I’ve been trying to put these words to paper for days now. The last time I attended Mass was on Father’s Day, just over two weeks ago. I look forward to Mass, whether it’s daily or Sunday. They each have their own style, their rhythm of worship, their benefit, their own spirituality. There is more laughter during a daily mass. I suppose it is the more informal of the two. Sunday is more musical.
I hadn’t expected to miss so many Masses. The first week I had two sons graduating, one from the fifth grade and one from high school. My brother came up for a visit. The end of that week brought relief, the stress floated away. I meant to go Saturday night, and I don’t remember why I wasn’t able to. I think there was a conflict of time, and I slept through both of Sunday’s services. I felt a twinge of guilt, but not too badly. It happens. I read my Bible, my Lectionary. I prayed the Rosary.
I’ve never gone to Mass out of obligation. For me, it’s always been a want-to-be-there; not a “hafta“. I enjoy being there. I get there before the opening psalm and I know my parts as well as my priest’s by heart. One would think that would make it boring, but it’s a comfort to be that close to the Word. I find joy in every moment.
I listen carefully to the Scripture readings and the Gospel and while I don’t really put myself in the place of the Scripture story or message, I do bring the message to my life: how does it fit? How does it relate to what’s going on for me? Does it give me more questions? Does it give me a word or phrase to think about, to pray on? Does it give me comfort and a gentle hand on my shoulder.
I thought perhaps that the joyful Friday, the Supreme Court’s decision for marriage equality, the reminder to everyone that I already knew that “gay” rights are civil rights unconsciously kept me from going. I knew this was only the beginning of the celebration and the ongoing march forward. I’m still rainbow festooned on all of my social media. I’m not ready to go back to the blandness of regular life.
I’m proud of my stand on equality. I can explain my position and unlike many other good people I have no qualms about my stand, and my beliefs. I do not have a crisis of faith. I find it easy, in fact to reconcile my LGBT+ beliefs and my Catholic faith.
It’s possible that subconsciously I was afraid to go to church where surely people more conservative than I would be discussing their views.
I decided at the end of that weekend that I would return to the Daily Mass the very next day.
I didn’t make it.
And I didn’t make it five more times.
It wasn’t until reading today’s email from my online Ignatian Spirituality Retreat that a series of words clicked for me.
“Unfortunately, we can’t change others, but we can be attentive and make sure that the good spirit is driving our choices.”
I read that, and it gave me pause. I went about my morning, but finally I came back to it this afternoon, and thought about what was keeping me from my worship services that I loved; that I missed.
For the last two weeks, my church (and many others) have participated in a Fortnight for Freedom. According to my research for this, it is “freedom to bear witness” to the truth of the Gospel.”
That’s not what I thought it was. At least that’s not what it seemed in looking at what our community prays about (when prayers are aloud).
Perhaps it’s that sometimes our preachers get too hung up on how Christians are perceived in the US. I’ve heard from friends who feel that this country doesn’t respect our freedom of religion.
That is truly a ridiculous notion. I don’t mean to offend anyone who does feel that way, but my question for you would be: how is your freedom of religion impeded in any way, shape, or form?
My answer is: it isn’t.
You aren’t persecuted or prosecuted. No one forces you to take or not to take holy sacraments. Not being able to inflict your religion on others against their will, and against their own religious beliefs is not actually your freedom being denied. In fact, it is you denying someone else their freedom.
I did not want to go to church lately, and pray for freedom of religion in this country. It’s hypocritical. What we’re really praying for is for others to kowtow to our beliefs; to force them to follow our doctrines. And I won’t have that.
When I read that statement in my email this morning: “we can’t change others” and “make sure that the good spirit is driving our choices,” I realized that I didn’t have to pray what others pray. I could pray for people and places that are truly under persecution; places where freedom of religion isn’t free.
I can pray for the ideals of this country and that they carry on for all its citizens, regardless of what they believe or don’t believe.
Baking a cake for someone who doesn’t believe what you believe isn’t standing up for your religion; it’s bigoted, and it makes a mockery of truly faithful people, who believe in and follow Jesus’ words and deeds.
Bake the cake, and pray for them. Do you bake cakes for divorced couples? For couples who live together? Adulterers? People on diets? Isn’t cheating on a diet lying? What about the fifty-year old person who wanted the icing to read: Happy 29th Birthday Again. If your business was a grocery store, would you refuse to sell gay couples milk for their baby because you don’t approve of their “lifestyle”?
It’s only in the ludicrous examples that show how ridiculous many of these people are acting. This doesn’t change what you believe, what you pray, what you support. It’s simply good manners. I think we should all pray for that.
I don’t know when I’ll return to church. I want to. It’s not the attending; it’s the going, the getting there, but I will.
I haven’t lost my faith; just my transportation.