Conversion and Surrender

Becoming Catholic was one of the scariest things I have ever done in life. Since childhood I’d been taught that the Catholic Church was a crooked, greedy, abusive, and judgemental institution where you paid your way into Heaven and only priests were allowed to speak to God. do-not-be-conformed-to-this-world-but-be-transformed-by-the-renewal-of-your-mind-that-you-may-prove-what-is-the-will-of-god-what-is-good-and-acceptable-and-perfect

My conversion to Catholicism didn’t begin with a blinding light and me falling off my proverbial horse like St. Paul. I guess you could say that God and the Church had pursued me my entire life until, at the urging of my soon-to-be mother-in-law, and in order to appease my husband’s family, I agreed to attend RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).

In retrospect, I basically imagine that God clapped his hands and said, “Whelp, that’s that. She’s mine now!” the moment I walked into the RCIA classroom.

Over the next few months, everything that I thought I’d known about the Church and her teachings was stripped away. I began to see the Church for what it was and not for what my poorly catechized family members taught me as a child, or what secular media showed me on television. I asked questions and they were answered. I brought up issues that have long plagued the Church and they were explained, sometimes to the benefit of the Church, and sometimes to its detriment.

My sacramental conversion began when I wanted my husband’s family to like me. I was tired of not knowing that meal-time prayer they all prayed together. I was tired of hearing words like “Holy See” and “Ecclesiastical” and “Pontificate” and not knowing what in the world they were talking about. I was tired of not understand the sit, stand, kneel, stand, kneel, sit, “Amen” in Mass.

My true conversion began when Father Paul asked me if becoming Catholic was really what I wanted to do. He explained that I was free to choose whether or not to become Catholic. I was free to walk away if I didn’t feel it was for me. I sat there in that chair, at this small wooden table, staring at a priest whom I’m pretty sure has the gift to read souls, and realized that I wanted this because I wanted it. Not because of my husband or my soon-to-be in-laws. I wanted to become Catholic because over those many months, I’d fallen in love with the Church, with Christ.

There have been far more profound “yeses” to God in the history of our faith, but mine at that moment felt pretty flipping profound. Why? Because I knew from that moment on I would have to surrender everything to God.

You see, conversion is synonymous with total and utter surrender. You cannot become Catholic without surrendering the former self to Christ. You take your most deep-seated philosophies on life, your most ingrained behaviors and habits, and you surrender them wholly. You empty yourself of who and what you are so that you may be filled with Christ’s love and mercy and grace to become an entirely different creature.

At least, that’s how it goes in theory. But you have people like me who cling desperately to facets of the former self, who battle with God over who’s will will be done. You have people like myself who are afraid to trust in God and step out of their comfort zone in order to achieve the change we need to grow. And so you wake up every morning and you surrender again and again and again, until the issue is resolved and God reveals another part of you that could be better, holier, and you start all over.

As Bishop Robert Barron says, in essence, having a relationship with Christ is like taking a piece of glass, which in darkness can appear perfect, unblemished, and turning it toward the light where suddenly you can see the flaws, the imperfections. And the beautiful part about it is that we’re given the tools to wipe the glass clean, to mend the fractures and see clearly. When we smudge the glass again, we’re given the tools necessary to wipe it clean, if only we’re willing to first accept that there is a blemish, and then accept that we need the help to mend it.

I wasn’t simply converting from one belief or faith to another (I was a polytheistic Pagan before my conversion), I was converting my entire existence to center around one Truth, and that Truth called for me to make radical, necessary changes. And I didn’t look at these things and think “wow, the Church is so oppressive and doesn’t want you to have fun!” For the first time I saw that these guidelines for the Church were no different than my having expectations of behavior from my children, of giving them a bedtime and helping them to establish healthy life habits. It was no different than my wanting the absolute best for my children, for them to be good, honest people, and doing my best–as their parent–to set them on the right path, to teach them the right things, and to implement discipline where necessary.

