Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Not Catholic anymore...

My Catholic buddy Joe over at Hip Deep in Pie wrote beautifully about his recent visit to an Episcopalian service. It has led me to think a good deal about my own recent switch in religions. I started typing a comment to him, but it became so long that I figured, what the hell, I'll spill out my deepest religious thoughts here for y'all.

I've made the switch--I am now Episcopalian and identify myself as such. It was about a year ago.

I was raised Catholic. It more or less took. Out of the four kids my parents had, I was one of two who maintained Catholicism into adulthood. My older sister is in it for the duration...she has married into an uber-Catholic family, and I can't see her switching out. My brother never bought into any of it...he rolled along and got confirmed, though, to prevent any family upset (I don't think there would have been any, but he disagrees). He's an atheist. My younger sister also didn't like it, but she fought the teachers at Confirmation class and didn't get confirmed. No family upset. She now identifies herself as Bahai.

When in my life have I been most Catholic? When I've had good priests. The priest in college was just wonderful...challenged my brain, challenged my heart, gave historical background for the readings, served as a de facto counselor for me...he was excellent. Later, in my mid-20s, I found a 9PM Sunday mass at the University's Newman Center. No music, just candlelight and reflection. It was perfect...I'm leaning forward in this dinky room, a former fraternity basement, saying "just you and me God...let's get busy." There, I met a wonderful priest, and followed him to a different urban location. He gave the most splendid homilies, even giving pro-gay homilies. He eventually moved on to California...a bigger position, which I was glad about, since he seemed to be everything I loved about being Catholic and none of the things I hated. I stayed on after he left--I even did the readings for a while, gave Communion. But I moved to the suburbs and eventually stopped going to church. I told myself it was the commute, that I couldn't find a parish, that coaching had made me too exhausted and lazy to get out of bed on Sundays.

But it wasn't. The gay issue was heating up, and the heads of the Church, both nationally and internationally, were bugging me with their response. And it became too much to ignore. I think the change was rattling around my brain for literally years...and then one day, otherwise ordinary, as I was walking to my car after work, I realized that the Church's stance was just too much to ignore. I've learned that ignoring some dogma had been too much a part of my religious experience, and I don't think I'm alone...my mom just turns down her hearing aids if the priest is bad. I don't want to have to ignore stuff. And in fifty years, when we're looking back on the critical early-21st-century victories for the gay community, I want to be able to say I was on the right side of the struggle, and I've decided that Episcopalians are way ahead of Catholics on that score. If the Catholics changed their stance on this issue, I'd seriously consider heading back...but I doubt I would. Even though there's great comfort in the ritual...Catholics make God out to be as big as I want him to be...at this point my honey and I are very happy in our church, and it's actually starting to become a part of my personality. It's good to be going to church again (on non-coaching weekends, anyway) after such a long absence, and good to be somewhere that jibes with my morals more or less 100%. It's a beautiful place, as lovely as Joe described (albeit not in Gambier!).

A few weeks after my switch, the New York Times printed an article describing how many people were switching churches due to their stance on gay rights. Many, like me, were leaving Catholicism because they wanted a more gay-friendly community. But many were leaving Protestantism for Catholicism because they felt Protestantism was becoming too permissive of gays. They were leaving the Church because it was considering welcoming someone? Troubling. I love and respect those who decide to stay in the Church, like Joe, my mom, and my sister, but that article cemented it for me. I feel in my heart I've made the right decision for me.

Still, I do hope the Catholics let me visit every now and then, although if the Pope or Cardinals read this blog, I might not be welcome anymore.

8 comments:

Joe said...

There will always be a space next to me in the pew, my friend. And if anybody with a funny hat has a beef about it, they'll have to come through me first.

(In fairness, much the same can be said of most bars and sporting events.)

TeacherRefPoet said...

I appreciate it very much, Joe.

(But if someone in a funny hat is bugging us at a bar, I think it'd be best if we left.)

Swankette said...

Sweetie,

I've been known to wear hats. And some of them might look kind of funny. Does that mean you're going to abandon me at a bar someday?

lemming said...

Do pray for the Anglican communion - clergy as well as congregations are being called into difficult conversations and choices. The latest meeting is drawing some hard lines in the sand.

Shannin said...

This has nothing to do with your post, but I saw this at cnnsi.com and thought you might agree....

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2005/writers/dr_z/01/12/drz.announcers/index.html?cnn=yes

Joe said...

Allright, allright. If it's a stranger in a funny hat at a bar, I'll search for a peaceful solution.

But if a mascot gets up in your grill at a ball game, I'll go Randall Simon on his fluffy oversized head.

TeacherRefPoet said...

Joe,

The phrase is not "gets up in your grill." The phrase is "gets all in your grill." Please make a note of it.

lemming said...

At least he spelled 'all right' with a double l.