Structure is liberating.
At least it is for me.
Once I feel comfortable in a certain space and with certain people, I become more fully myself. The unknown requires a lot of mental and physical energy to navigate, leaving me few resources left to relax into who I am and how I fit into the world.
This is one of the reasons I love going to Mass.
The rhythm is set, leaving me free to fully connect with Jesus.
Structure is also confining.
At least it is for me.
Especially when I can’t find reasons for why that structure exists.
Especially when that structure dictates what I must believe.
The church has always struggled with how to best implement a structure that liberates yet does not confine. I truly believe that the liberating kind of structure was God’s intent. Looking all the way back to the 10 Commandments, God didn’t give them to Moses as a way to punish sinners, but as a way to guide us into a full, loving community with one another, and thus with God.
But, you know, time goes on, people sin, not everybody has good intent, blah blah blah, so the church started creating rule after rule to keep everybody in line. At least that’s how it feels to me sometimes.
Every time I post my thoughts, I wonder if I’m breaking some obscure Catholic edict. But then I remember that structure is meant to liberate. What better way to set us free to love God fully than to talk about the things that truly matter and how to find God in all of it?
I don’t take my faith lightly. I love being Catholic. I am also immensely frustrated with Catholicism at times, but the more I learn, the more grateful I am that I’m here. Catholicism continues to enable me to be a better human, but, and you knew a but was coming, NOT when I feel compelled to follow church teaching out of fear. And NOT when following church teaching makes me feel icky about myself and how I care for others.
I will forever be grateful I grew up in a post-Vatican II church at a time when the church fathers emphasized that the love of God was everything. Because it is. God’s love is always and will ever be the starting point. Rules don’t matter if we don’t know that God loves us unconditionally.
But also, love isn’t really meaningful unless we reciprocate.
Which is why I will forever be grateful the church has provided us with the Catechism as a guide. I trust that many of those before us put great thought into how faith integrates with life and what God is trying to show us through scripture and the life of Jesus.
But also, we’re human and theologians still have jobs for a reason. Just like science reveals new things about our supposedly known world, so does theology reveal new things about our supposedly known faith.
So, I continue to pray and listen and learn, both to ancient teachers and those doing the work today. I figure if I keep God’s love at the forefront of my mind, the structure the church provides can be exactly what it is meant to be, a place to free us to love like God.