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Rebecca Gallo is trying to put into practice the lessons she learned while walking The Camino. Follow along as she continues her spiritual journey — whatever that might mean.

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April 24th, 2013

Everyone Does Their Own Religion

 
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gallo-blog-april-24I have a confession to make: I don’t go to church on Sundays. Nor any other day for that matter.

I know many who read this site are dedicated followers of Catholicism. I, however, am not. I’ve been going through a years-long process of discernment — trying to figure out if I still want to be part of a religion that no longer seems to fit with my beliefs.

Since I walked out of Mass in Santiago almost a year ago, I have been to a Catholic Mass just three times — all at the invitation of others.

It was during the first that I realized I was no longer sitting there angry: at the stance the Church chooses to take on gay marriage, on women in the priesthood, on celibacy. I was no longer trying to fit into a place where I didn’t belong. I was there this time as an observer. “Oh  this is how they choose to live out their religion,” I thought, as if I was attending some other religious service I hadn’t grown up attending. Just like everyone does their own Camino, everyone does their own spirituality. Who am I to judge?

These days, I call myself a “recovering Catholic.” Some will find this offensive, but I have been amazed at how well-understood I am when I use this phrase. Many nod in agreement when I say those words. Some even say, “Oh! Me too!” Because for me, Catholicism is something that I don’t know that I will ever be “over.” Nor do I care to be. It will always be part of who I am. I have no desire to cover it up, deny it, forget about it. I walked that path for a long time. I know it well. It looks different now than it did when I was a child, however. What was once the accepted path no longer seems to look like the right direction for me.

I can still appreciate those that have “kept their faith.” It reminds me of one of the most important lessons I learned while walking the Camino to Santiago: Everyone walks their own Camino. We are all on our own journeys — spiritually or otherwise. Some choose to share their journey with others. I have chosen to do so via this blog. Busted Halo is, after all, an online magazine for spiritual seekers. It was that tagline that caused me to peruse this site years ago when I was looking for information about walking the Camino. A spiritual seeker? That was me — a pilgrim unsure of which path I wanted to follow.

Just like on the Camino, there are many routes. Many who walk don’t even have the same destination in mind. Some veer off, find another path that seems to suit them better. I have lately been practicing meditation and studying Buddhism. But like any path, I may one day decide to turn around, or to take another turn. I don’t feel any obligation to wish that everyone was on my same path. There is no one “right way” when it comes to religion or spirituality.


What has the journey been like for you? What other paths have you tried? What turns have you made? 

 
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The Author : Rebecca Gallo
In the spring of 2012, Rebecca Gallo spent six weeks walking the Camino to Santiago. Rebecca writes about putting into practice the lessons she learned on that journey. She's continuing her spiritual journey -- looking for deeper meaning, asking questions of all she's believed before, and finding answers in the people she meets and the experiences she has along the way.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • http://www.facebook.com/wendy.wajda.9 Wendy Wajda

    Becky: I believe that religion is for humans, not God. We need it to get closer to Him and build community through Him. I have been on an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) team for the past 2 years. It is amazing how people coming into the Catholic faith respond to the overwhelming love of Christ. I wish those of us who were born into the faith could have the same experience…my faith benefits so much by seeing others grow spiritually. The message of Jesus Christ is so simple, and freeing, yet we get caught up in the little things. Begin by reading the Gospels and see where it leads you….love W

  • Avila

    Rebecca – Your post greatly resonates with my own Camino. I was raised Catholic and am presently rediscovering this beautiful faith. Let me share with you how I got there.

    I grew up in a nominally Catholic home. We attended mass, prayed the blessing before dinner, and my parents made sure I attended religious education classes and stayed current with the sacraments. I do not remember praying as a family (apart from the blessing), discussing prayer, or really ever talking about God. We were that family that would joke Catholics don’t read the Bible and that would occasionally sneak out after communion so that we didn’t get stuck in traffic exiting the parking lot(!)

    By the time I was out of high school, I disagreed with the Catholic Church on nearly every point pertaining to sexual morality and gender equality. I supported a woman’s right to choose, birth control, and gay civil unions (there was less talk about gay marriage then). I also believed that the Church’s position on chastity, which extends to a marriage, was stodgy and out of touch. While I agree with Deanna that these matters are technically more peripheral, it often felt like it was all I heard – on the news, in homilies, in religion classes etc. Sure enough, I stopped going to mass.

