Sunday, January 24, 2010

I think I am having a crisis of church. Which, in my opinion, is different than a crisis of faith.

I feel pretty comfortable with my belief system. Likewise with my relationship with God. I don’t have all the answers, and sure, there are days when I wonder if it’s all just a big joke. But so did Mother Theresa. So, you know, I feel good about this.

My problem is Sunday services. We go to the Catholic Church in our neighborhood. It’s a small parish, mostly families from our neighborhood. Many that we know, but I’m not going to go so far as to say that we have gotten involved in our church community. The priest is nice. The other parishioners are nice. No complaints about the choir or the coffee or any of it. It’s all just fine.

Unless you are two and five, in which case it is the most horrible awful ordeal that you have ever been forced to endure. Which means that every Sunday morning I either:

1) engage in a major battle to get everyone out of bed, dressed and somewhat polished so that we can race to 9:00 mass – the only one offered - where we then threaten our kids with a doughnut boycott for an hour if they don’t sit still and “use their whisper voices”.


2) Lie in bed in a pool of guilt and rationalize how it just isn’t worth it to engage in the aforementioned battle.

It has been about 5 years since I’ve actually sat and listened to the priest, or followed along in the missle, or…lets face it…not left church feeling pretty frazzled and cranky. Which strikes me as not really what it’s all about.

Am I right?

I don’t know what to do though. We have attended other churches over the years. But nothing has clicked. The church my brother and sister-in-law attend is not only in our neighborhood, but they have about 4 different services to choose from, a choir that sounds like a rock band, and…hello…DAYCARE. You drop your little kids off for an hour of play. Your older kids go to their own kids’ service that they love, and you go have an hour of spiritual bliss. I mean, really, I love this. Right?

Well, kinda. Mostly. I don’t know. There’s a couple of things holding me back. Thing one is that their church is in the process of building a new campus clear across town. To another town actually. And that seems incredibly problematic to me. Thing two is that while we certainly love my BIL and SIL, we’ve spent our fair share of time around a lot of families from their church. And I feel a little bit like a hypocrite around them because I am just not as conservative as they are. (Again, these are lovely, wonderful people. That was not intended to put anyone down. This is about ME. Me who thinks gay people should be able to get married. Me who doesn’t get through the weekend without a bottle of merlot. Me who votes pro choice, albeit conservatively and not without some cringing involved.)

For some reason being Catholic and all of those other things has just never been a problem for me. Oddly enough, Catholicism in Idaho is fairly liberal. They tend to lean more toward “Love they neighbor” and the rest is a big mix of “don’t ask don’t tell” and “pray for forgiveness”. So I have my little list of things that me n’ the Good Lord are going to have to work out one of these days. But, I have no fear of lightening striking me as I walk through the doors of the church.

And then there’s thing three, which is, I’M CATHOLIC. It sort of seems like deciding not to be Italian, or American, or white. It’s just what you ARE. If there is not incense and a little stand up sit down during the services, I just don’t feel like it really counted. Not to mention the Virgin Mary. I absolutely adore the Blessed Mother and feel a pretty strong connection to her. If you’re not Catholic she barely figures in, right?

So. There you have it. I don’t know what to do. I haven’t known what to do for several years, so I have just been stuck on this hamster wheel of guilt and frustration. But now it’s all coming to a head, because Sweet Pea is in her first year of Catechism classes, and she is starting to understand that SHE is the only one who spends any time at our church. (She goes on Wednesday nights. So it doesn’t help us on Sunday morning.)

Ugh. I don’t know. Someone fix this for me.


Beege said...

Seriously? I hate to see you leave the Catholic church. As you said, it's a huge part of your identity. And Catholicism contains a LOT of tradition and ritual that has proven to be very attractive to Gen X. So: I get that, and support you in it.

I think you need to go talk to your priest. Lay it out on the line. He is, after all, your spiritual advisor. Heck, print him off a copy of this post and let him read it. And then ask for help. My guess is that he knows the other priests in the area, and the programming they have available in their parishes, and a different Catholic parish might be a better fit for you...more services, maybe even weeknight mass, etc. Or maybe, like some Lutheran churches are starting to do, even more kid-friendly services so the noise issue isn't really all that much of an issue, because it's directed.