Any parent who truly cares for and loves their child is going to have rules and regulations to keep them from hurting themselves or others. They place rules not to keep the child silent and still, but to ensure that they can LIVE and live WELL. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. But that’s a different conversation for a different time.

I’ve been Catholic for five-and-a-half years now, and I can tell you that every day I go through small conversions, and every day I must renew my surrender to God. It’s a lifelong process. Even Mother Teresa spent hours in the confessional, surrendering her cotton-ball sins to Christ. Even up to our dying breath, we must surrender to His will.

 

I’m Not Raising My Sons to Please Your Daughters

Raising children can be one of the most terrifying jobs in the world. The future of an entire human being rests on your shoulders. How you raise them to treat others will one day play into the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of people they encounter. How they go out into the world will rely heavily on the values and morals yoim-not-raising-my-sons-to-please-your-daughtersu instilled in them from their first breath.

No pressure, though, right?

Now, I understand those circumstances when you do your best as a parent and they still grow up to get into unsavory things and become rather unsavory characters. It’s only to be expected what with free will and all. We can only do so much to try and give them the best shot at life, but once those wings take off from the nest, their decisions are their own, and all you can do is lay in bed at night praying your hardest that they’re safe and happy. Or, if you’re Catholic, you can pray diligently for intercessions from St. Monica whose son, St. Augustine, was basically a hot mess before becoming one of the most-loved Saints, Doctor of the Church, and author of the famous line, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” (If you’re not familiar with the story, in short, St. Monica chased St. Augustine down both with her feet and her prayers until his conversion.)

From an early age, my husband and I try to instill in our children a respect for all peoples, for all living things, and for our planet. We teach them that all persons should be treated with dignity, even when they don’t treat themselves with much dignity; even when someone makes them angry, hurts them, or talks down on them. I know that this is counter-cultural in a world that is so vocal against perceived injustices toward the individual, but whatever.

For our sons, we teach them to hold doors. We teach them to be gentlemen. More than anything we teach them to see more than just a body when they look at another person. We teach them against the dangers of objectifying people; of the detriments not just to the other person, but to themselves as well when they take this view.

We teach our daughter that, while it’s polite for a gentleman to hold the door open for her, what’s more important is whether or not she holds the door open for herself and for others. And if a boy/man chooses not to hold the door open for her, not to take it as a personal insult to her femininity, which should never be determinant on how someone treats her, man or woman. Just like with all of our children, we do our best to teach her that her value should not ­be measured by another person’s thoughts, opinions, or actions. Nor should they expect that another person’s value is based on their thoughts, opinions, or actions. As Christians, we understand that a person’s value is inherent from God, through Christ.

And so—and pardon my expletive here—I will be damned if another person ever makes my children feel as if their existence revolves around that person’s happiness. I see it every day, these memes and cute photographs of couples that say things like, “a real man treats his woman like a queen”, or “a real man will do a, b, and c, to keep his woman happy [even if said conditions and expectations are completely ludicrous].”

I’m just going to throw this out there: our society needs to STOP trying to raise boys whose sole purposes are to cater to women. We need to stop treating boys and men like incompetent apes who can’t function without the guidance of a woman.

A stay-at-home-dad? Haha! I bet the kids eat nothing but macaroni-and-cheese and watch baseball naked; does the guy even know how to put toilet paper on the roll? A dad who works ridiculous overtime to provide for his family? Well, a real man would attend his little girl’s dance recital instead of working the hours needed to even put her in ballet if he really loved her. But wait, there’s a man who actually seems like a decent guy, who is helpful and competent and loving? His wife must have trained him well.

I’ll be damned if a girl or woman comes along and makes my sons feel as if they have to grant her every wish and whim in order to prove they love her, even if it comes to her doing things that are damaging to her well-being. Sadly, I’ve seen it before, where a man who truly loves and cares for his girlfriend/wife tries to keep her from self-destructive behaviors and she and everyone else turns him into a controlling misogynist with an intrinsic desire to oppress anything with a vagina!

