Friday, July 6, 2012

Buyers Wanted

      I went to a funeral yesterday,  The deceased was my 87 year old uncle.  He was also my godfather in the Catholic tradition.  John was truly salt of the earth, a genuine good person who lived a life worth emulating.  He was married to my aunt for lots of years (60+) and raised seven responsible, good people.  His children range in age from mid 40's to 60ish and, though I don't know most of them well, I have a huge amount of respect for all of them.

     John and Lucille were devout Catholics.  For their entire lives together they wrapped themselves and their children in the parish, the beliefs of the church, and the rituals and traditions of the faith.  Because their religion was essential to John and Lucille and to most (if not all) their grown children,  the funeral service reflected this value system.  I appreciated the opportunity to sit in the back of the church and observe and reflect on what unfolded in front of me.  I was raised in the Catholic faith but chose to set it aside when I was in college.  So, although the service did not reflect my current way of thinking, I was familiar with all parts of the ritual and I knew the beliefs behind the words and gestures.

    Although I know the beliefs behind the words and gestures, I just can't buy them.  I was impressed with the homily (aka sermon) delivered by another uncle who has been a Catholic priest for almost 50 years.  In his remarks, Fr Ralph talked about death being on a par with birth.  That is, when a child is born, he/she leaves the safe, familiar, comfortable world of the womb and is pushed out into a world of a million sensations - all new and most intense.  And the new born baby has no other choice but to ride it out and see where it all goes.  For the most part, most people would say the ride in the new world was worth it.  And so it goes:  when we die, we are being thrust into a new world and wonders await us there.  Sounds fine to me. I am open to what might come next.  I might even say I am curious.

     The way I heard it, Fr Ralph also talked about how people need a faith community in order to sustain their beliefs in Jesus Christ and all that He offers.  I guess that's where I'm stuck.  I don't have any problems with Jesus.  I like what He taught  but I also know that his words and life were recorded by people who may have distorted his words and actions for various reasons. The Catholic Church grew into a powerful institution and I don't want to participate in the rigidity and often close minded precepts that mark the twenty first century Church.  I don't know why Fr.  Ralph thinks we need a faith community.  I do need people and connections, no doubt.  But I don't want to be told what I must believe.  I have a finely honed sense of right and wrong by my own standards and I most certainly hold myself accountable. Do I need a community to keep me i check?  No, I do a pretty good job of that all by myself.  I have made mistakes.  Plenty of them.  But I live now with all those voices from the past.  I grew up feeling as if I could never be good enough for God - and now?  Now I think God would love me just the way I am.

   Don't get me wrong.  I am happy that people who want a faith community can have a faith community.  I'm just not comfortable with the notion that spiritual life is a one size fits all thing.  I am not disrespectful of any faith tradition. But please don't tell me I have to buy it.


 

8 comments:

  1. I really really liked this. As you know, I just went to my father's funeral last week. My mother belongs to the Nazarene church, although my father never attended. The service was in the funeral home, the Nazarene pastor conducted, my sister and I (both Mormons) and my brother (Catholic) spoke. It was wonderful. We all have similar beliefs . . . that is, we all believe in Jesus Christ. After that, our beliefs differ a little. But what doesn't differ is the fact that we love each other, that we know that Jesus Christ lives and loves each of us, and that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us NO MATTER WHAT! I think sometimes it's nice to have a church community who has the same beliefs - not to keep us in check (only we can do that), but rather to uplift one another.

    Anyway, I'm sorry to have rambled, and I'm sorry about your uncle :(

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    1. You didn't ramble! I appreciated your comments. I can't understand the global dissension re: religion but I suspect it is a whole lot more about power and people's desire for it than it is about God ....
      Thanks for the kind thoughts re: Uncle John. He was a good man.

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  2. Thanks for going and thanks for sharing. Uncle John has made it up here to Bell Springs many times, and his energy will be missed. He was a gentleman.

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  3. Well said, Gracie. Thanks for remembering Uncle John for us--he was one of the good guys, always looking out for others. I'll miss him.

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    1. Yes, I know a lot of people will miss him.

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  4. ahh, religion. Such a touchy subject, isn’t it? Actually what is interesting and curious to me is the amount of disagreement, often deadly and violent, surrounding the question of which religion is the “right” one. I am not at all knowledgeable about the beginnings and histories of any specific religion. But I do know that there has been much blood shed over my God, your God, his God, her God or no god.
    I too, was “raised’ to practice the rituals of the Catholic religion. I also no longer participate, and haven’t for a very long time. Now, when I do attend weddings or funerals in the church, I have the same reaction that you did. I question the “wholieness” of it all.

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    1. You said it so well, Lynda - the blood shed over my God, your God, his God, her God, or no God -- bingo. Let it rest and be good with your God and let others be good with theirs, right?

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