Family, Home, Church and Nonviolent Love

Those of you who've followed my story here on the blog know a bit about my own experience of Church. The two second version:  I was raised Catholic and attended 12 years of Catholic school in a post-Vatican-II Church. In high school during the 1980s, I started to wonder about the relevance of a Church that focused so narrowly on certain social issues in the midst of a world that seemed to be falling apart.  As a young woman, I also didn't feel particularly welcomed.  And so I left for a 10 year "vacation."  In mid my late 20s, my desire for a deeper relationship with God and God's people led me to search for home.  Quaker? Nope.  Buddhist? Nope. Catholic ... yep, with all the assorted baggage that comes with family.  This is my family, my home, my Church. So I came back, as a friend recently said, "in a big way."  These 13 or so years back as an active Catholic have been filled with blessings and gifts for me, as I've come to know God more deeply and found ways to be Church and follow Jesus in community.

Did all my wonderings go away?  Nope.  They're still there, but I have a more nuanced understanding of the human community that is the Church, seeking to follow the divine call that comes from Jesus.  For those of you who have challenging family issues but still love your family, that is a good metaphor for my own relationship with Church.

A few times in recent weeks I've had people who are facing their own struggles, either from within the Church or without, ask me the following question in various forms:  Why do you stay?  How do you stay?

I'd like to reframe those questions and ask myself ... how can I not be a part of this Church?  The Roman Catholic Church is in my blood, literally, coming from a long line of Catholics including at least one other Catholic Sister. My experience of God makes the most sense mediated through this faith community, with the rhythm and power of our rituals and sacraments.  I was steeped in a Catholic world view, seeing the goodness of God in all of creation.  When I work for peace and justice within this framework, not only do I make more sense but the world makes more sense.  In the face of hopelessness, I find hope.  In the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus, I find faith in our shared story and a belief that all will be one and love will prevail.  This enables me to keep on keeping on and to participate in the small ways I can to the building of God's reign.

Is it easy?  As I said, the wonderings are still there, as are the human elements of the Church.  We've got division on some key issues, and even more division on issues that I'd guess Jesus would be a little exacerbated to find us spending so much time and energy on in the midst of the cries of people who are poor and marginalized.  But the Holy Spirit is ever present, calling us forward, inspiring us, working as one of my Sisters loves to say in "sneaky ways."

More and more, I have experienced my life in and for the Church as a nonviolent act of love.  This is my family, my home, my Church.  This is the family, home and Church of the global Church.  Millions of Catholics across the globe live out their faith in this same context.  How beautiful is that?

And so I pray.  I recently came across a beautiful prayer for "Frustrated Catholics" by Fr. James Martin, SJ.  I'd like to end this post with end of his prayer.

Help me to remember all your saints.  Most of them had it a lot worse than I do.  They were frustrated with your church at times, struggled with it, and were occasionally persecuted by it.  Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by church authorities.  Ignatius of Loyola was thrown into jail by the Inquisition.  Mary MacKillop was excommunicated.  If they can trust in your church in the midst of those difficulties, so can I.  Give me courage.
Help me to be peaceful when people tell me that I don’t belong in the church, that I’m a heretic for trying to make things better, or that I’m not a good Catholic.  I know that I was baptized.  You called me by name to be in your church, God.  As long as I draw breath, help me remember how the holy waters of baptism welcomed me into your holy family of sinners and saints.  Let the voice that called me into your church be what I hear when other voices tell me that I’m not welcome in the church.  Give me peace.
Most of all, help me to place all of my hope in your Son.  My faith is in Jesus Christ.  Give me only his love and his grace.  That’s enough for me.
Help me God, and help your church.


Susan Dewitt said...

Thank you, Susan - so well said, well felt and well lived.

Colleen Gibson said...

A post from the soul that speaks to so much that is true to you and so many. Thanks for sharing and affirming the many reasons why I myself belong too.

Susan Rose Francois, CSJP said...

So wonderful to be in this church with thoughtfyl women like you two, Colleen and Susan!