I haven't had a whole lot of time to blog lately. My life has been pretty all consuming between my seven children, their dad being gone for two weeks, and this little teeny, tiny, thing my friends and I are doing on the side....
Putting together a Women's Conference. (I'll be blogging more about this later, because it's nearing crunch time and well, my brain is on overdrive with planning and selling tickets!!)
My girlfriends and I have been solving the world's problems for years. By "solving" I mean, coming up with solutions for all the problems in our world, but not really...
One of our "problems" we wanted to solve was how could we get the women in our diocese, our own parishes, to want to learn more about their faith. To want to grow in their faith.
I can tell people until I'm blue in the face that our faith is awesome. The Catholic Church is truly the one true church founded by Jesus Christ Himself. I can share facts, information, share with them the papal lineage from Peter all the way to Francis. I can give book lists, pour out my heart and soul over books that completely changed my life, honestly try to convince women that I don't have a million children because I don't use birth control, but because I have a whole new appreciation for how God created family, sex, and my relationship with my super hero hubs...
I can sincerely share that I was about the farthest from my faith just 18 short years ago, but because of God's grace, He shared with me the true beauty of the Eucharist and opened my eyes to the True Presence of His Body, Blood, Soul, & Divinity found in the Eucharist.
I can try to share with them the Love Story that is our faith, and how beautiful it all ties in with Jesus and His ultimate gift for us.
There are books, friends, websites, witnesses, that I could share that completely impacted how I view the Catholic Church, but none of it matters.
Unless women feel that desire in their own hearts? They will have none of it. They would rather "do something fun" than learn about that old stuffy Catholic faith.
I actually had a woman share with me that she would attend Mass, and take her kids to religion, but other than that, it wasn't important to her. Honestly. I appreciated her honesty more than she'll ever realize because she speaks for large volumes of not just women, but lots of Catholics in our church.
And our Church continues to try to figure out how to "fix" this problem. We have had awesome, and incredible programs developed and shared across the board. From Lighthouse Catholic Media, to Ascension Press, to Life Teen, to the incredibly huge volume of reverts and converts who are so talented in communicating their conversion stories either onto a CD, or writing a book that is super easy to read and incredibly inspiring and informative.
Slowly, some are reading these stories and seeking conversions themselves. But last weekend, I had the opportunity to speak at all SEVEN Masses at my parish, and I sat in the back vestibule, so I had the rare opportunity to see everyone who left through the middle doors, and I was really surprised at the groups that left in droves first.
It was my generation.
Sure there were the occasional blue hairs who probably had dinner plans and early bedtimes, but a great portion of them were actually people my age, leaving with their families. Before Mass was over. Way before Mass was over.
I know we all have the occasional conflicts with Mass, but I'm talking Mass exodus! Do people know or understand what they are missing out on? I'm thinking they don't. There is a disconnect going on. Our parents, and our parent's parents, went to church out of obligation. I'm guessing many stopped asking the "why do we do this?" as each generation became less and less familiar with the "whys." I know when I would ask, I would simply get a "because."
We've done a huge disservice to our people. We could look at pretty much every single person involved to find blame, but why.... All we need to know is some how, some way, a disconnect occurred. Church became unimportant for the simple fact that it was not understood. It was old. It was archaic. The priests were old and didn't understand what life was like outside the four walls of Church. (all of these things are things I truly believed in my own heart!) People found joy, excitement, fun, outside the Church and suddenly before we knew it, Mass was important only on those days when nothing interfered with it that was more important, like sports, work, sleep, vacation, etc.
People don't know what they're missing out on. I certainly didn't. Nor did I care. When I see these people at Mass, I don't get irritated, or mad, or angry. I sincerely pray for them and ask God to please light that fire within them to want to seek out the truth for why they come. To earnestly seek answers for the "why" and pray about what they struggle with believing.
One of the worst excuses for missing Mass I've ever heard is that "the church is just full of hypocrites, I can't stand to be in there with all of them...." I agree. To an extent. Because I'm one of those hypocrites.
Any time I yell at my kids, lie to a friend, gossip about someone behind their back, am lazy in my prayer life, complain about my "crazy" life, I am a hypocrite. Any time I don't treat others the way I want to be treated? I am a hypocrite. Any time I don't love God above all else, taking His name in vain, swearing with His name, ignoring Him by not praying, only acknowledging Him when I NEED him when times are tough, or heaven forbid, unfair, I am a hypocrite.
Anyone who thinks Jesus Christ came to just be with the righteous, might want to re-read some of His parables. He came to heal the sick. Not just the physically ill sick, but ALL of the sick. And sin is what the sickness is and I can assure anyone who tries to tell me that they've accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and their sins are all forgiven, that they.still.sin.
We all still sin. I wake up every single day and pray to God that I'm going to try all over again to be good today....
That usually lasts about as long as I'm the only one in the house awake because as soon as any of my little minions wake up, I'm doing or saying something I usually regret after they go off to school. I'm certainly not proud of my choices, but I am honest enough with myself to know that I preach how to be a good Christian and how we should live our lives, but I'll be the first to admit, I fail a lot. Daily. Hourly at times....
That's the beautiful thing about my faith. I have these amazing Sacraments. I can go to confession, receive those graces to keep fighting the good fight, and keep plugging away in this world that would rather I just toss my religion out the door and start 'doing for me' and 'living in the moment.' I can go to Mass every single day and receive the Body and Blood of Jesus and pray for specific intentions at that very moment when Heaven and Earth come together and all those who have gone before us are there, celebrating with us the source and summit of our faith.
I would give anything to teach the women of our faith the beauty hidden within the four walls of our Church. When I watched the families leaving sometimes before communion, I could see almost a sense of not belonging. It's as though they are there, but not really there. It's as though it's just another thing they "do" instead of something they have ownership in and with. My heart was breaking in so many ways as they left and every chance I got to smile or say Hi as they left, I did it.
How do we reach those who feel they have nothing in common with our faith? How do these beautiful women of God make that head to heart connection and begin to have the desire deep down inside to learn the "whys" and "hows" of the Catholic faith?
Well, in the grand scheme of things, we can do what we can. We can continue to offer these amazing programs, books, CD's, and even doing what my girlfriends and I are doing and offering conferences and bringing in some of these amazing Catholic speakers, but ultimately? We have to pray. We have to pray, make sacrifices (I'm going to drink just one cup of joe today instead of four...), and continue to smile and say hi to all the people we see leaving with that same look. The look that says they might want to learn something more, but maybe they're just afraid. Or maybe their pride, like mine, is just a bit too much right now and they just won't. Not until they're ready. Or maybe, just maybe, our prayers will cause some of the blinders to be lifted and one of these beautiful women will decide, I want to know why we do this....
And for her, I'll be waiting. Because I can't wait to tell her all about the amazing love story that is our faith....