Monday, February 24, 2014

To All the Confused, Doubting, Lonely Catholics

My heart is stirring for you tonight. I want to say something to you that you may not have heard in a long time, something maybe you've never heard.

Don't leave. Don't walk away from the Church. We want you. We need you. You are a part of us and we are not fully ourselves without you. 

Don't believe the internet trolls who shout things like, "Well, if you don't believe it or can't agree with Church teaching, stop calling yourself Catholic." I can't pretend to know who they are talking to, because I personally try to keep a very safe distance from religious bullies, but I know they say things like that.

And look, I understand where they're trying to go. If you have decided to proclaim yourself publicly as a Catholic and then openly align yourself with things contradictory to the moral teaching of the Church in a sort of willful public disobedience, then, yes, in all honesty, we'd rather you stop calling yourself Catholic.

But you, you who is just not sure about some things, who is wrestling with how to make Jesus' command to love our neighbors as ourselves fit with moral stances that you know have hurt and distanced people whom you love from feeling worthy of Christ's mercy and salvation? We don't mean you. I don't mean you.

I want you to know that if you are wrestling and struggling and railing at God because He confuses you with His kindness and compassion and demand to be better all at the same time so that you never feel good enough, you are not alone.

If you look at the Church and wonder how it could be that so many Catholics seem to have gone so far off mission of loving people and welcoming them into a relationship with Christ, you are not alone.

If you feel like there is no safe place to say out loud that there are teachings of the Church, that even when you understand their intellectual reasoning, are difficult for you to assent to or proclaim publicly, it's not just you.

If you wonder about the Eucharist and the real of it all and long to understand more, to feel more than you do, but just, don't, that does not make you a bad person, or a bad Catholic.

If you struggle with repeated sin and fall over and over and are tempted to just walk away and find some place where you can rest and they will tell you that you are okay sin and all, we get your weariness. You're not the only sinner here.

If you have watched friends find their way to another church and seen them flourish and grow and find their purpose and be empowered there and you are resentful of that, you are not the first.

But can I ask you a favor? Please don't ditch us just yet. Because the truth is, I know if you walk away, it is not Jesus you are really rejecting, or two thousand years of beautiful tradition and sacramental grace, or the faith of your childhood that was wide-eyed for the wafer that was the Savior. It's us. 

The people next to you in the pews who don't know your name in real life but will happily rake your "type" over the coals publicly and call for your ex-communication. The people who yell and rant and make you feel like a two year old in time out for asking an honest question. The ones who live to use your sin to justify our own.

Can I just offer you my sincerest apology? I don't know how we got here either and I am with you when you think this is surely not the Jesus of the Gospels alive and active. I am not sure how to help you find a safe place for wrestling out the hard stuff, but can I just stand next to you and hope with you that somewhere within our Church there is one? And tell you that I will wait and I will search with you and I will not leave you alone in the dark?

Please don't leave us. We don't need an army of dissenters calling themselves Catholic in the public square. But we also don't need an army of believers who despise honest questions and real seeking and dark places of unbelief and drive out the parts of our own body, the Body of Christ. We need people who walk together. Who stop for the injured and the hurting and rest with them until they are ready to have their wounds bandaged and get back in the race. We need to make sure we remember that you, you stuck in the muck of life that has made you cynical about the Church, you just might be the best part of us if we could stretch ourselves out long enough to invite you to move with us, in communion with us, again.

So stay with us, please? Let us sit with you and wrestle with you and be honest with you about the fact that we too have doubted and wrestled and struggled. That we still do.  Give us a chance to make right our failures to love you where you are and be Christ present to you.

If you feel alone and like there is no way God can love you or you can stay Catholic with the thoughts and the questions you are having, can I just please say to you right here and now that He does and there is.

And can I make you another promise? If you cannot say "yes, I'll stay", if you walk away for reasons that are not mine to know, can I tell you that I won't condemn you, vilify you or stop seeing you as part of the Body of Christ? I will long for you and yearn for you, but I will not ostracize you.

But I can tell you that I will pray and I will hope that you will wrestle your way to the freedom and the joy that was meant to be ours in the sacramental life of the Church, that I will pray that on the other side of your doubt is wild abandonment to grace and a light that cannot be extinguished? That my greatest hope for you is that this place in which you find yourself now is the crossroads that leads you to a love a affair with God and His Church that you cannot help but share with others? Because that is my prayer for all of us, each of every one, those trapped in the dark place and those stuck in obstinate rule measuring and every one of us somewhere in between. Because I firmly believe it is what the Father desires for us as His children and His Church, His brothers and His bride.

And I hope and I pray you will stay and that we can find you a beacon of hope and a safe space and some light in your darkness. That we will be that hope and safety and light for you. Because that is what we were meant to be after all. And I pray you accept my apology for all the times we haven't been it.

Let us pray that the Spirit makes a way for those who long to run together towards him.

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