Being Catholic right now, in June of 2020, is testing my faith.
I love being Catholic. Practicing this faith has taught me ways to pray, respect life, and love that resonate with my soul. My faith is both rooted in the church and given wings by that same church, keeping my spiritual life ever-growing and ever-strong, even now.
Even ever, actually. I don’t think there has ever been a time when I have been sure that everything I believe is true and right. My faith tells me that being certain is impossible, which is one of the reasons I stay. I need to be a part of a community who recognizes the paradox of living with faith, that truth is absolute, but that our attempt at understanding that truth often asks us to hold tension in a both/and world. If it were easy to fully understand the truth rooted in our hearts upon creation, we would all agree, but we don’t, therefore we must have room to grow.
This month has been particularly difficult because so many areas where American Catholics are at odds with one another have headlined the news. Being in disunity with a community who desires unity is extraordinarily painful. We disagree on Black Lives Mattering. We disagree on LGBTQIA rights. We disagree on humane treatment of people at the border. We disagree on whether our DACA recipients deserve protection. We disagree on wearing masks. And the list goes on….
Whenever I ask myself where I stand on life issues, I always reflect back to God’s view of life in scripture. Life is valuable. Human dignity is of utmost importance. Care for others is paramount. And the practice of hospitality runs through the bible as a foundational tenet. This is my starting point and it continues to challenge me to find ways to listen to and seek communion with all of God’s people.
One of my favorite sayings is from St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa). She tells us that “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we Belong to each other.” From all that I know, and all that I believe, this belonging is everything. We belong to God, we belong to our spouse, we belong to our family, we belong to our friends, we belong to our neighbors, we belong to ourselves, and, yes, we belong to all of creation.
To belong means to fit in, but not in the way we are used to thinking. Sometimes, people ask us to change who we are so that we may belong, that we cannot be a part of the group unless we say certain words, or believe certain things, or only wear pink on Wednesdays. But belonging doesn’t mean changing ourselves to fit in. Belonging means being accepted and loved for exactly who we are. As Brené Brown, a researcher who has spent her life investigating what it means to belong says, “True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
St. Catherine of Siena says the same thing in different words: “If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire.” But we’re often afraid to be who we truly are, even though God tells us all throughout scripture that we belong, both to God and to one another (John 17:23, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, Romans 12:3-8, just to name a few), simply because we exist.
This leaves me with a dilemma. I want to belong to my faith community, but I don’t want my faith community to change me into somebody else just so that I can belong. I don’t want fear of exclusion to drive my decisions, instead, I want the courage of the Holy Spirit to guide me forward.
During this month of June when Black Lives Matter is a resounding call and Pride month is rallying cry, I will continue to believe in and support the people I love.
I trust that God has guided me here for a reason, that believing their lives matter is non-negotiable, and that I am here to help bring the truth of our mutual belonging into reality. I may be in disagreement with some of the people (virtually) sitting next to me in the pews, but, at this moment, in this time, I feel sure that supporting the dignity of life is always what matters most in my faith.
Come Holy Spirit, bring justice and life to our people.
#blacklivesmatter #pridemonth #heretostay