I was born and raised a Roman Catholic. I think it would be fair to say that for 45 of my 51 years I was what might be called a devout Catholic. By that I mean I practiced the tenets of the faith and went to Church every week. I participated in all the religious sacraments, holidays and services.
There have been many points in my life where I went to daily Mass. Attending Mass with a handful of the faithful can be a very powerful experience, much more powerful than a well scripted spectacle in a cathedral.
Anyway, I would be lying if I didn't say I still feel connected to the Catholic church. I'd also be lying if I tried to tell you I didn't miss it sometimes, because I surely do. I frequently say "I'm Catholic" when conversations about religion come up at work or in social settings. But, that is all just a passive and Pavolovian response. In my heart I'm not a Catholic any more. I don't know if it's possible for an organization to break one's heart, but if it is, then the Catholic Church broke my heart...many times.
My broken heart isn't over the larger issues of the lack of equality for women, or the despicable behavior and cover-up of the sexual abuse perpetrated by priests on young boys and women. Nope, all my heart break is personal. Personal disappointments of when either I reached out for some spiritual help or a member of my family reached out and not only experienced rejection, but sometimes even cruelty.
My heart is broken over a practice of faith that while richly rooted in history and tradition cannot embrace the diversity of people of the 21st century. While espousing to have room for everyone, it is an organization of faith that only flourishes in countries where education and equality are sadly lacking. It lashes out and suppresses and admonishes its' critics.
In the resilience of my youth I thought that a single priest or nun was not representative of a whole religion. This thought matured into the thought that one's faith is personal and not something you should put into the hands of a custodian. I felt I needed to take personal responsibility for my faith and not blame an organization or it's facilitators.
However, I came to realize that as much as I wanted to please my parents and give some sort of spiritual structure to my children, that place was not going to be within the confines and structure of catholicism.
It's an odd journey one embarks on when you are used to hanging onto the rails and support of an organized religion. I have questioned my decision often...more for my children than for myself. It just isn't the same talking about personal responsibility, meditation, prayer and the sharing of one's time, talent and treasure. As the saying goes, "talk is cheap".
Within the structure of organized religion there are good people. People your kids can see besides you, who try to live a good life and do good in the world. Church was a good place for my boys to see that. I just couldn't balance that one good thing against all the other things that made be unhappy, uncomfortable, disappointed and just down right angry.
So trying to live a good life, sharing our abundance with humanity, caring about the state of our community, country and world, and above all talking to our sons about what it means to be a responsible human being, man, son, brother and hopefully someday life partner and father...this takes a life time. While I will probably always miss the richness of the traditions of the Catholic Church, it's music and prayers, I've also found I don't have to be in a particular building, on a particular day at a particular time to remember and to sing.
Today is Good Friday...and I remember.