither of us really liked, due to the fact that it was solely populated with earnest and cloying college students. And, quite honestly, we got enough of that in the NDCF.
A friend of a friend suggested St. Urban Wealthy Neighborhood. She didn't just recommend it, she practically proclaimed it the most wonderful church she'd ever visited. Since this friend was a lesbian and also not Catholic, her glowing review made a big impact on me. If SHE liked it, I would certainly like it and we found ourselves in a St. UWN pew the very next Sunday.
Our friend was right. It WAS an amazing church, mostly to do with the pastor and his shiny happy charisma. He gave the same homily every week- a million variations on loving your neighbor- but no one cared because 1) we probably needed to hear a million variations on the topic and 2) HE WAS AWESOME. So awesome that when his priest posse left our parish and sent him to Africa to train seminarians, church attendance dropped overnight. (Also, Phillip's heart broke into a million tiny pieces that we are STILL picking up. GET OVER IT ALREADY.)
But! We were good Catholics! Our mamas raised us right! We knew we still had to go to church, even if our new priest was sorely lacking in the personality department. (I've since decided that the "new" priest is an acquired taste. A few years later, after we got to know him, we think he's the bees' knees.)
We went, but church was sad for a long time. People were disappearing left and right. Phillip and I had tried to get involved in the young adult group the year before and found it cliquish and a singles crowd, and with only the stalwart churchgoers sticking around, it was going to be impossible to break into a church-related group. We realized we'd only gone to hear the old priest speak. Was there anything left for us at St. UWN? Were we going to leave too? As NDCF students we were used to being involved. We WANTED to be involved. Not only was our church going through some growing pains that made it difficult to figure out where to be, we questioned whether any Catholic church would offer us the kind of community we longed for post-college.
And this is when we thought long and hard about being Catholic. This was the time when the pull of the people who gently suggested we try other churches was the strongest. We talked a ton about what we missed from our NDCF experience and how we'd find those things in a non-denominational church. We even talked about which one we'd attend. We talked about all these things while we slowly visited what felt like every Catholic church in the greater Seattle area. We weren't quite ready to give up being Catholic and we both hoped that one of these other churches would "feel right".
Of course, none of them did, and it was incredibly discouraging. We ended up back at St. UWN simply because the faces were the most familiar. And we finally decided that if it was Being Involved and Community that we were looking for, we would simply have to do it ourselves. No one was going to invite us or offer it to us or welcome us- at least, that hadn't been our experience before. So began about four years of slowly figuring out where we belonged. The operative word is SLOW, here. Slow and hard and confusing and, ultimately, incredibly wonderfully worth it. SO worth it.
There wasn't a moment when we said, "All right, enough. We are Catholic so let's BE CATHOLIC." It was more like we couldn't quite accept not being Catholic. It never felt right. I'm sure a lot of people would attribute that to what we're used to. Of course a new church wouldn't feel right when you've been going to Mass every Sunday of your life. But I will just say that I've made almost all of my major life decisions based on how I felt about them. I chose my university because all my other options felt wrong. Opting out of the NDCF felt wrong. Certain ladder-climbing job opportunities felt wrong. When I was praying my head off asking God to make my crush on Phillip go away, because he OBVIOUSLY DIDN'T KNOW I EXISTED, I couldn't shake the feeling that that was a wrong prayer.
Going to a non-denominational church felt wrong. Going to Mass, even though we didn't really like our church and we didn't always feel Catholic, felt right. So that's what we did.
This is a personal rather than a general thing. Do I feel that it is wrong for YOU to go a non-denominational church? Certainly not. I don't really have ANY feelings about you (other than awe at your drop dead gorgeousness and brilliant smarts, of course.)
I struggle a lot with reconciling the things I love and miss from my non-denominational experience with my commitment to the Catholic church. There isn't a place, as far as I know, for a lot of the things I'd like to do and be. On the other hand, I am almost convinced that God wants Phillip and I to bring the gifts we received in a non-denominational setting to our Catholic community. How we do that, I have no idea. I have to think God has a good reason for setting us up with this strong Protestant-ish background- the place where we met, became friends, started dating, met all our best friends- and also made the Catholic church the "right" place for us to be afterwards.
Catholics say you don't go to church to "get something out of it". But I know you can. What I want- SO MUCH DO I WANT THIS- is to feel the way Jen feels at Mass. Sometimes I do. On occasion. Rarely. I don't think this means I shouldn't be Catholic. I think it means I have a lot to learn and experience.
Before I go, I'll tell you a few things I do love about the church, lest this sound like I'm being forced to Mass against my will. (No one forces me to get out of bed anymore, or bribe me with chocolate chips to keep quiet. OH YES.)
I have been to church all over Europe and in China (at a state-run cathedral) and even though I did not speak any of the languages, I knew exactly what was going on and what I should be saying.
That a million horrible things have happened to, and been caused by, the church, yet she still stands.
I once had a priest tell me that all the "hard" things about being Catholic are ideals. IDEALLY we would all be able to follow these rules, but the church knows we are human and there is forgiveness. I like knowing that the church has ideals. SOMETHING needs to have ideals, even if we can't possibly live up to all of them.
Apparitions and holy sites and the saints and honoring Mary- I LOVE this stuff. It's like church sanctioned Unsolved Mysteries.
If there is one area where my Catholic faith has shot upwards and
outwards and changed my life, it's here. Accepting this makes so many
other things I've wondered about make sense.
Anyway. Feelings. Not really something to base your decisions on, eh? Nowhere in this process did I study theology or scripture or talk to Learned Men or anything like that. I prayed a lot, but other than that I trusted how I felt about things. As did Phillip. Anti-climactic? Not terribly rational or reasonable? I know. I'm sorry. The end. We shall not speak of this for a very long time. If ever. HOW I wish I'd picked "Television" as my NaBloPoMo theme!