“Why I Stay Catholic,” with the Aid of the Internet

Disclaimer:  I know none of this artwork is mine.  I’m not making any money off of it.  Try to sue me, and you won’t make money off of it, either.  

Elizabeth Scalia on Patheos has invited Catholic bloggers to respond to the question, “Why do you remain a Catholic?” I was thinking on this question and reading others’ responses, like Sarah Reinhard‘s and Barb S‘s.  Then I woke up this morning with the realization that I couldn’t possibly tell you why I stay without explaining why on earth I came back in the first place.

I’m a storyteller.  Let me tell you a story.

Once upon at time, many years ago, there was a little girl who loved nature and science and art all together.  Basically, she loved learning.  She was a nerd from the get-go.

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Alas, she grew up in a world where adults weren’t to be trusted.  They lied to children.  They manipulated.  At best, they ignored them.  At worst, they used them for their own gratification and told the child it was her fault.  They put the “ME” in “The Me Generation.”  As for catechizing the little girl?  You mean, from the cafeteria line?  CatholicBabyBoomersMeme

Anyway, this girl, while not a Millenial, did get sent to Catholic schools for thirteen years (kindergarten included) during the late 1970s into the super-early 1990s.  High school saw her progress from suicidal thoughts, to aggressive atheism, to a nice, bland “I’m spiritual, not religious,” agnosticism.  Her gods were her ability to read palms and tarot cards in the lunch room and at cast parties for modest sums.  Strangely, the only Catholic school lessons that did stick were the ones on abortion and, perhaps less so, the one on artificial birth control being bad for you, on a scientific level, mind you.  She couldn’t see past the science of them both.  So.  Remember, she’s a nerd?

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Oh, and the whole “save yourself for marriage” bit:  see, it was the age when the world was being introduced to HIV/AIDS.  This girl had an anxiety about getting sick and dying a horrible death, so the whole “waiting” thing seemed smart, but it was not taught in a very cohesive manner, so she only thought she had to wait for some things.

And then she, her palm readings and her tarot cards got to college.  All she knew upon arrival was that she was a weird person whom people generally don’t like.  She didn’t know why she had trouble trusting and connecting with people.  Then she got cast in a play where she played a character who had faced similar (not the same, just similar) betrayals as she herself had throughout her life up until that point.  She broke down.  During rehearsal.  In front of the whole cast.

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She didn’t know why.  She just knew something was even more wrong with her than she initially suspected.

She went home from rehearsal, curled up under the quilt made by her (devout Catholic) Granny, and stared at a wall.  She shook a lot.  She tried not to sob too loudly.  She remembered things she’d experienced and thought to herself, “That’s not such a big deal.  Why would something so minimal make me this upset? After all, everyone always told me that whatever I thought was making a big deal out of nothing.” But that thought did nothing to console or heal.  Whatever was going on was much bigger than she herself was.

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So she stared at the wall some more and thought, “Okay, God or whatever you are.  I just want The Truth.  I don’t care what it is.  I just want The Truth so I can get out of this bed and have things be better some day.”

Over the next days, weeks, and months, God (not the whatever, thankfully) answered her.  She did still own a Bible (for the intellectual exercise of reading it, like reading Thoreau), and she’d heard that the Psalms could be comforting, so she read those.  She also read about Wicca and Buddhism and Shinto and a whole alphabet soup of scavenging for Truth.  After about four months, she and her nerdy, metaphor-loving brain could find no more solid metaphor for God than the cross and resurrection.

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Disappointed that she couldn’t find truth in nature worship or something cool like Eastern religion, she conceded.  “Okay, fine, God.  You want me to be Christian.  I’ll be Christian.  Just whatever You do, don’t make me Catholic.  The odds that I’d be born into The Truth are pretty darn slim to begin with, and besides that, nobody likes Catholics and their archaic, made-up beliefs that have no basis in reality.”

She joined the campus Christian fellowship, but in the interests of remaining open-minded, she still poked around the local Catholic community center. Except remember how she didn’t just like literature and plays and art?  She also liked science a whole lot and always felt kind of torn at having to choose a major?  Well, she loved nature.  A lot. Hence Wicca being mentioned first on the list above.   A girl who loves both nature and metaphor is a sucker for finding the logic in Natural Law, and a girl who doesn’t trust authority is going to mistrust what the culture says her.

Guess what?  Catholicism is all about Natural Law.  And even moreso, Catholicism is about Truth being solid, unchanging, utterly immune to manipulation.

“Oh, crap,” she said to God.  “Am I Catholic?”

