I am best described as a ‘lapsed’ Catholic. I was very involved with the Church but gradually grew disheartened and quit attending. I tried other denominations – mainly Anglican because my grandfather was an Anglican, but they didn’t feel right. After much soul searching, a change of address, and my children leaving home, I left the Catholic Church and I have not returned.
I miss many aspects of the Church but mostly, I miss the regular time of public prayer. I was part of a world organization, one among many living with purpose and with support. I prayed for my community, my family and myself and it was reciprocated.
I miss the broad spectrum of neighbors and friends, young and old, rich and poor, I met over the years and with whom I formed unlikely alliances. My family benefitted from those weekly gatherings, as well. I participated on the parish council; I played piano with the church choir for years; I contributed time and effort to a newsletter. I was active for over twenty-five years.
What happened? I read once “The heart can’t love what the mind cannot believe”. Increasingly, I questioned and read writers searching for a more complete understanding of what it meant to be a Christian in a scientific age. I found fewer clergy offering much enlightenment. Instead, the opposite happened. Our small church community was dwindling and the real discussion I was seeking was elsewhere.
I found understanding and wisdom in more nonreligious gatherings and I was able to express my concerns and search in a way that brought some of the light I was seeking. Now, I am part of a men’s group which has become my ‘faith’ community. We meet monthly rather than weekly and we don’t have specific beliefs that define who we are. Instead, we share, we listen and we encourage each other on our way.
I miss regular meetings with a broader community, music liturgy and a way of life that I thought would continue for my children and grandchildren. That tradition is lost and will never return for me. I wanted my children to marry in my church just as I married in my church. Sometimes, I worry my grandchildren and their friends will grow up ‘unschooled’ in the two thousand years of Church history and centuries of developing parish community. Even if suffering, death and resurrection did not occur as recorded, it remains a powerful archetype that stirs my soul.
Having said that, I believe my children and young people in general are fine. Much of organized religious thought and morality need an airing out. Will I, they and people in general discover a small ‘c’ christian way of living where truth, love and community are guiding principles?
I read that Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote the third wave of Christianity will happen outside of established religion. Christianity was unable to confront the hatred of Nazism and did not deserve to survive. In much the same way, perhaps Christianity is unable to confront our scientific, secular world as it stands? In that case, we, the older, transitioning generation, have a responsibility to live the best of our faith and welcome the emerging truth of the 21st century. I just wonder if it is possible to remain a Catholic to do so.