Monday, February 23, 2009

A Few Words About Religion

I was not raised Catholic. My family attended and had been lectured to in Presbytarian churches and for a short time, Unitarian, but I converted while in college once I started going to the old St. George's with my dorm roommate. It fit me like a glove and I felt at home there despite my ignorance of the exotic rituals and prayers everyone else knew by heart.

When I say that I am Catholic I say it with the caveat that I am an American Catholic, which is to say I do not agree with everything that comes out of the Vatican. Sorry. I have no issue with homosexuality. Love is love, and people are lucky and blessed to find it wherever they find it. I believe that priests should be allowed to marry and that women should be accorded more prominent positions within the church structure. There's more, but let's just leave it that I realize the Pope is not doing a little jig everytime I open my mouth and declare I'm Catholic. For the totter to that teeter though, I've been told quite forcibly by my born-again in-laws that I am going straight to hell because I am Catholic. ALL catholics are going to hell--popes, Mother Theresa, the whole lot of us. So there you have it. Stock up on the roll-on deodorant.


Lent is bearing down upon us and Catholics generally give up something for those forty days, the idea being to share in the sacrifice and suffering of Christ. I've been having a difficult time with that for the past many years. I witness a lot of suffering and have some idea of the physical pain Jesus endured in those last hours. So being reminded more of the suffering in this world doesn't feel like the right thing to be doing.





Any ideas out there?? What do all of you do??


I think for lack of a light-bulb moment I'll add in activities and give of my time as opposed to giving up an activity or a food group or a habit I should give up anyway. I could volunteer at the orphanage across the river...Or, I'll try and say the rosary daily or read from A Year with C. S. Lewis, but have the sneaking suspicion that I am tailoring these activities out of what's easiest and the path of least resistance for me. Generally not such a bad way to go, but I can see I have more thinking to do. One thing is for certain though. There will be fish involved. And homemade coleslaw. And chocolate cake. Definitely chocolate cake.

34 comments:

  1. Why is it that one religion hates another religion?

    My parents too said that all Catholics were going straight to hell in a handbasket - and in fact were probably the reason for most of the world's problems. Back then it was much easier you see - just two or three religions to our knowledge anyway. So anyone who wasn't - gasp - Baptist! Evil! Evil! Evil!

    And this from one parent who had converted from Catholicism so he could marry my Baptist mother!

    Always confused me that one. Why hadn't he already gone to hell beforehand?

    So now - because of it all - I have my own little beliefs that I keep to myself and don't foist on anyone else. I don't care what religion someone is. Each to their own. And since I don't practise lent and all the rest I guess I won't be giving up anything. If I had to? I'd give up being unhappy. Does that work?

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  2. Aha! One of those "Thinking Catholics" a dangerous breed, and rare.
    My personal Spiritual Guide is Mrs. "Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By" from The Waterbabies, which was read to me as a child. I have no questions about her leadership. It still makes perfect sense today. There is some discussion of whether or not her message was original or stemmed from that Jesus Guy. Either way, it works for me.
    I also believe that "this is it" and we need to do our best with every day, not sit around waiting for some great reward.
    Did I hear Thunder & Lightning?

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  3. I'd say, give up your inlaws! Kidding!

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  4. Thanks for the comments. I was worried about writing anything about religion, but the Lent issue is weighing on my mind and Catholicism is a part of who I am, so I took the risk.
    What I find wondrous about religion is the commonalities of them. How humans have always sought to find answers and have come up with very similiar responses. That makes it all the more truthful to me. But I recognize that there are others who disagree and place their trust in the differences. I was surprised to learn that Muslims have a whole chapter in the Qur'an about Mary, as in Mom of Jesus, and honor her. Did not know that.
    Don't think I can do nothing for Lent, but some answer is bound to come to me.
    In fact, I've never read The Waterbabies. It's is on my list to read now. Sounds as though answers may be afoot there.
    As far as the in-laws... quite simply, distance is a blessing:>)

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  5. As you are tossed by the waves re-
    member, if you accept scripture that we attain salvation by grace,
    not works of our own(this is
    straight from scripture)then what
    you do about Lent has to do with
    your person piety(religious devotion and reverence to God) and has nothing to do with salvation,
    assuming your salvation has been
    secured.Rev. 18 v.4 instructs
    christians in the church to come out lest they suffer the punishment
    of the church. one final quote that
    cuts a very,very wide swath.
    John 14:6.(you must look it up)

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  6. I am more into spirit than religion, and I am not catholic, but I have friends who are and I always hated this sacrifice stuff, though I kept it to myself, but since you are asking. I do not believe God needs us to sacrifice things we love, it is silly and backwards to my mind and I believe God shakes his/her head in wonder at the things we cook up to please him/her :-). I like your idea much better and think God will too :-).
    I believe spirit wants us to DO the things we love.

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  7. LOL at Gail.

    I think service to others is always a good idea-usually a win-win situation for everyone. Thanks for the poignant piece.

