Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Attending Church Services

By M. J. Joachim

Those of you who read my last post may feel like I left you hanging a little, since I never did directly answer the question. I’d like to take this opportunity to make my response as clear as mud, if you’ll indulge me please.

Attending church services (regardless of your denomination or affiliation) is important. My only question is, “When did it become the master of our fate?”

Just the other day I was standing in a check out line. The lady in front of me knew the clerk behind the counter; the conversation took a familiar turn, as I overheard the clerk ask about familiar people and respond that she doesn’t make it to church much, because she has to work on Sundays frequently. 

Perhaps I’m making too much of this, but why did it need to be said, and why did it need to matter, as the customer appeared to sigh and sympathize, offering prayers and understanding?

For the record, I only left the Catholic Church once, though I’ve been tempted more than a few times since my return. Blame it on the devil. I prefer to think “better than thou Catholics” have more to do with it than anything.

Personally, I believe we are all on a spiritual path, finding what we need to enrich our souls at any given time. Back in the days when I attended daily Mass, I really needed it for a variety of reasons. In the process of receiving what I needed, I gave away some of my personal power, to many who would help me reach the next phase of my continuous spiritual journey. 

Sadly, some took my personal power and used it as a means to an end. As a species, we do this to each other all the time. We play the guilt card, the “you’re not good enough” card and the “don’t even mess with me, because you haven’t got a prayer in hell” card. By the end of this phase in my journey, all I wanted was to feel loved and accepted again, which is why I so eagerly switched parishes.

Point being, do we go to church for spiritual enrichment, or to socialize and be accepted by other human beings with common beliefs? I believe it’s a little of both, and the balancing act required to keep it in check is no easy task. I also believe attending Mass (or any church service) is an extremely personal act, one that allows us to engage with others seeking God on a more personal level in our lives. 

Therefore, it is completely rude and inappropriate in my opinion, to ask such questions like, “Do you still go to church?” or “When’s the last time you went to confession?” The only reason for doing so, without being prompted by the recipient of such questions, is to shame or look down on the person being asked.

However, if God is the master of our souls, and going to church becomes a hindrance to our spiritual development, because we neglect too many of our other responsibilities and duties, in our efforts to attend daily Mass per se, wouldn’t it seem reasonable to assume that God is the one who made us come to our senses and got us back on track in the first place?

Upon making this inquiry and drawing this rational conclusion, it makes no sense to ask people if they still attend church services or how often, in my opinion. Nor does it make sense to inquire about anything in their personal spiritual development, unless the invitation is extended to do so. Such intimacies should be saved for those only in our inner circles, trusted friends we’ve come to know, love and cherish, people we seek guidance from and people with whom we share our heart’s desires and secrets.

Thank you for visiting Being Catholic. It’s nice to be back, now that my computer woes are finally over.

M. J.

©2013 All Rights Reserved

Loaded Catholic Questions

By M. J. Joachim

I ran into an old (catholic) acquaintance the other day. We were catching up, sharing our summer experiences and enjoying an unexpected chance to visit. Times like this are heartfelt treasures that make us smile.

Catholics know Catholics. We hang in the same crowd and do what Catholics do. Certain “expected” behaviors are often asked about in the course of “Catholic conversation.” The more I thought about it, the more I realized, some of these questions pose the opportunity for one ups and judgmental catholic dialog.

Our visit was no exception, as our conversation took one of those winding, twisted turns and my friend casually asked, “Are you still going to church these days?” It’s a long story about why I no longer attend Mass at the parish we both spent so many hours at together. Back in those days, I was attending daily Mass, not because I was holy, mind you, but because I was so darned guilty and the weight of my sins made me miserable.

As a revert to the Catholic faith, I truly believe in my heart that God is good, and the Catholic faith is a reinforcement of His omnipotent greatness. Carrying the weight of my sins, as well as all those impacted by my own sinfulness, did not sit well with me. It tarnished God and His love, something I promised myself never to do again when I came back to the Catholic Church, accepting full responsibility for my pride and departure the first time.

“Are you still going to Church?” is a loaded Catholic question. It is a question filled with implications and judgments. The conversation quickly went from pleasant to awkward, as I stumbled over the words I needed to respond to such inappropriate directness. Yet Catholics, good, law abiding Catholics, ask questions like this one all the time.

Ah yes, the letter of the law – and then there is belief in the Catholic faith with everything it stands for, belief in the love of God, a love so great He sent His only Son to live and die for us, not out of cynical judgment or to cast us into hell for our sins, but to save us from ourselves. I’m Catholic and loaded questions just don’t work for me at all. When was the last time you cleaned your bathroom, btw?

Thank you for visiting Being Catholic.

M. J.

©2013 All Rights Reserved