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She was talking to God pretty regularly at this point, and said, “Okay.  I can’t stand that this means that most of my friends are living in a way that is contrary to biological reality, but since I still get to love them, I can stomach it.  However, I still don’t get the Eucharist, Mary, or the Pope.  You’ve got some ‘splaining to do.”

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Considering how much this girl got metaphor, the Eucharist barrier was the first to tumble: God loves us so much that it’s completely intimate.  He loves us so much that he won’t just die on a cross for us.  He literally will go through $h1t for us.  It’s a no-brainer.  The Eucharist is Jesus.  No other Christian faith teaches that with such clarity and reverence.

The Pope was next: every play needs a director, and her life was plays at the time.  Easy-peasy.  Not like this:

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The Mary thing was tougher.  Human moms are unrealistically held up as the height of perfection.  Mary was just another human mom, so what’s the point?  Funny enough, this girl was reading one of the most anti-Catholic novels every to be written just as she was struggling with this idea of Mary being a sinless intercessor for us with Jesus.  Goddess worship abounded.  But Mary couldn’t be God.  There’s only one God.  But upon closing the book, this girl virtually heard God say, “What makes you think I would leave you without a mother?”

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“Oh, crap,” she thought.  “I guess I really am Catholic.”

So by junior year, she poured the cultural Kool Aid down the drain, made several decent confessions, and accepted the Body and Blood of Jesus.  Peter’s great confession, “To whom else could we go, Lord?” sounded in her head more like, “If there were somewhere else to go, Lord, believe me:  I’d be there.  But you’re Truth, so I’m stuck.”

There was still one thing, though, that took a few more years to take, something she only learned while practicing True Catholicism.  It was the value of suffering.  She had suffered much in her life, and becoming Catholic did nothing to ease that.  It did, however, give it meaning.  Other faiths teach that suffering is to be avoided, ignored, or passed on to others (especially if you’re counting Western individualism as a religion).  Catholicism is the only faith that teaches that suffering has meaning and value and can be accepted with love for God and for others.

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Suffering means that God loves us so much that he wants us to know the agony of his own heart.  It’s not about winning heaven, like some twisted martyr complex.  It’s about having faith and hope that we are loved in a relationship, that we get to give, not just receive.  We have the honor of loving God back.

So, yeah.  I’m that girl.  And, crap, I guess that girl’s Catholic.  Still.  So, however reluctantly most days, I run to God.

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What’s more amazing is that he runs to me right back.

Why do you stay Catholic, when everybody else is leaving?  Blog it, and let Elizabeth Scalia know by tweeting at her @TheAnchoress.  

Interview with Working Mother Laura Nelson

Here at Tomato Pie, we’re celebrating the release of my biblical historical fiction ebook “Working Mother” by celebrating the working mothers among us.  Let’s meet working mother, Laura Nelson​!

 

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Laura Nelson

Tell us a little bit about your family. 

M​​other of three, ages ranging from 11-18 plus one small but mighty dog.

Imagine you’re at a dinner party.  Someone asks the question, “So, what do you do?”  What’s your answer?

I’m a preschool music and movement teacher but I’m also a blogger and speaker.

How do you think God uses your job to help shape you into all He made you to be? 

I believe that God gave me the gift for teaching others and that I can use those gifts with my preschoolers as well as with my readers and those that I speak to. By actively using those gifts, I think I become more of the person that God intended when He created me.

What benefits (besides the economical) have you seen to your family that are a direct result of your work away from home? 

Teaching has definitely made me a better parent.  I see examples of great parenting all the time through the parents at my school.  That coupled with the continuing education I complete yearly gived me a better understanding of the developing person at different stages of life.  Don’t tell my teens but preschoolers and teens aren’t very different.

My writing and speaking has deepened my spiritual life and made it more present in every part of my life.  As a mother, my attitudes and behaviors regarding my spiritual really affect my family.  It keeps the conversation going about our faith and how we live it.

How do you balance any guilty feelings you might have in the tension between your workplace and your homespace? 

​This is something that every mother struggles with-even those who don’t work outside of the home.  As my children (and I) have gotten older, I’ve learned to make choices and be at peace with them. The most important thing is to recognize and accept the fact that you can’t do everything.  Once you do that, it’s a lot easier to prioritize your time.

What is one thing that you would ask the people in your life to do to support you more? 

​ Be enthusiastic about what I do.  That enthusiasm shows me that you care about me beyond my role as “Mom” and that what I’m doing matters.

Thank you, Laura!   Readers, be sure to visit Laura at BOTH of her blogs: www.suburbansainthood.com and www.greenforgod.blogspot.com

Are you a working mother?  So was (and is) the Blessed Mother!  If you enjoyed this interview and would like to celebrate working motherhood some more, please consider getting a copy of my $.99 historical fiction ebook, “Working Mother.”  

