This is going to be a really busy weekend, and I'm already gearing up for it. Tomorrow starts with my "graduation" ceremony from catechist training, which is exciting. Followed by several music obligations for my husband, followed by a dinner party we were invited to. I'm excited about the dinner party. It's with church friends, and I have been hoping to get closer to some church people. We would even like to host the same group in the future, so maybe we could discuss it Saturday and make it a regular thing. We also have a friend in town, who we will see on Sunday. Along with mass, laundry, and weekending. Thankfully next week is a 2.5 day work week for me.
I have been feeling really nostalgic lately about friends from the past. I realize that college will never come again, and yet, I consider my long-term closest friends to be from college. We will never be all in the same place at the same time, with less responsibilities, less at stake than our current mortgages, marriages, and children. I feel some regret and remorse for my choices in college. At the same time, I miss those friends, and we now only all get together when someone gets married, or one-on-one when time and travel allow. So, whenever someone comes to mind out of the blue, I make sure to pray for them. I figure there is a reason they are on my mind. I also make sure to text them or reach out in some way. I did that yesterday, and a friend of mine thanked me for a conversation we had 5-6 years ago. He's gay and was dealing with family rejection at the time. He was struggling with "can I be gay and still be a Christian?" I honestly don't remember what I said to him at the time. I do know that I thought (at the time) that nothing was immoral about being gay. I thought that if you couldn't help who you were attracted to, then you shouldn't be asked to be alone your whole life. If it's not a choice, how could it be right or wrong? I related it to me being rejected by my family for my Catholicism.
My views have changed since then, in that I see that some are called to chastity and celibacy. It's difficult, but not impossible. It is a heavy cross to bear. And, the natural law reveals the meaning and purpose of our bodies and sex.... however, what would I have said if the same conversation happened now? I don't know. Of course you can be gay and still be a Christian, I definitely still believe that. I think I would try to be as supportive as possible to the person. Maybe speaking on a philosophical level, I could talk about the natural law behind relationships, etc. But, on a personal level, I would try to love, validate, and support. It really brought me to tears when he told me how much he appreciated our conversation those many years ago. I feel so conflicted about my gay brothers and sisters, and my Catholic faith. Which brings me to...
The Supreme Court ruled today that same-sex marriage is lawful in all 50 states now. I believe that gay couples should absolutely have the right to benefits, insurance, hospital visits, etc. But, is that relationship a marriage? I don't think it's the same. And, not because I don't believe in equal rights for all, but because I believe that the anthropology of marriage and the natural law tell us that the committed relationship of a man to a woman, resulting in children, is unique among all relationships and beneficial to children. It's not about consenting adults, it's about what's best for society and children. I foresee that this ruling may cause people, institutions, businesses, etc. who believe in "traditional marriage" to be jeopardized because it will be considered discrimination against federal rights. Religious rights, the separation of church and state, and many other things will have to be considered.
I don't want to be a paranoid person. I know and love so many gay people. I just feel so torn. This year, I have started reading Joseph Sciambra, who spent years in the gay lifestyle, even getting into starring in porn. He has since had a reversion to Catholicism, and he advocates that we should not be "compassionate" when someone comes out, but rather encourage them to be celibate, let them know there is another way of life, and warn them of the dangers of that lifestyle (particularly for gay men). I don't know that I would have the courage to do that, and after talking to my gay friend yesterday about our past conversation, I'm glad it meant so much to him, but I still don't know if I did the right thing. I don't want to lead others astray, and yet, I have so many of my own issues that I shudder to think that someone would come to me for "advice," especially when it regards faith and morals.
One thing my priest told a gay man on his deathbed from AIDS, who had been raised Catholic: You thank God for all that you have been given. To the extent that your relationship has been from God and pleased Him, be grateful. To the extent it did not, or offended God or was wrong, repent. In all things, throw yourself on the mercy of God. That's the only hope any of us have.
God have mercy on us all.
Speaking of me being a truly horrific example of faith and morals...I really hit a low point yesterday. I was going on too little sleep for too many days in a row. I am not a morning person. The 1.5-2 hour commute each morning is inevitably stressful. Then, I work in an office of cubicles. There's no silence or privacy, which goes against my INTJ nature (emphasis on I) and extremely sensitive hearing.
So, yesterday, one of my loudest co-workers, who literally narrates her day (she has a phone conversation, then tells you all about the conversation, she does a task, then tells you all about the task she just did, etc.)...well, she was laughing and giggling
I found myself mouthing some obscenities in my cubicle, despite listening to some music and white noise to cover up her 2-3 hours of extra noise-making. Then, I found myself going to get a third cup of coffee...while flipping her off. Yes, this is true. Now, I did it in a way that only I could see. It gave me some sort of sick satisfaction to express my frustration.
But, then I sort of scared myself. What is going to be the tipping point that makes me actually flip her off or actually yell out obscenities in the office? Is this how these things happen? I could feel how out of control I was. I could feel how irrational this anger and reaction was.
I think I need to go to confession. I also need to sleep more and take responsibility for myself. I need to be in as healthy a place as possible, mentally speaking. And I need to do whatever it takes to stay in that bubble of happiness.
