“I never saw no miracle of science
That didn’t go from a blessing to a curse
I never saw no military solution
That didn’t always end up as something worse.”–Gordon Sumner
Honesty is usually the best policy in these moments. I like to read a lot of commentary and this commentary often brings inspiration. It’s not that they are feeling things I’m not feeling. It’s more the opposite. We are feeling the exact same things and they have managed to find a way to articulate it. I tip my cap to those folks instead of pretending like I’m the first person to come up with this.
It took me awhile to address it for any number of reasons. The main reason is that I’m supposed to be a rock that others can lean on. For years (in fact decades now) I have volunteered in my parish. That’s been across four parishes now if you count my local college as its own parish. It’s hard to be a role model for teenagers and admit to a struggle with faith.
The second reason is every writer wants to be original. Once someone famous or well known addresses your topic the first instinct is to abandon the topic and find something original. This is a fool’s errand. There is nothing that is truly original and you can kill yourself trying to find it. Of course, it’s an exercise in vanity anyway. Only a dozen or so people read this regularly, so who am I really trying to kid?
The truth is that the best we can hope for as writers is that our writing speaks to someone. If we couch something in a way that makes sense to at least one person we have done our job. Then, it doesn’t matter that whether someone else has said anything. Your words are the ones that matter to someone.
We have attended one mass in the last calendar year. We have attended a few others virtually. I could wax poetic about worrying about the pandemic or public safety. Sure, that’s partially responsible. Yet, we have been vaccinated for awhile and our daughter just got her first round this weekend. So, that’s not it.
Furthermore, confirmation classes have also become virtual. They give us a kit every month to go over at home. We have a stack of six of them at home. Maybe we will have time over the summer to cram in preparation of returning in person.
I’ve gone through this kind of malaise before. Usually they follow a personal setback where someone close has hurt me deeply. It happened when I was let go by a Catholic school and then had someone there try to torpedo my attempts to find work after the fact. It happened when someone at another parish hurt a friend and behaved badly. It happened when the program I used to volunteer with suddenly didn’t want me anymore.
None of these things happened this time. This time it was a combination of two things. First, more and more people that call themselves Christians don’t behave in a Christian manner. At first, it’s easy to separate bad behavior from our own faith journey. As it happens more and more it becomes more difficult to make that separation. When the few turns into the majority it is almost impossible to make that separation.
Admittedly, this is more of a public distinction than a private one. Most of the people at our parish are good people and that is a major departure from past situations I’ve gone through. While that is the case, it is increasingly difficult when the public face of a religion is increasingly beginning to look like something we don’t recognize as Christian.
In a related note, it is also difficult when those around you lose their faith. Keeping that faith going is hard work and it becomes harder when your own faith is wavering. I still want to volunteer but sometimes it’s hard when the church itself makes you jump through more and more hoops to get that done.
What’s hard to explain is that faith is not a straight line. There are times where we feel really strong and really connected and times when we don’t. There have been times when I’ve attended mass more than once a week and times when I’ve gone months without. That’s hard for someone that is supposed to be a role model to admit. It’s hard for someone that has considered being a deacon in the past to admit.
What’s most difficult is coming to grips with the notion that a faith in a higher power can be so effected by the men and women in our lives. It can be so effected by the men and women that are the shaman for that faith journey. It can be so effected by those that are supposed to be the personification of that love. We really should know better by now and somehow we still allow ourselves to be swayed by people. People are fallible.