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  8. I've often said that if I joined any church it would be the Catholic church, and if I did join my faith would be much like yours.
    Two blogging friends are Catholic and may post about Lent. Mibsy at classical calling has written in touching ways about her conversion as an adult.
    Lisa Allender seems to practice in a deeply personal but very unconventional way, and she's found a Catholic faith community in Atlanta that means alot to her.

    We are kindreds in the in-law department. My husband's step-father just retired from the Presbyterian ministry. He has an unswerving devotion to WASP Republicanism and an inclination to think very poorly of me!

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  9. Hi Magpie,
    I am passing on to you a Friendship Award. Please visit me to gather it up.

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  10. When I read your version of Catholicism, I thought, "She's an Episcopalian and doesn't know it."

    The Episcopal church is the landing place for many Catholics who like the rituals, liturgical seasons, and basic theology but chafe against the Vatican, restrictions on birth control, marriage for priests, the limited role of women, and the church's position on homosexuality.

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  11. Every year for Lent I do the same thing-
    For 40 days, I am only kind, only gentle, and only buy things that can bring joy to others. I don't technically sacrifice anything but I think Jesus likes it just the same.
    In all honesty, if I didn't give up something for a New Year's resolution, I'm probably not going to give it up at all...

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  12. hey, i feel what you are going through. i can tell you that most of us had this thought on our mind about our religion but are afraid to let it out, like why should'nt a priest get married and stuff like that. i am an anglican but at times i wonder if not being an anglican or maybe a christain means you are on your way to hell? To be frank with you, i dont think so. I think God will jugde us by the way we live with our self and others, not by being a catholic, or a muslim. we are all human and we will be jugde as such. love you blog.

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  13. Me too, at 61, I have always been puzzled by the whole Lent business. I am a practising Christian, but can't make head or tail of giving something up only to start all over again, after Easter. So - in my "wise old age" - I have decided to either give up something ENTIRELY, FOR EVER, starting at Lent; or, my fave, to do something to improve myself, or the lot of others - to be nicer, happier, more generous, etc. Perhaps it is more in keeping wiht the spirit of CHristianity, rahter than folowing the "sacrifice" line of the church.
    Just a thought! Good luck.

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  14. What a lovely blog. Worthy of Blog of Note, for sure.

    I (a similarly-minded Catholic) also struggle every year to find an appropriate Lenten sacrifice. This year I'm not sacrificing, so to speak, but making a conscious effort to replace a bad habit with a good one. I will:

    1) compliment my husband daily (to him)
    2) compliment my husband daily (to someone else)
    3) no complaining about my husband (to him)
    4) no complaining about my husband (to others)

    Another favorite in the past has been to "sacrifice" time by devoting 30 minutes per day to reading the Bible.

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  15. I found you through blogs of note, and as a recovering catholic, I can sense your unease at the whole lent thing. I was raised as a catholic, and didn't like the hypocritical nature ofthe religion, so I've studied world religions, and make my faith a part of me, and find myself to be very spiritual and grateful every day. That however was not the reason I chose to comment - I'm here to make suggestions.
    1. take the 40 day love dare.
    2. take your spare change every day for 40 days and donate it to a cause of your choosing.
    3. commit to being grateful every day of lent for what you have.
    4. commit to doing any or all of these things for the whole year, not just during lent.
    Good luck and keep us posted on how you choose to observe the season!

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  16. The wonderful photo of Holy Family in Union City brought back childhood memories! ... well, for my human. I'm a dog. What do I know?

    I did write a bit about Ash Wednesday and Lent tho. My human and I are "giving up" being afraid so we can be more compassionate and loving.

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  17. Aha! One of those "Thinking Catholics" a dangerous breed, and rare.
    My personal Spiritual Guide is Mrs. "Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By" from The Waterbabies, which was read to me as a child. I have no questions about her leadership. It still makes perfect sense today. There is some discussion of whether or not her message was original or stemmed from that Jesus Guy. Either way, it works for me.
    I also believe that "this is it" and we need to do our best with every day, not sit around waiting for some great reward.
    Did I hear Thunder & Lightning?

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  18. Hi,

    More than 'giving up' I have decided to meditate for 40 days-

    yes, giving up- I am going to stop grumbling...

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  19. I have read your blog for the first time today, but be sure, I will return regularly.

    I want to leave a comment on your in-laws attitude - it saddens me to read that they are so judgemental.

    I am also a born again Christian. I was raised in a reformed church, converted to the Anglican Church after marriage and then after a long search for meaning in my religious life invited Jesus into my life as my Saviour (Dont' worry, I'm not a Bible Puncher - just need to explain it the only way I know). Now for my point: Once I committed my life to Christ, I found that I feel happy and at home in any church that worships him. I know beautiful fellow born again Christians in many different denominations - after all, being a Christian means being part of the Church of Christ, not a denomination, building, theology or dogma.

    I am so sorry your in-laws obviously does not grasp the love and grace of Jesus to all his individual children, not denominations.

    Please do not let their attitude scare you off the biggenst adventure of your life namely, your relationship with Jesus.