    In my early 20′s I continued to explore and visit other churches. I enjoyed the music in the gospel churches a great deal, but the sermons could be frighteningly intolerant of others. At the other end of the spectrum, it was easy to like the sermons at the Unitarian Universalist Church, because they support every single liberal view. The problem: in comparison to the ceremony of mass, the Universalist Church didn’t feel spiritual. Plus, the music was pretty bad. I had to fight the urge not to groan during the kumbaya, we love peace, where is the campfire and s’mores brand of services. I eventually became one of those spiritual but not religious types.

    Then by a turn of chance I discovered meditation and learned a variant of transcendental meditation. For a couple of years I meditated religiously twice a day for twenty minutes each time. I credit this experience with being the turning point in Christ leading me back to his Church. For the first time, I experienced a tiny taste of what it was to dwell in God’s presence. I wanted to experience more. I somehow was drawn to the writings of Thomas Merton (the Trappist monk) which led me to learning about the rich meditative and contemplative prayer traditions of the Catholic Church. I switched my meditation mantra from Sanskrit to the Aramaic word Maranatha.

    I slowly started attending a nearby church that held a candlelight mass on Sunday evenings with a Latin choir. I fell in love with the liturgy and the beautiful Gregorian chants that could stir my soul. The homilies were thought-provoking, challenging, and applicable to my life. I wanted to learn more about the Catholic faith, because my understanding of it was sadly rules-based. Two books that drew me closer to the Church were Rome, Sweet Rome and Mere Christianity. I continue to read the Bible, the Catechism, and books on the Hebraic origins of Catholicism. The more I learn about how Catholicism is Judaism fulfilled (and it explains so much about the faith), the more I know that it truly is Christ’s Church.

    Although my knowledge and fascination grew with the books I devoured, the most fundamental change came when I adopted a spirited prayer life. In my youth, I never prayed more than the minute to recite the blessing. No wonder meditation seemed great in comparison! I now pray 3-4 times a day, not including mealtime blessings. Meditation pales in comparison to the closeness I now feel with God when I meditate on the rosary or engage in contemplative prayer. In order to experience the benefits of meditation, you are supposed to mediate for at least 20 minutes, twice a day every single day. If I had that kind of commitment to my prayer life, I doubt that I would have wandered from the Catholic faith in search of something to fill my soul.

    I’m now at peace with the Church’s positions on sexual ethics, but it resulted from study and prayer. I came to understand how the Kingdom of Heaven, the Church, and a Catholic home are harmoniously aligned with one another. I also came to understand the role of covenants, both between God and his people and between spouses in the marital covenant. These revelations led me to the truth that the Catholic Church’s positions are not just moral, but divine.

    The most bitter pill I had to swallow was the realization that the U.S. is not a Christian country, it’s a political society. Neither the values of the Republican nor Democratic parties fully adhere to Christian values. These days I’d much rather have Christ and his Church define my values than current political opinion. With that said, we live in a pluralistic society, and I’d hate for others to be legally required to live according to my Catholic faith. By analogy, I would hate for someone else’s faith to prohibit my enjoyment of beer and bacon. God gave us free will so that we might choose to love Him, and that really isn’t impacted by the surrounding laws or popular opinions. It’s the same struggle regardless of whether you live in Christiandom or post-modern America.

    Thank you for your courage in writing and may the Lord comfort you as you struggle in your dark night of faith.

  • James

    There is no one “right way” when it comes to religion or spirituality”

    After Jesus was brutally tortured and publicly humiliated and as nails were being pounded into his hands (assuming you believe in the passion. Respectfully) was Jesus thinking:
    A. I’m doing this so that they know that I am the way, so that they will be one.
    Or
    B. I hope they will figure something out, develop some really good personal philosophies.

    Love ya sister and know of my prayers for your reversion.

