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Friday, November 22, 2013

Simply Catholic.

I have changed the description of this blog to Simply Catholic. This was inspired by the topic of cafeteria Catholicism written about in the last post. I left a Catholic homeschooling Facebook group recently because of the division and extremism that I witnessed there. Early in my journey to the Catholic Church, I became aware of the controversy around the interpretation and implementation of Vatican II, and the split among Catholics who consider themselves "traditional" or "progressive", or who have adopted the political monikers of "liberal" and "conservative" to describe their brand of Catholicism.

The thing is, Catholicism doesn't come in brands. There are Rites, the major groupings being the Roman, Antiochian, Alexandrian, and Byzantine, each representing an ecclesiastical tradition about how the sacraments are to be celebrated. That's right, not all Catholics are Roman Catholics! And there are various religious orders, such as the Dominicans and the Franciscans. The Mass can be validly celebrated in either Latin or in the vernacular language. There is Sunday Mass and daily Mass, high Mass and low Mass. But it is all one, unified religion. Catholic literally means, universal. "Catholic" refers to the universal Christian Church. Catholic is Catholic.

So why isn't it simple? I suppose it's because the Church is made up of many good but flawed and sinful people. In the cacophony of conflicting opinions, some find it easiest to cling to the rules, laws, and doctrines in the most literal way possible, resulting in a joyless, white-glove-test scrupulousness. Others have decided to just chuck the whole thing and leave the Church. Still others stay and make the best of it, striving to be loyal to Jesus and his Church while keeping their hearts open to the leading of the Spirit and a deeper development of faith that is unique and personal. Among those are advocates for change, which manifests in myriad ways, all wishing for the real Church to please stand up.

A woman in another FB group warned me not to romanticize the Church. "But why not?" I wondered. It all seemed to make so much sense, lovely as a perfect day in May. And I do believe that in Catholicism the fulness of the Christian faith is found. The in-fighting, however, is all too real. I witnessed and participated in a heated FB argument on the before-mentioned Catholic homeschooling forum about whether or not yoga is a permissible practice for Catholics. Come to find out that EWTN, a Catholic TV station, has warned against not only yoga, but aromatherapy, hot stone massage, reiki, and herbal remedies. I also learned that there is even something called a sede vacantist, who is a person that believes that the Chair of Peter is currently empty; in fact, some believe that there hasn't been a valid pope since Vatican II!! But these people still go to Mass. ?????

It's enough to occasionally make me want to run away screaming. But among the thorns I have heard voices of those roses who say, "I am simply Catholic." No divisive labeling, no holier than thou high horse prancing. The hope, for me, lies in determining what about the faith is most important to me and relevant to my life today. I am not suggesting a "take what you like and leave the rest" attitude in terms of Church teaching. I simply want to look at what drew me to the Church in the first place, and what made me decide that it was imperative to become Catholic. Not every doctrine is of equal importance, and not every bit of the Catechism has to be near and dear to my heart.

If you too are a Catholic, or any Christian, who feels disillusioned and discouraged, let's take a few quiet moments to write down what matters to us most. Brew a nice, hot cup of tea, put on some soothing music, light a candle or incense, and meditate upon what the Spirit is trying to tell you. This will not be the same for every person, but for each of us there burns a holy light.