Early morning coffee with my friend has set my mind racing and my heart to wandering. We are kindred spirits/comrades in social justice/women who seek a better experience of church and a deeper faith. We both have a sense of what could be but are frustrated by the systems and leaders that inhibit growth or even forward-facing ways of thinking.
As we chatted the minutes away before Spanish class, I asked her: What’s next for people like us? Where is home anymore?
We have faithfully shown up every week to listen and break bread. We have actively engaged in ministry to create a better world and change hearts. We continue to speak out against oppression and injustice. We ask for a seat at the table to share our experiences and our ideas. We have good ideas! But…
What’s next, Rox? Where can we go to feed our spirits? Who will listen and encourage/empower us to act? When will the people-in-charge realize that they’re disconnected from the reality of those they serve? Will they ever be relevant… in any way/in any words/in any actions?
Formal research studies asked people why they are leaving the Catholic church. The top two reasons cited: “Just gradually drifted away” and “My spiritual needs were not being met.” I get it. I am gradually drifting away and my spiritual needs are not being met. I still believe… but the whole experience just isn’t working for me anymore. Strategic planning is happening in the diocese right now and initial reports that I’m hearing are not inspiring me to stick around much longer. Granted, this is hearsay so I’ll wait and pass final judgment when documents are public but already I’m skeptical. Quite frankly, I was skeptical a long time ago. I kept holding onto hope but now I’m afraid that’s been the product of my naivete.
Since I don’t work for you anymore, I have the freedom to speak my heart without fear of losing my job. This applies to some of you more than others (you’ll know who you are) but this is what I want to tell you:
- You don’t know me or what my life is really like… what my day-to-day family/work/struggles are. More than this—I’m not sure you even care to know.
- The state of my heart and faith are not the 8th-grade level that you are taught to preach down to. I am smarter than you think… but my teenagers are even smarter than me. We have to be smart in order to survive in this world.
- I know that the whole Mass ritual is about to change… but I’m on the verge of really not caring. Your “If-they-only-understood-the-Mass-then-they-would-believe” thinking is irrelevant and “The-way-to-renewal-in-liturgy-is-to-teach-about-the-Mass-in-the-homily” strategy is flawed. If I keep showing up every week, I’ll say the new words but it will probably still be just going through the motions. If…
- Stop using the phrase “fallen-away Catholics”… it places all the blame on me. You have as much responsibility to use my time well as I have for showing up. Honor my faith rather than chastise my lack of it.
- Eucharistic adoration might produce miracles but it’s not my thing because God is so present to me in all the other corners of the world.
- And catechesis is wonderful… don’t get me wrong… but unless I’m even interested in the Gospel to begin with, I won’t make the effort to come to your classes.
So what next? How can I stay rooted in an institution that doesn’t speak my language? Isn’t interested in the issues that inspire my heart and spirit? Won’t listen to my ideas or allow me to contribute to important decisions? Remains disconnected from the world that I live in?