    Jesus Christ is the way

  • teresa

    In his book, “The God of Suprises”, the late Gerard W Hughes, SJ, mentioned that “We find God in and through our human development”. He goes on to say, “To illustrate this truth I shall draw on ideas contained in the first volume of a two-volume work by von Hugel, called The Mystical Element in Religion, which I have found very useful for understanding my own and other peoples’ religious development… Von Hugel takes the three main stages in human development – infancy, adolescence and adulthood – describing the predominant needs and activities which characterize each stage. He shows that religion must take account of and nurture the predominant needs and activities of each stage, and so concludes that religion must include three essential elements, an institutional element corresponding to the needs and activities of infancy, a critical element corresponding to adolescence, and a mysticl element corresponding to adulthood. As he analyses each stage of growth, he is careful to show that the needs and activities of infancy do not disappear in adolescence, nor do the needs and activities of adolescence disappear in adulthood, but they should cease to be predominant if we are to grow into the following stage… Religion must include all three elements, the institutional, critical and the mystical.” I am a cradle Catholic, who like many other cradle Catholics I know, got stuck in the institutional stage. I Inherited my faith, attended catechism classes, went to mass on sunday, but I never came to an experience of God, so I did not own my faith. It was only after I began questioning my faith, “trying to find unity and meaning in.. the facts, teachings, beliefs” that I found myself moving forward. “If the critical element is not fostered” wrote Fr Hughes, “Christians will remain infantile in their religious belief and practice, which will have little or no relation to everyday life and behaviour”. Although I did not venture out to explore other religious traditions, I began to see truth in faith traditions other than my own, which led me to open up my mind and heart to truth as God was revealing it to me. It was only after a series of deep losses in my life that I began to let go into the mystery that God was inviting me to. Having reached this point in my life, I can understand why many people have left the Catholic Church in search of truth elsewhere. It is a journey. Still, I chose to remain in the faith of my childhood and am now more appreciative than ever of being Catholic and owning my faith. Just as we are not perfect, the church, made up of people is not perfect. But in it I have found the fullness of truth, as Jesus has revealed it. Even so, I do believe there are many paths to God because no one religion can claim Him for their own. God is mystery and if we are to enter into that mystery, we need to let go and let God take us to where He is.

  • Deanna

    Dear Rebecca,

    I encourage you to search for truth rather than try to squeeze a religion into fitting with your beliefs. The only really good reason to believe anything is because it’s true. Trying to make reality conform to your beliefs isn’t going to work. At most you’ll just create an imaginary world (as most of us do) and be upset and angry when reality threatens your beliefs.

    I guess I’m a bit surprised at the causes for you leaving the church: gay marriage, celibacy, women’s ordiantion. Those are not really part of the core beliefs. I’m not saying they’re unimportant, just that they’re kind of peripheral. Take a look at the creed – the faith we profess: I believe in God, the Father, in Jesus Christ, his only son who was crucified, died, and rose from the dead, and in the Holy Spirit. Do you believe that? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. If so, trust God to lead you in truth, ask questions, read books, bring your doubts and struggles to Him. (I, too, struggled for a time with the teaching on gay marriage and women’s ordination). If you don’t believe in God, still earnestly seek out truth. Truth will still challenge you and will provide a standard against which you can measure your beliefs.

    I was keeping up with your camino posts last year. Even though I don’t know you, I do care about you and I am praying for you.

    Deanna

  • http://www.mitchandkathyfinley.com/ Mitch Finley

    Some of the great conversion accounts of the 20th century focus largely on a search for truth; today, many seem to search not for truth but for the right feeling… Also, in the past there was concern about the problem of sin and evil, which doesn’t seem to concern many today, even in the era of terrorism, etc.

  • Patrello

    I struggle with the church as well and sometimes wonder if I am being called to leave it. Then again, the church has a variety of different perspectives. While I generally disagree with the traditionalists, I do believe there is some value in what they have to offer – somewhere. Similarly I believe the extreme liberals in the church have something to offer as well. I guess we wrestle with it all in between some how, which can be a real cross to bear for a lot of us. I don’t think I will leave as I believe that would be akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water.
    All that said, I would encourage your practice of meditation. I believe God is ever present to us and in the practice of being fully aware in the present moment I think we can discover God speaking to us in new ways. Remain ever true, honest. Check out the Catholic contemplatives, Merton, Pennington, Keating ….