We’re not raising our sons with the sole purpose of pleasing your daughters. We’re not raising them to treat her like a queen while she treats him like a peasant. We’re not raising our sons to be with women who think they have to be “trained” in order to make good husbands and fathers. We’re not raising our sons to be servants and henchmen. We’re raising them to be men who are respectful towards all people, who treat everyone around them with dignity, who will be helpful, charitable, and kind, but know when and how not to be taken advantage of. We’re raising our daughters the same way.

            We’re raising our children with the understanding that men and women are biologically different. They see, smell, hear, taste, and feel—both emotionally and physically—differently from each other, and that’s okay. Each gender has their strengths and weaknesses, and they were meant to be complementary. This doesn’t mean that one sex is better or worse than the other. This doesn’t mean that we have to treat the opposite sex poorly because of their short-comings. So please, parents, don’t raise daughters who look down on men. Don’t raise sons who look down on women. Raise kids who have respect all around. Raise kids who know their true value isn’t dependent on who loves them, who hates them, or how pretty they are.

Today on: Guess What Gayle Did! Vol. 46

Our 4-year-old is quite a character. With two older brothers, she is not a dainty young lady. She’ll dig in the mud, show you the food in her mouth (uninvited), participate in the daily wrestling matches that we’ve all but given up trying to quell between our boys, and so, of course, her favorite thing right now is poopcopy-of-today-onthe-world-of-gayle

Not Disney princesses, not Peppa Pig, not playing dress-up. POOP.

Tonight was Open House at the children’s school. For those of you who may not know what an Open House is, it’s when the school invites parents to come in, meet with the teachers, and take a look at all the different things their kids have been up to so far. Daddy was kind enough to take Gayle and her older brother, Isaak, while I stayed home with the babies and her oldest brother, Aidan.

Let’s just say that after tonight we’ve now come to realize just how deep her obsession with poop runs.

Gayle showed Daddy her activity book where she draws an assortment of pictures based on a prompt from the teacher. As Daddy is thumbing through the book, he sees a prompt for Gayle’s favorite color.

Gayle’s favorite color? “Poop”, as she said. Not brown, which was the color on the page, but poop.

He flipped to the next page where there were several small green-faced characters drawn around a very large character with a green face. Who was the large character? “Daddy,” she said. Why was his face green? “Because you’re pooping!” She said. And what did daddy have in his hand? A huge glob of–you guessed it–poop. She’d even drawn small piles of poop around all the smaller little stick figures. All of this she explained in the true fashion of four-year-olds, loud and proud for all the parents and students to hear!

Of course, I had to take my chance to pick on my husband so when he told me this story, I burst into hysterics and told him she must think he’s full of [expletive]. He frowned, I laughed harder. It was a good time.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. She specifically chooses chocolate candy from the store so that, with every bite/piece, she can say, “Mom, look! I’m eating poop!” When I put chocolate syrup in her milk? “Look, mom, I’m drinking chocolate poop!”

We’ve pretty much stopped reacting to the whole poop situation, but tonight was just too good not to share. We hope this is just a phase. If not, maybe it means she’ll grow up to be a gastroenterologist or something? I’m all for a doctor in the family!

How to NOT Lose Your Entire Manuscript — Like I Did

I’m still pretty raw over the whole ordeal, so, without going into too much tear-jerking detail, I lost my ENTIRE manuscript last Friday. If you’ve never had this happen to you, good! I sincerely wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. It feels a lot like losing a piece of your soul. That may seem melodramatic but trust me, I can’t even delineate just how MUCH it sucks to lose your story. how-to-not-lose-your-entire-manuscript-like-i-did

Of course, I took to my writer’s group on Facebook to express my absolute sorrow, and while I was met with many condolences, I was also met with many wonderful ideas of how to safeguard against this happening EVER again that I wanted to share with you.