Do you think God intentionally put my cubicle next to the two most annoying and loud people in my office on purpose? Am I supposed to learn patience from this?
Lord, have mercy. And St. Therese, please pray for me!
I often say that the longest journey in my life, and the most difficult and ongoing struggle has been moving from my head to my heart. Life is all about the heart. We are meant to live from the heart. What matters most is not how much we know, but how we treat people - not how much theology we have learned, but what it does to our lives. As my priest says, when we read a Bible story or learn something new, ask yourself, "So what?" and "Now what?"
Well, I love learning. I'm very logical and rational by nature (ignore what you learned about me in #4). I went to college, then graduate school for the majority of my 20s. I read non-fiction theology books constantly. And yet, what difference does it make in my life?
Our Wednesday night young adult group at church discussed Mary and the saints this week. We went round and round about the dogmas concerning Mary. One very vocal person openly admitted that she struggled with them. She wasn't having it when I tried to say Mary is the New Eve, or Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. Those teachings really help me understand the perpetual virginity and immaculate conception.
It saddens me when Catholics don't accept Catholic teaching. It makes me think they are more vulnerable to attack from Protestants or others. And I really feel that Mary is a gift, not just a superfluous doctrine. Why else would Jesus have bothered from the cross, as one of the very last things he said, "Behold your Mother," and "Behold your son"?
But, after all our discussion, I came away thinking, "So what?" and "Now what?" I believe all this stuff about Mary, the Saints, Jesus, etc. But, what difference does it make in my life? How has my heart changed since becoming Catholic? Is it all theology and no heart?
Upon reflection, I really think I am going to start doing lectio divina. It's a process of contemplating scripture, reflecting upon even just one word. I want to approach it in a more Ignatian way, placing myself in the stories, seeing things in a different light. Perhaps then, it will make more of a difference to me. Not just to my head, but to my heart.
My brain is full, and my heart seems empty sometimes. I really want that to change.
Is anyone else as shocked as I am that July is next week?! Where has this year gone? It's almost halfway over! Time is flying, and it seems that the older I get, the faster it flies.
Mormons, and Catholics, and Protestants...oh my!
I have to say, this stings quite a lot. I feel like she is an outsider to Catholicism and doesn't understand what she is saying, even though her kids attend Catholic school. As someone who grew up in Evangelical / fundamentalist / Calvinistic / Reformed circles, I find that camp to be much much more degrading to women than I have ever found the Catholic Church to be. In fact, there is no comparison. What often happens, in my observation is that Catholics and Evangelicals, and sometimes Mormons, will land in the same place on a given issue, such as gay marriage or women's ordination or abortion. But it is usually for very different reasons. While the conclusion might be the same, the reasoning behind the conclusion is very, very different.
I have a theory that the extremely liberal secular world and the extremely fundamentalist world have a strange thing in common - the disregard for the body. The fundamentlists do this because the "spirit" is so much more important and elevated. Everything is a "spiritual" problem to be handled with Bible verses and more submission or devotion. The body and its needs are ignored, practically seen as evil, and an enemy to our "true" selves. Secular liberalism is not much different. The body is good and celebrated, in so much as it involves pleasure and hedonism, whether it be of a sexual or gluttonous nature. The body and gender differences are mere ornamentations, societal constructs. The body is good, but it's subject to our minds - if we think we are one gender, we are. If we want to change or mutilate it, we can. If we want to exchange any sort of activity with any other adult, it's meaningless and allowed. It was easy for me to jump from my anti-abortion, Bible-thumping Christian upbringing, right into the Sex and the City, pro-abortion, gay-accepting college years and beyond. My view of myself and the body virtually did not change. If you reject the Bible, and Protestants are Sola Scriptura, then you summarily reject those beliefs that were only explained by the Bible. If you don't see sex as sacred, but just forbidden due to stupid rules, then it's not that big of a leap.
All that to say, that it really grates against me when I hear my friend compare Mormons to Catholics. We have an entire philosophy, outlook on life, cohesive theory of morality and theology that Protestants and Mormons do not have. We have the natural law, standing alongside Biblical tradition and interpretation. We have faith and reason.
I had to come full circle, from rejecting all I was taught growing up, to rejecting the alternative I embraced. I have come to accept abortion and gay marriage as "wrong," which lines up with my parents' beliefs, and yet, now I am at that place for completely different reasons. I don't like to be lumped in with the Sola Scriptura crowd, or the anti-historical Mormon Church, which does not embrace faith and reason, and which has virtually no historical leg to stand on. (Sorry, to my Mormon friends, that's how I see it. It doesn't mean that I don't think you are a Christian if that's how you see yourself, just that the historical claims of Mormonism are untrue.)
I feel we are entering an era in which our faith is being challenged in new ways. We must understand our beliefs deeply. We must live humbly and mercifully. We must make sure our own morals and actions are loving and upright. And, we must pray to say or do what we might be called to do, especially on a personal, one-on-one level with others who may disagree.
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One of my favorites, Micah 6:8