I’m Catholic and have always used Lent has always been a period of personal reflection. Well, maybe not always, but since I was old enough to realize that giving up soda for 40 days wouldn’t necessarily make me a better person. At some point, probably in high school, I decided giving stuff up wasn’t for me, and I would try to add something instead. I cannot tell you what I added 10 years ago, but over the past few years, my Lenten promise has been to get back to church.
I was very involved in the church community in high school and in college: youth group, teaching CCD, singing in the choir, Eucharistic ministry, etc. I truly believe that going to church regularly when I was in college helped me through my depression and helped me to deal with my father’s death. After college, the regularity with which I attended services dropped drastically.
For the past few years, my Lenten resolution has been to go back to Church weekly. In 2009, I did pretty well. I’m not even sure if I cared in 2010. Last year, I think I went once, maybe twice. This year, I decided it’s time to try again.
But I’m doing a lot more reflecting, also. Why is it that I make this decision to go to church (and I do it several times a year, not just at Lent) and then don’t do it? Is it necessary for me to attend regular services to have a spiritual connection? Most recently, I’ve started to question if it even makes sense for me to align myself with any church when I don’t subscribe to some of their teachings. And suddenly, I had a light bulb:
For years, I’ve been a non-practicing, a la carte Catholic.
I figured the things that I didn’t totally buy into were just no big deal. I belive the big things: we have one God, the creator, who gave up His Son for us; we are born into Origianl Sin, but are absolved through Baptism; I believe in Heaven and eternal afterlife with Christ. I enjoy the traditions: receiving the sacraments; Lenten reflections; choirs at Mass. But there were a few things that just never made sense to me. Generally, these relate to social and political teachings of the church.
I’ve tried to write my thoughts on the specific issues with which I do not agree, but my thoughts aren’t coming out properly. I think I need more time to explore those ideas. This is what it comes down to: is it hypocritical to pick and choose in which teachings of a particular faith you will believe? As a follower of a particular faith, should you subscribe to and 100% believe in all of their doctrines? Whether I am practicing or not practicing, is it even possible to be an a la carte Catholic? Most importantly, can I say that I support a faith that blatantly opposes certain social practices I adamantly support?
And so I commit to attending church regularly for the next 6 weeks (at least weekly, possibly a once or more during the week) while I search for and pray on the answers to these questions. I’m not saying I’ll have all the answers when I’m carving into the Easter ham, but at least I’ll be working on it. It almost seems silly to go to church to figure out if you should continue going to church, but this is my comfort zone. It's helped me work through issues before. Maybe it will again. Or maybe it won't. Either way, it's worth a few hours a week to find out.
I also commit to giving up fast food. But that’s for another reason entirely.