E-Mail Your Work to Yourself

Probably of one of the simplest methods to backing up your work is to e-mail yourself a copy of your work. You can do this however often you feel is necessary, but I would honestly suggest doing this everyday after you’ve written. Even if all you did was 300 words, that’s 300 words you’re going to hate to have lost later. If you don’t trust that it won’t get lost in your own e-mail, you can always e-mail it to your extremely trustworthy Aunt Eunice whom you know won’t steal your work.

External Hard-Drive and/or Flash Drive

My husband purchased a 1 terabyte hard drive a few years ago and it was one of the best ideas he’s ever had. But the trick is to USE IT. I didn’t. Don’t make my mistakes. Like with the e-mail, save a copy of your manuscript to the drive regularly. I’m leaning particularly toward using a flash-drive because of portability, but I also have this bad habit of losing small things, so if you’re like me, might I suggest getting one that you can attach to your key ring with your house and car keys.

Dropbox

I enjoy Dropbox. It’s an easy-to-use site and app that allows you to store and share (optional) files, photos, videos, etc. They have good security features plus file recovery. But, again, you actually have to utilize it for it to do any good. *pointed look at myself* I also like it because you can link up with other Dropbox users and share/swap files. I used it for work and it was a hell of a lot easier than sending a million e-mails back and forth.

Set a Recovery Point On Your PC

In short, a restore point will allow you to reset your computer’s operating system to a certain point of your choosing–or to an automatic point that was set by your computer. So say your manuscript disappears into oblivion and you hadn’t been smarter than me and backed up a most recent version of your work in other places, you can use a restore point to get your story back, or at least the most recent version as of the reset point. For information on how to set a restore point on Windows, go here. For Mac, go here. And seriously, don’t bother asking me any technical questions because my dad may have been accepted to MIT, but I didn’t get those genes. I got the artsy-fartsy genes instead.

Save Your MS Under a Different File Every Time

One of the suggestions I got was to always save your MS under a different name every time you’ve written–WITH DATES. That way, if you lose one file, maybe an older (or newer) version will be there. It sounds a bit neurotic but I’d rather be neurotic than crying over my lost MS for two days again. This is when an external hard-drive or flash drive will come in handy so you don’t bog down your computer with tons of files, which is especially an issue on laptops as I’ve learned.

Google Docs

I used Google Docs a lot before I got Word. There were several suggestions to save a copy of my MS to Google Docs regularly. My only issue with this is I’m uber paranoid about my account being hacked and my story stolen. My husband and myself had our Amazon account hacked and our bank account drained of what little was in there in the first place so now I’m flat out petrified of it happening again with something just as precious. -.- I don’t know what would feel worse, losing my story, or seeing it published under someone else’s name? Because, you know, that’s EXACTLY why people hack e-mail accounts.

If Worse Comes to Worst – Pay Someone To Fix It

More than anything, people suggested I take my computer to someone tech savvy. Fry’s, Staples, Geek Squad, you name it. They also suggested this for when your system crashes, you spill something on or break your computer, or you’re the unfortunate victim of a virus. “The file is there, you just have to get someone who can find it,” is what they said. If you’re capable and willing to dish out the dough, this would be my first suggestion if you did lose your work. Even if they can’t spare your device/computer, if they can at least save your files, right?

Don’t simply rely on auto-saves and traditional file saves onto your hard drive for your hard-wrought work. Stuff happens. Life happens. Technology can be a fickle, unreliable beast. Be a better writer than myself and backup your work! Be neurotic and obsessive about it if you must. Better safe than sorry, because trust me, trying to rewrite 40k words from memory because you’re also a Pantser writer who doesn’t plan your novels beforehand is a right pain.

Dear “Catholics” For Choice,

I am not here to debate on the legality dear_catholics_-for-choiceor morality of abortion. Let’s put that card on the table right from the start. I am not here to fling the hot-button words and mantras of both the pro-choice and pro-life movements. I have my beliefs, and in them I stand firm, but that is not why I am here in this moment.

