Last month, I freed my rosary from hiding. We’ve had a tumultuous relationship. I never used the thing on my own, dragging it out mainly for various parochial school events. My rosary was a gift. The kind of thing my grandmother suspected I would need after my Confirmation. So far, she was wrong. But getting my rosary out now at the age of 25 sparked the start of reconciliation between me and my religion.
Though I attended a Jesuit university, I haven’t taken Communion since my freshman year. As I was sharpening my critical thinking skills, it didn’t take long for me to aim that razor toward my faith. Severing me from Catholicism were some major points: women’s role in the Church, celibacy for priests and the Church’s position on homosexuality.
I thought that a religious organization that didn’t reflect my views like a mirror wasn’t an organization worth my time. I couldn’t see myself as a Catholic or a Protestant. I started referring to myself as a “Catholic in Protest”; I was in religious identity purgatory. After I stopped taking Communion, I soon refused to attend Mass. What would be the point? I left my church and my religion behind.
I never left Christianity though, and an important lesson I took from all my Catholic exposure was the need to act, not just pray. After college, I was dedicated to fighting for human rights causes, and with every issue I was involved in, Catholics, both religious and lay, were beside me. I saw priests and nuns walking picket lines and marching in protests, teens giving up their Saturday mornings in the name of volunteerism, and people dedicating their lives to living simply and working for non-profits. For many of these people it is the Catholic Church that motivated them, and although I wasn’t in church with these people, I was inspired by their spirituality.
Gradually I was able to admit to myself that, like the people I was working with, I too was motivated by Christ’s love.
Finally, I was able to see the mirror reflection that I had been looking for. Right in front of me was a church that works to take care of people, showing love the “Jesus way.” My kind of people.
I had not abandoned my faith as I had thought, and all the lessons taught by Catholicism stayed with me, guiding my life though I didn’t realize it. I have always been a Catholic by culture, if not always by belief. The Church is a fundamental part of how I relate to the world. I can’t stop believing in transubstantiation. I don’t want to stop praying to Mary. I’ve been brought up in the fold and I don’t want to leave. The Catholic Church is woven into my imagination and my vision of Christianity. I can’t shed it.
The issues I have with the Church remain unresolved. But I am proud of what Catholicism does right. Every human-run institution is flawed. Just as a child grows to see her parents as individuals, with both good and bad qualities, I accept the faults of my Church. I’ve kept my rosary on my nightstand as a challenge to get Catholicism back into my life. Last week, I attended Mass. No Communion yet, but I think I’ll be ready soon. Until then, I’ll have Mary’s ear, rosary in hand.