I know that I do a children's sermon at every service, and our more "kid heavy" service has "Children's Church" for kids 3-12 years of age during the sermon/offering/etc. (about 20-25 minutes) so that the parents get a break from the sippy cup retrieval, cheerio distribution, having to give the evil eye to try and fear their children into behaving, etc. It seems to work well. Prior to having children, I hated having the kids leave. Having realized just how little of the service even enters my consciousness as a parent with small children in the pew: I will fight for that Children's Church time to my last breath. :)

Jocele said...

We're (okay, I'm) having the exact same identity crisis at our house. I don't go to church very often at all. In fact, I basically quit going for a few years after the priest in Caldwell made some anti-gay comment. That said, though, I can't bring myself to go to another church. I've considered checking out the Episcopalian church in Caldwell. It's sort of Catholic, right? But there's that Catholic guilt thing. I don't know if I can be anything else. Maybe we each just need to find different parishes. And I think I need a pretty progessive one. I've heard good things about Risen Christ...though it's pretty far from you. Anyway, good luck with the soul/church searching. Keep me updated...maybe I can learn from your experience.

Clover said...

I'll let you know Jocele. And also, Hi! :)

They do have a children's thing on Sunday mornings. The kids are excused for about 10 minutes. I'm not sure what they do, SP has never gone. And Will is too little. It's just for grade school aged kids.

I keep thinking that maybe we need to commit to Saturday night. Because part of our problem is the 9:00 time frame. Most of the priests here do mass at their own parrish, and then they go do mass for another rural parrish. So there's one mass time. If you miss it you are out of luck.

I was having this conversation with a mom the other day who I grew up with. She is also Catholic, but they go to a different church (across town, le sigh...) She was telling me about how it used to be such a struggle to get her kids to church. But since they have switched her kids LOVE church. That's been eating away at me.

This should be something we all really want to participate it. It should leave us feeling full and loved and energized.

Or is that too much to ask??

Emilina Kanez said...

Lady, I could have written this post. The days we go to church, I am tortured and mortified by my children's horrid behavior, and the days we don't go, I am tortured and mortified by my blatant, willful disregard for the health of my and my family's eternal soul. I had actually concluded that I was projecting some kind of hostility because I am a Protestant masquerading as a Catholic, and just couldn't get those beautiful shoes to fit. There is something to that, but that can't be the whole reason I dread going to church. We have been sneaking off to Cathedral of the Rockies because their service was at a more convenient time, and even though there was an awesome band, activity packs for the kiddies, and fabulous theological insights by the excellent Pastor Steve, guess what: I missed FATHER Steve (the priest) and felt guilty for cheating on him, especially because he has, on a regular basis, snatched me from the very jaws of unitarianism by pointing out that Jesus is all about the love no matter what, even if you are gay, non-Christian, pro-choice, divorced, etc. (And my children were still horrid at the Methodist service.) So my new conclusion is that the church that can just wrap things up in 30 minutes or less will have me at hello. I feel like a bad Christian just saying that! But it's the truth. Church is supposed to be a fun communal experience that inspires you to go forth and spread the love all week. This could totally be accomplished in half an hour. My spouse agrees, but points out that no sanctuary is large enough to accommodate such a service. All manner of busy, stressed out, and/or slack-ass people would feel entitled to attend, not just those with small children. As an alternative, Children's Church sounds pretty close to perfect. St. Mark's just has Sunday School starting in 1st grade. I think. Better look into that. But in the meantime, hang in there. You are not alone!

Clover said...

EMILY!!! I was totally counting on you to have this all figured out. CRAP. LOL.

Where is my dearesst and oldest friend the Priest when I need him??

MisS 'K'-'O-TIC' said...

Its a great Blog you have got there ! :)

jmac said...

Just seeing, oh are me 20 yrs ago. I have lived thru all of this. Not so happy with my outcome but I think in the long run, the kids will be ok. I gave up when they got older and I hate that for me and for them. I did try other churches but without the ritual of Mass, I just didn't jive with any of them. So, I try really hard to be BFF's with God on a daily basis since I'm not a churchgoer anymore.
Hope that's enough.
So, I'm not any help but just wanted you to know you're not the only one...

Tales from the Crib said...

How is it that we have never officially "met" in person and yet we seem to share the same thoughts and ideals?? I don't have the answer at all. We don't go to church, but I was raised going (Episcopalian - a lot like Catholic without the guilt -- that's what they tell me anyway), and I miss it. But I don't do anything about it. Lots of reasons why that is, but too many and detailed for a blog response. But it is a struggle, and it is hard to know the "right" thing to do. I think following your heart is where the answer lies...