7QT: It’s Never Too Late for a Hastily Written Post

7 Quick Takes Friday.  Write ’em. Post ’em.  Link ’em up and read ’em at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

… who is actually taking Friday in the Octave of Christmas off, but I’m here in spite of that.

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Merry Christmas!  Santa came!  Only to get torn limb from limb.

Poor Santa.

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My husband and I were reflecting on how smoothly Thanksgiving-to-Christmas seems to have gone, for the first time in years. Inwardly, I’d been congratulating myself for keeping my pledge (also inward) not to go crazy with getting junk for the kids to unwrap, with cookies to bake, with dishes to concoct, etc.  Then hubby pointed out that this was the first fall-to-winter in yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaars when I wasn’t down for 2-3 months with a viral-triggered asthma episode.  I’ve had cold after cold, but thankfully they’ve not required heavy doses of Prednisone, nebulized albuterol, and/or antibiotics that may or may not make things worse.  Was it the olive leaf extract, the kinder/gentler viruses that made the rounds this season, or just the way God is working things so completely out of my control?  I don’t know.  I am, however, grateful.

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Speaking of Christmas, I have a post up on Catholic Mom today, “Christmas is Not Supposed to Be Like This.”

Weihnachtskrippe in der Sanoker Minoritenkirche courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I originally wrote it for this blog last year for Christmas Eve.  It all started because, as hinted at before, Christmas came and I hadn’t been able to mop the floor or bake a single cookie. This is perhaps one of my favorite things I’ve ever blogged, and the feedback I’ve gotten on how it’s helped people put things in perspective… anyway, I hope you like it and that God is pleased by the whole mess.  I’m grateful He came down into our mess and still does.  I’ll see you at the manger.

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Could you please pray for a special intention?  It was an intention I prayed for during this year’s St. Andrew Christmas Novena.  For last year’s, too, but last year’s answer was a BFN.  I’ll have God’s answer to this year’s in a few days.

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While we’re at it, could you also pray for the other intention I included in this year’s novena: for the success of the launch of “Working Mother,” my short fiction ebook piece about the Holy Family.

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“What if Mary had to get a job outside the home?”  Read to imagine one possibility.  It’s available for preorder now, if you’d like.  It should show up on your Kindle on Holy Family Sunday.

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Sigh.  Both intentions are related to doing everything possible to contribute to a desired outcome.  Over and over again.  And then getting disappointed.  Over and over again.  And it’s not like the desired outcomes are things that couldn’t possibly be within the realm of God’s will. That I could help support my family financially by writing stories that get people to consider our Heavenly Father in a more positive light then they may have done previously? To my feeble human brain, it doesn’t really seem like such a bad combo.  And the other thing… well, not sure if I feel comfortable going into all that again, not in public anyway.

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Either way, I know that God can do all things, and that no purpose of His can be hindered.  I know, too, he hears the cry of the woman who believed that just a touch of His garment can make a difference.

In hindsight, it looks like the 2004 Tsunami may have ended 30 years of armed conflict.  Analysis of the Columbine Massacre says of one of the shooters, “If he had lived to adulthood and developed his murderous skills for many more years, there is no telling what he could have done. His death at Columbine may have stopped him from doing something even worse.”

“God, why am I failing at doing good for you on earth?” is about as useful a question to ask as if Mary had said, “Why would You choose to be born in a stable?” God’s sight includes hindsight.  As much as we might want to know the “why” behind God’s “No,” it’s.  Just.  Not.  Our. Business.  Not right now, anyway.  Hindsight, I now see, does not have to be a painful curse.  It’s a gift–a gift of seeing, as God sees, outside of the nownownownowNOW!

Through whatever inscrutable pain the now might bring, it will pass away.  His Word, however, does not.  Cling to it.  I know I will need to in the coming days.

7 Quick Takes Friday: A Catholic Looking for the Rainbow Bridge

Join up with Jennifer at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday!
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I sort of have a built-in theme for today (not sure if that’s how we’re allowed to do 7QT, but I’m a rebel). Last night we put our older dog, Willow, to sleep.

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Putting a pet down seems like it would be a complicated matter for someone who is against euthanasia. It’s not. Pets are family… but they are not people. Pets cannot gain any spiritual benefit or moral strength or dignity from suffering. We can. That’s one of those things about being made in the image and likeness of God. Our suffering is never wasted–unless we choose to waste it.