  • Godcries

    When is my choice just a call to be different? When is the search more about the search than about finding the answers? Catholicism is not an easy faith practice, maybe that is why we esteem men and women who have given us a true living out of their faith, our saints. People are not reliable, true, but are you looking for a church of holy people? Thank goodness the Catholic church allows sinners to walk in the door, be baptized and continue to ‘struggle’ for holiness. I would be ousted from a ‘perfect’ church if there is such a thing. We humans are all affected by concupiscence. But Jesus died that we might be freed of ‘uncontested damnation’. Jesus has given us ‘THE church’. That being true (historical fact if you read the scriptures) then do you not want to be affiliated with the one, true church. Look at the creed, ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC, APOSTOLIC. Yes, there is a difference in beliefs, yes there are different paths, but the Catholic Church has 2000 years of faithful witness and preservation of the church established by Jesus on the rock who is Peter, the first Vicar and following from him (an apostle) ungoing succession of authority through 266 Popes. The Christian faith is the only faith whose leader (Jesus Christ) died and resurrected. Of all the Christian faiths that abound today there is none that can trace itself back beyond 1524 when Martin Luther broke with the Catholic church. So, if you are going to accept Jesus and Christianity, it is not about which is the ‘true’ church. If it is about just any walk in life, then you open up a whole array of practices but you leave the t trajectory of the Catholic and Christian faith completely behind.

  • http://twitter.com/liberteh liberteh

    It’s funny, I’m a Catholic Revert. There is so much selfishness in the world. All those I know who bounce from church to church looking for the right “feel” of a church seem selfish to me…like I was (and occasionally still am) when I was away from the Faith and the Church. I quietly think to myself, that I wish they knew what I have learned and come to understood in my journey.

    Simply put, that we will always be disappointed when we put our faith in people. People are not God, not Christ, they can not redeem us. The same is true with the individual in a Priest or Bishop. It is not the man who forgives me, or gives me the graces of the Eucharist, it is God. I have often been disappointed by a member of the clergy, but they are not God, they are not perfect, and they struggle with their sufferings just as I do. It is selfish of me to expect Christ-like perfection from the clergy.

    I spent years away from the Church following my will…including doing whatever I needed to do to maintain an appearance of being Catholic enough to please my parents and be married in the Church. Two kids, a divorce, an annulment and a lot of searching for answers over the years and I’m back in the Church where I (and every other child of God) belong.

    Its certainly not convenient to accept the Christ’s teaching on things like marriage and chastity. But more difficult is to understand and accept the Christ’s teaching on suffering…The why’s behind God/Christ’s proposal (not imposition) that everyone who is not married should live chaste lives. The why’s behind marriage defined as a union between a male and a female until death and how earthly marriage reflects the spiritual marriage between Christ (the bridegroom) and the Church (the bride).

    It was not convenient, and very selfish of me, to turn away from Christ and his Church and turn into sin when I was suffering. I did things my way, not God’s way, and a good number of people have paid a devastating price. There is something to be said for those who choose to turn toward God and away from themselves…the Saints…they all figured out how to let go of their selfishness and accept that which was given to them. They all suffered joyfully with everything they were given. They new what the prize is, that only God can satisfy the longing in our hearts, there is no person or thing that can fulfill that longing.

    I want what they obtained. Joy and salvation through humble acceptance of God’s design and willingness to accept suffering through the trial of this earthly existence.

    I pray that you and all who search to see that the Christ’s Church is the way to Him, and through Him to the God the father.

    • Avila

      Wow! Thank you for sharing your humbling path to Christ. I hope you find encouragement and further inspiration in the many examples in the Bible and the lives of saints from those who chose to turn toward Christ and lean on him.

  • Rachel DB

    It is ok for people to choose their own religion, and especially to drop one for another or all together. One of my friends used to call me a Cafeteria Catholic, and i knew she meant it in a challenging way; that I shouldn’t be allowed to choose parts of Catholicism I like, and leave the others that I don’t like. I used to think she was just really judgmental, holier-than-thou.

    But now I am realizing that all religions have a set code that eventually leads to the “better version” of the person. Through each religion, we can follow it’s rules to attain something, whether it is the Kingdom of God on Earth, Heaven, Nirvana, Bliss. The doctrine lead us in a direction of peace. I agree with you fully, Rebecca, to put one down or pick one up. To keep the parts of Catholicism that are still with you, but to also seek something else that fits your spirituality. I think my hesitancy comes that people may recover from Catholicism by dropping all the codes that challenge them to live better, then turn to a different religion and do the same thing. We need to be challenged by religion to form our spirituality.

    I love the Sacraments of Catholicism, but I don’t like and don’t agree with some of its social positions. I am especially challenged by how the Church treats its own women and LGBT members and supporters. But in those challenges, I have delved deeper into the Gospel of Jesus and formed my spirituality.

    May our God, who calls us all to be bringers of peace, Bless you and your journey!

