Take Me to Church (Part 2)
Bless me Father, for I have sinned.
I’m not sure when I would have gone to confession if it hadn’t been for my upcoming trip, but I was going to St. Louis for the weekend, which meant I was going to Mass at the Catholic Student Center, which meant I was going to Mass for the first time in several months, which meant I had to go to confession in order to receive the Eucharist.
For your penance, I want you to pray an entire rosary.
For my non-Catholic readers, that’s 53 Hail Mary's broken up by the Apostles’ Creed, 11 Our Father’s, 11 Glory Bes, and 10 mysteries to meditate on. Most confessions warrant somewhere between 3 to 10 Hail Mary’s. As another Catholic friend put it, That could be one of two things, you've been very bad or God was really want [sic] to spend more time with you.
Debate God all you want, Catholic Guilt is Real.
Sunday 9p Mass at the CSC was my reset every week throughout my four years in St. Louis. I made a lot of friends through the CSC—insanely smart, kind, loving people—and solidified a few of my friendships on the team who also made the 9p Mass a part of their routine. It was not only the place where I worshipped, but also a place where I worked, studied, ate, napped, cried, and loved. I never once felt unsafe there. More than any place in St. Louis (and there were many) it was my home.
One thing I truly love about being Catholic is the ritual and the routine. No matter where you are, no matter what language it’s in, it’s more or less the same wherever you go. The same readings on the three-year cycle, standing, sitting, kneeling, the Gloria, the blessings, the Eucharist. A true Communion with friends and family to start the week, to reset, to start anew.
In the past year, the CSC has started turning the congregation’s focus to specific, small parts of the Mass. During my weekend there, the Mass focused on posture. How and why we stand, sit, and kneel throughout different parts of the Mass. How we greet God, how we have a conversation with God, how we revere and adore God. How we greet each other, how we have a conversation with each other, how we revere and adore each other.
Sometimes God is like an old friend, one who I can go days, weeks, months without speaking to, but come back to like nothing has changed. Sometimes the relationship feels like I’m shouting in an echo chamber, sometimes it feels like I’m meeting the extended family and I really don’t like any of them. Sometimes it feels like a romantic relationship, where maintaining it feels impossible because I don’t feel like I even know myself anymore.
The reasons I have for not regularly attending Mass now are complicated, but it stems from a want, a need to stray, push boundaries, and define my faith for myself. It’s still something I’m figuring out. Like any relationship, my faith goes through ebbs and flows, periods of deep growth and stagnation. One could say that, in not rooting my week in the Mass, in deliberately separating myself from the Church, my faith is in a period of stagnation. And in some ways, this is true. I probably have spent a lot less time actively thinking about Catholicism in the past year. But I also know it’s been a tremendous period of growth.
Catholic guilt is Ariadne’s string at the opening of the labyrinth. You can wander and stray and explore, but as long as you hold onto the string, you can find your way home. Perhaps we are meant to wander and stray and explore. Perhaps we need, must go into the labyrinth to defeat our monsters. Outside of Mass, I continue to stand, sit, kneel, pray, but I do it alone and in my own way.
Faith is weird and strange, but across all kinds of religions, there is the search for meaning, for community, for ourselves. My relationship with Catholicism is fraught, even a little broken, but it is so much of who I am. I’d love to hear more about your relationship (or lack thereof) with faith. How do you define faith? Is it important to you? What (who) do you have faith in?
All my love,