Today I am here to plead with you to stop calling yourself a “Catholic” organization. Perhaps you are a group of individually proclaimed Catholics who believe that abortion is acceptable in the eyes of God when done ‘in good faith’, but you are not a Catholic organization. What you individually choose to believe is between you and God. Once, however, you bring the name of “Catholic” into your stance, once you begin to speak lies to the world under the guise that these lies are sanctioned by the Holy Catholic Church, then you have opened the doors to public admonition. And as this is still the Year of Mercy, consider this as our admonishing the sinners and instructing the ignorant.

To call yourselves Catholic–as a whole–is misleading. More so than this, it is damaging to those truly seeking to know the Catholic Church and her teachings; who wish to accept all that she teaches where you, apparently, have chosen to conveniently disregard one of the most sacred teachings of the Church, of Christ.

You see, our world is ripe with Christians who love nothing more than to cherry-pick from the Bible to support their own skewed agendas. You see this in individuals as well as in entire denominations of “Christianity”. If you need an example, may I introduce you to Westboro Baptist Church and all of the hate-spewing they commit under the pretense that their actions are fully justified in Scripture? You have people and congregations that, to this day, believe the story of Cain is proof that God meant for black people to be treated as less than the white man. They use it as an excuse to promote racism and genocide and bigotry.

Anyone can pick up a Bible and make it mean what they want it to mean. This is why Sola Scriptura is a dangerous practice. Maybe Bob sincerely thought that the Holy Spirit was revealing to him the meaning of Scripture, but then again Bob also needs an excuse to hate and persecute anyone who is LGBTQ. Insert: an erroneous self-teaching on the book of Deuteronomy. To be Catholic means that you believe what the Catholic Church professes as Truth; you believe that Christ alone handed down to His Church, our Church, the revealed Truth, and that it is non-negotiable.

As Catholics you must know that the Church is not a democracy. We are a Theocracy. We don’t get to cast ballots on teachings. We don’t get to  pander on the technicalities of what God meant by “thou shalt not kill”. We don’t get to amend the Fifth Commandment with our own convenient clauses as we do with our American Constitution.

However it is that you justify abortion, please do not do so while claiming yourselves to be Catholic. To do so is called “heresy”. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it’s strict definition as outlined in the second-most Catholic-y book only to the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth* which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same;

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2089

(asterisk added)

* some truth, in this case, being the truth about abortion as also defined in the CCC. If you’re willing to look into this, you can find it HERE in the CCC, beginning at 2258, and more specifically 2270.

According to Canon Law:

“a person who procures a successful abortion incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication.

Code of Canon Law, 1398

This also applies to formal conspirators related to the abortion. I.e. “Catholics for Choice”.

This is all considering that you truly do consider yourself a “Catholic” organization, or a “Catholic” movement. If this is the case, then you are breaking Canon Law. You are breaking communion with the Church. If, then, you are not Catholic, and do not hold yourself to Canon Law or to the Roman Pontiff, then logically you cannot call yourselves Catholic in this regard, either. Simple as that. However you wish to view it, proclaim it, or hold it, to call yourselves “Catholics” for Choice, is a lie.

To end my plea to you, whether you heed it or not, I offer you the words of Mary Beth Bonacci in her book “We’re On a Mission From God”:

“Sure, we can decide for ourselves what to believe…. But to be Catholic means to choose to believe this–that Jesus Christ is God, that He died for our sins, and that He left an infallible Church that protects and transmits His teaching and His love to all generations. Either we believe that the Catholic Church teaches with the authority of Christ, or we don’t. If we do, it would be absurd to pick and choose which Church teachings to believe. That would be deciding to disagree with Christ. If we don’t believe that the Church teaches with the authority of Christ, why bother? We’ve rejected the defining tenet of Catholicism. We’re not Catholic.”

(emphasis added)

And there you have it. In a nutshell. Cut and dry. You cannot and should not call yourselves Catholic.