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  20. I have never, ever been able to do something noble and out of the ordinary for a stretch of time with religious intent.

    So, I prepped myself by reading the Sermon on the Mount, and then tried to take my usual behavior and make it less annoying and irritating.
    It took about 8 years.

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  21. I don't keep Lent as such however I try to practice moderation in all things in my life. It is refreshing to find a blog where Christianity is discussed. I have been a Christian for 37 years and before that I was an Anglican, however not practicing. Don't worry about Hell, it is only the grave and if you believe that Jesus died for your sins and is resurrected than you shall have eternal life. (John 11 v 25)

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  22. we came from one father and mother

    any one who have search deeply about Islam? I mean deeply from muslim's tongue?

    dont jugde a thing by it's cover,

    :)

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  23. I have a lot to say about Lent. I invite you to pay me a visit so I can give you a cyber rap on the Lenten knuckles, as there is a lot of missing the point going on here.

    http://asksistermarymartha.blogspot.com

    type Lent in the search bar and go hog wild.

    but not too wild...it's Lent.

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  24. in our local pee-dee (the plain dealer which is cleveland's newspaper) saturday the religion writer wrote a column about giving for lent instead of giving up.... I love the concept and decided to embrace that idea.

    good for you being a 'thinking catholic' I was raised catholic....but have way too many issues with the church to even do cafeteria catholicism.... but catholicism has shaped me and many of the values I hold near and dear are directly due to the lessons I learned as a child....feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, etc.....but most of all love thy neighbor....

    although I wandered away from catholicism over 30 years ago, I still can't get myself to eat meat on friday during lent!

    now, if the church started ordaining women, recognized the rights of homosexuals, and lobbied in their churches against the death penalty as they do against abortion, oh no, my list is way too long.... and I'm pretty comfortable and happy with my amalgamation of spirituality

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  25. I just have to say, thanks for this post, and for giving us something of value to consider other than the distraction (tho painful and real) that is the fiscal mess in which we find ourselves. I just discovered your blog and am glad I did!

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  26. The point of lent isn't because we must "suffer" as some have said. It is the giving up of something we as humans "love", to show that our love for Jesus is way more than any love for anything here on earth. We are to give back to God for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us. To have the will power to tell ourselves no is a big YES to God! Lent is also about almsgiving and prayer, you can never go wrong with that!

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  27. Beautiful church picture and I understand how you feel about your in-laws. Mine are much the same. I'm a Born Again Christian, currently not attending any church, and live in a community of Christian Reformers. They truly believe they are the only ones going to to be saved. So sad that they make life so exclusive instead of inclusive. They miss out on so much love! Thats why we're in their lives I guess, to show them how to love better. Congrats on having the courage to speak what you believe!
    Also, giving up sunflower seeds for Lent-I enjoyed your blog.

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  29. I'm Catholic and many of us give up meat. I don't do it, don't know why. Well, either some of my family members give up meat for forty days then stuff their faces on Easter, lol, or they give up meat on every Friday throughout Lent.

    I think volunteering at an orphanage is a great idea.

    Just wanted to say your blog is amazing and some-what inspirational :).

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  30. Hello I'm reading your blog for the first time and appreciate it! I agree with VGrrl; I hear Episcopalian language in your message - I became an Episcopalian almost three years ago, and I found I really resonate with the reverence that can be found or given in the rites. This is the 2nd or 3rd time I am observing Lent; last year I decided not to do things that hurt myself in order to try to understand how God loves without limit, but this year I am back to giving up sweets. I am also spending 20 minutes each day meditating or practicing centering prayer, and I believe that these actions (saying no to myself and yes to time with God) are what Lent is about. Remembering our relationship with Spirit and remembering that we all struggle to not hurt people we are in relationship with.... so we take time each year to heal and be healed.... Thank you again for your note; also, I am looking forward to some really good chocolate cake come Easter. : )

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  31. I'm Orthodox, and Lent for us means
    1)forgiveness
    2)fasting, on many levels, including from some types and quantities of food, but mostly from sin.
    3)almsgiving--and this might mean giving time as well as material things if you have some extra from fasting. ;-)
    4)prayer
    The lenten struggle is called by our fathers spiritual athleticism. It all amounts to helping us pray and be more receptive to God's love and mercy. I'm hoping to write a blog on this soon.
    God bless your lenten season.

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  32. I used to be Catholic (well my family raised me as such)...but now I am a 'mere christian'. And as such, I have discovered that all the rituals Catholics do, like Lent, to honor Christ are unneccessary. If you plan to visit an orphanage then go any time of the year...not now, not because it's Lent. But because loving thy neighbor is what you are called to do every day of your life.

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  33. I found myself saying "Amen, Sister!" all through this post. I am a cradle Catholic who looks at the Church much like you do. Sometimes it's hard to hang in there, but something keeps me connected. I find myself posting in this topic every so often, too. I read a post like yours and realize that I am not alone! :0)

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Hey, thanks for your thoughts and your time:>)