    • Godcries

      You make a lot of good points, but why do you say “it is ok to choose your own religion” instead of challenging Rebecca’s thinking. Yes there are rules in every religion, and there are many choices out there, however, why would you encourage someone to follow that which you know is false. Read my comment at the top regarding history. Lapsed Catholics constitute the second largest church affiliation in the US. Does that not mean something to you? We have so poorly educated and supported our members that people are thinking if the wind blows crosswise they must be wrong about where they stand. Catholics have more resources today than ever before to dig into the richness of the Catholic faith and see the hand of God working in the church. It is the same faithful God who brought the Jewish people through the desert experience. Come on, stand firm on the foundation you are professing. Greater trials are on the way, root yourself in truth while you still can.

      • Rachel DB

        please don’t quote to me why Catholicism is the one tru religion, from within Catholicism. If you do, find someone like a vowed atheist, someone who has written against religion before, to say tthat Catholicism is not only valid, but the onone true religion. I would ask the same if ypu wwere saying Islam was the only way to experience God.
        How can I say she has the choice to say she can choose her own religion? Because there is no unbiased evidence or theologians of any religion that proves what you are saying.
        Religion is like different fingers pointing at the moon. Sadly, too many people get caught up in how you are pointing to the moon, or that theirs is the oonly way to point at the moon.
        There is no One True religion. And Congrats to Rebecca for continuing on a spiritual journey and bring us spiritual seekers with her!

      • Godcries

        What are you seeking in your Religion? Do you believe Jesus Christ is the ‘ordained’ representative of God to humankind. Jesus Christ mission on earth was for the salvation of all humankind. He alone has the power to redeem man from mankind’s own deception and misinterpretation of God’s law. Why would Jesus come to us, be sent to us, to suffer and die, then leave us without a VERY clear path to follow in His footsteps. Not only would it be ‘irrational’ for Him to leave the Church he founded without a guarantee for redeeming mankind down through the ages, but he would set in place Guardians of that path (faith). This he has done through the representatives of Himself, first Peter, and successively, all the Popes, the Vicars of Christ. Yes, infallible by design, not in human decisions, but in all things regarding revealed person and truth of Jesus and the doctrines of His Church. Why would an atheist have better ‘proof’ of God’s plan for humankind? How can I ‘believe’ an atheist? How is his or her opinion to be verified? Truth is not some nebules that goes the way of the wind. Truth is absolute or it would not be Truth. Ask yourself where you go to find Truth? May you continue your search until that Truth that cannot be ‘reasoned’ away grow and blossom in your soul.some

      • Rachel DB

        I like how you said “ask yourself where you go to find Truth?” I think that is exactly what Rebecca’s post is about–that she is on a journey and she finds that she can seek Truth through Buddhism. I think that all religions can be ways to seek Truth. I like how Mitch and you talked about conversion as a way of seeking Truth. I just don’t think only one religion is the Only way to seek that eternal Truth.

      • Godcries

        Each of us has his/her own spirituality. Each of us grows our spirituality in the encounters with ideas and people we let into our lives. I am trying to find where you see Religion and Spirituality. Are they one and the same thing for you? Spirituality is about all seekers. Religion is about the paths people travel to ‘live out’ their spirituality. Meditation and contemplation (two separate tools of spirituality) are present in all religions. It is the about the ‘what/who’ of our meditation and contemplation that delineates the outcome. Soul searching is definitely an individual journey. However, as with any journey there are those that are blind alleys and those that are crooked, filled with obstacles, and all exertion seems to bring you back to square one, such is the circular way of seeing no forest for all the trees. All of us have a responsibility to find our Truth. All of us are given graces to help us along that path. If you are preparing for a career in nursing, why would you pursue mechanical engineering? That may seem a crude analogy, but the point is, we trust the findings of the ‘world’s ‘knowledge base, but hang our salvation on our own ‘feeble’ opinions. Trust and truth are not to be separated. That spirituality onoften blind search

  • Mitch Finley

    “If you can find a perfect church, go ahead and join it, but as soon as you do it won’t be perfect anymore.” – Andrew Greeley

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.thelen.96 Daniel Thelen

    I am a free-thinker and recovering Catholic too! Life becomes so beautiful when you can just be who you are and live authentically

    • Godcries

      Explain, authentic.

  • Andrew Guidroz, II

    “There is no one “right way” when it comes to religion or spirituality.”
    John 14:6

    How could someone walk the Camino and not even think about this?

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