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Pets are not made in the image and likeness of God, but like all creation, they do give us an image of God’s love for us, if we’ll just look. Did Willow ever give me the cold shoulder because I’d ignored her, forgotten to give her my table scraps, or yelled at her for being so very in the way with her 90lbs of cluelessness? In the event I might have, say, forgotten to let her back in on a 20F day because the toddler was puking in the basement… did she hold it against me? Never. There is no sin so great that will keep a dog away from you. God’s like that.

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On that note, let’s talk about faith vs. works, a topic getting a lot of press these days. God doesn’t need anything from us. Duh. He’s God. If you have faith in Him, hooray for you. If faith is all you choose to have for him, what’s your relationship with Him going to look like? It’ll look a lot like the relationship of someone who ignores her dog all the time. That dog will still be sitting in the corner, waiting to be loved. The owner will be patting herself on the back, saying, “I rescued her. That’s good enough for her.” Is it? That owner won’t get to experience the reciprocal joy of a belly rub:

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If simply owning a dog isn’t the same as giving her a loving home, then how can we think believing in God is the same as making a loving home for Him in our hearts?

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The more we allow ourselves to love and care for our pets, the more we–and our children–can see the merciful love God has for us. For instance, let’s talk about the time that Willow ate our Lenten Sacrifice Wreath THE NIGHT OF GOOD FRIDAY!

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Her “sin” contained her punishment: all that salt dough makes for a beast of a lab who has to spend her usual sleeping time asking to go outside to pee. All she needed was our forgiveness and compassion–and someone with functional thumbs to open the door for her.

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Our ability to love deeply is an image of God’s love for us. However much we miss Willow right now? That’s only a fraction of how much God misses us when we turn away from Him.

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Willow taught me how closely my kids are listening to me. There were times when I muttered under my breath how “stupid” she was. There were times she was barking at the joggers passing down the sidewalk and I yelled at her to “shut up.” I didn’t think anything of those things… until I heard my kids say them to Willow themselves. Something to think about.

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And now a word about The Rainbow Bridge. Ask anybody who went to Catholic School, and they’ll tell you, “Those heartless (nuns/priests/brothers/whathaveyou) told us that our dogs and cats and hamsters and iguanas WILL NOT GO TO HEAVEN!”

Okay. I’m going out on a limb here. I’m pretty sure this is not heresy: I think those nuns/priests/brothers/whathaveyou overwhelmingly meant really well, but they may have been answering the wrong question. Do pets have souls in need of redemption? Of course not. We do. I think all that means is that, while we are capable of choosing Hell, pets simply are not. If a sparrow can’t fall without God caring about it, how much more must He care about pets who taught us, His very favorite creations, about how to have a closer relationship with Him? If there can be precious stones in heaven, and if God promises to wipe every tear from our eyes, then I humbly submit that it is possible that God has put pet beds in the many rooms He has prepared for us.

And I’d like to think Willow is snoring in one of those beds right now.

 

Not last night but the night before…

I had this bizarre dream.  I dreamed that I was Angela of Angela’s Song by AnnMarie Creedon.  This is odd because, besides the Catholic part and the having three kids bit, Angela and I have very different lives.

Anyway, all through this dream, I kept trying to explain to the other characters that I wasn’t who they thought I was, and could they help me find my husband?  Everybody in the dream kept trying to explain to me, “Silly, you’re Angela!”  I remember climbing onto the roof of whatever building we were in (inside, in the dream, it looked like our current parish church, but outside it was just a roof of a building anywhere in any city).  I remember looking around for my husband… then I woke up.  I was so happy to be in my own bed.  Of course, I’d already slept through my husband leaving for work, so I had another half-asleep moment of, “He’s gone!  Wait, am I still in that dream?!” We laughed about it when he got home, of course.

I’m wondering if this dream illuminates my having some sort of crisis about having a new book coming out when my sub-published life is already pretty demanding.  Frankly, I am scared–scared that I’ll leave something undone that is in serious need of doing.  However, I just have to hold on to faith that, in both the bad and the good, God gives us nothing we can’t handle.  These books are His.  Heck, this family is His.  He won’t give me more to do than time to get it done.

On further analysis of the dream, I first found myself  bemused:  why wasn’t I  thrilled to be Angela of Angela’s Song?  I mean, after all, she’s an admirable character who illustrates our Catholic faith in a very real way.  Jack, the romantic interest, is very compelling as well.  Being Angela sounds awesome, right? Being the (possible–no spoilers!) object of Jack’s affections sounds fantastic, right?  But… I’m Erin, and I want my husband and my life.  This dream made me realize how grateful I am to be who God made me to be, to have bloomed where I’m planted.

So, I have joy here in reality.  If you’d like a bit of fiction that will lift you up, go read Angela’s Song!