 

Let Us Not Become Weary In Doing Good…

I used to wonder why it was so difficult for Let us not become wearyin doing good,for at the proper timewe will reap a harvestif we do not give up.people to just be good. What was so hard about being a decent person?

The short answer: sometimes, being good hurts. Sometimes, doing the right thing takes us out of our comfort zone; it makes us confront issues that we would rather not confront. Sometimes, doing good means putting ourselves in situations that call us out upon the water, if you will.

I struggle every day against doing what feels good, what makes me comfortable, versus what I know is right. For example, I know that keeping my niece is the right thing to do. I know that probably sounds extremely cold and callous, but hear me out.

This hasn’t been an easy journey, as I’ve mentioned before. I thought that after seven months, things would get easier. I thought that we would have gotten used to having five children, and that the children would have gotten used to having a new “sibling” in the house. I thought that after seven months, my niece would have better acclimated to our household. Obviously, I thought a lot of things and have made several erroneous assumptions.

There have been many times, in the middle of yet another day of screaming and other drama, when I wanted to throw my hands in the air. Yes, there have been times when I wanted to call the caseworker and say, “I can’t do this anymore!” I wanted to put my own comfort above the needs of my niece. I wanted to be comfortable and less-stressed more than I wanted to do the right thing.

Again, I know this probably makes me sound like an awful, selfish person, but I’d rather be candid in these difficulties than put on a front. Parents get tired. We get cranky and frustrated. We’re human; imperfect humans trying to raise up tiny humans whom we hope will one day be better humans than us.

Everyday I strive to be better; I strive to yell less, to sigh and say “what the actual ___” under my breath less. And everyday, when my niece is having difficulties with her behavior that go beyond simple two-year-old tantrums (which I’ve been through three times now and little phases me), I remind myself that this isn’t about me, or my comfort. My niece needs us. God gave us the capability to take her in, cleared the way and opened the door to not having to go into foster care, and all we had to do was say “yes”. Well, we said “yes”, and now it’s just a matter of remembering that everyday we must continue to say “yes” to God, and “yes” to my niece.

What we’ve been called to do isn’t easy. The situation we’ve been called to handle is a slippery slope, at best. We’ve grown weary in doing good, but as Galatians states:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

– Galatians 6:9

What harvest will we reap from this? Watching our niece/cousin blossom into a beautiful young woman who is full of potential, who got to be raised by her family, where so many children don’t get that opportunity. We’ll get to watch her accomplish all the goals she sets for herself, and then some, God-willing. At the end of the day, we get to know that the struggle wasn’t for naught.

Americanizing the Church

I never realized there was this much

division within the Church when I became Catholic a little over five years ago. We belonged to a relatively small parish, a parish that was tight-knit, humble, and devout. We had an amazing shepherd who didn’t take any crap; none of that flip-flops and shorts in Mass, or loosey-goosey posturing when receiving the Eucharist. He tended his flock with purpose, and he did so diligently and with great love. From where I stood, we had a parish that, even with its many different ministries and callings, had a very simple purpose: to act as the sheepfold. And this is what we did. Each called to our own purpose through Christ, we came together as Catholics to celebrate our Lord and to spread the Gospel in our daily lives.

            Sure, there were differences. Some women wore veils during Mass, others did not. Some people held hands during the Our Father, some did not. While most would receive the Eucharist on their tongues, others would receive in their hands. No biggie, right? These can be differences in how we were raised, or how we were Catechized; sometimes it’s simply a matter of personal estimation.

            For me, the Church has always remained as a constant—the last stronghold of pure tradition and Truth in a time when we’ve all but lost these things here in the west. The Church presented the road map, as Dr. Peter Kreeft would put it, in a world that would rather find its own way and then complain about being lost and in the dark. No matter where we’ve moved, or what parish we’ve attended, this has always been the truth for me.

            There has been division within the Church since the beginning, I get that. While some of the apostles wanted to force circumcision on the older converts, others did not. They had to make decisions on topics that Christ hadn’t exactly been black or white about. They had to set aside their personal qualms and let the Holy Spirit do his work, to build the foundation of the Church that we know and love today.

Even knowing this, I can’t help but feel this sense of dread as I watch the darkness creeping deeper into the Church. Even seeing the millions and millions who went to WYD to see Papa Francis, and to celebrate together as Catholics, I feel this dread. I have enough division in my country, I don’t want it in my Church. I don’t want it amongst the clergy. I don’t want it amongst the lay persons. I certainly don’t want it in my family. And when division is there—which I am not so naïve as to believe there will ever be a time without it—I want us to handle it like Catholics, like Christians. None of this Americanized way of dealing with our issues: just make a few Memes, slap a “haha jk” on it, throw some vague Bible verses in there, and call it a day. Because that’s how we deal with things in this country, with poor humor, insults, and quotes from the Constitution or the founding fathers.

The Church is a church for all peoples. In my few, five short years as a Catholic, I have personally witnessed why it is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. I’ve met people with so many different callings from Christ, with so many different backgrounds and crosses to bear, but who bear them gladly, and who all proudly call themselves Catholics.

I remember seeing a man waiting for the confessional who was completely sleeved (tattooed) on both arms. I’ve met women who go against the “dainty-feminine-flower-Jesus’-princess” archetypes well-known in the Protestant community, but who are no less in love with Christ and their faith, who are mothers and wives, and ROCK at it. I’ve met Catholic men who are gay, and who–GASP—haven’t been chased out of the church by pitchfork-wielding mobs who think their very presence will turn their children gay, too.

And then I’ve seen the more “conservative” side of the Church; the people who don’t agree with having tattoos, or dressing a certain way for Mass. I’ve met people who think it’s quite a scandal to hold hands during the Our Father, or to even watch television outside of EWTN.

These differences are part of what make our faith beautiful. Catholicism is not some exclusive entity: “only people who are already holy and ready for canonization can join”. The Church is not AMERICA; it’s not a democracy, it’s a Theocracy. We don’t force you to come, and we aren’t going to force you to stay. You can’t write your local bishop and demand changes in teachings. But we’ll take you as you are, if only you’re willing to let Christ take you where you need to be. It’s all up to you.

Stop, stop, stop, Americanizing the Church. Much like we try to dissect and make the constitution work for certain agendas within our country, I’ve noticed the same thing in the Church with Canon Law and the Bible.

Is this to say that we shouldn’t have opinions? That we shouldn’t raise issues when its needed? No. This is to say that the way we handle these things has gotten all wrong. Again, we’ve Americanized the way we deal with conflicts within the Church. We’ve stopped listening, we’ve stopped using words to create positive changes and instead use them to hurt others when we don’t get our way, or when we don’t feel “heard enough”, like children. We fight over language; whether certain sects of the pro-life movement are too caustic, while others are far too “nice”, and shouldn’t even call themselves pro-life. We fight over who is more Catholic because of A, B, and C. If you believe in Christ, and you believe that He gave absolute authority to the Church as He gave to Peter and the apostles, and you choose to go against what the Church teaches, then you are telling Christ He is wrong and that you know better than Him. If you DON’T believe that He gave the Church absolute authority, then you can’t really call yourself Catholic. It’s as simple as that. Take it or leave it. Stop cherry-picking your faith. It’s not a buffet. Stop bickering with each other over holding hands during the Our Father or wearing a veil to Mass. Stop crying because Susan down the street acts too pious with her homeschooling and not having a TV. Stop crying because Martha down the street acts so flamboyant with letting her kids watch Spongebob and go to public school.

Stop turning the Church into this circus ring of parties that we have in America, republican vs. democrat, liberal vs. conservative. This isn’t black vs. white, male vs. female, old school vs. new age. This is the Church. This is home away from home, and I don’t want confrontational division in my home.