Tag Archives: Guilt

I Stayed

I recently read a blog post by someone who used to be Catholic and is no more. She said that many aspects of Catholicism were a hindrance to her faith. She learned many things about the Catholic Church through sermons and other things, and never enough about Jesus. This post is in defense of Catholicism. I’m writing this because there was a time when I was in the same boat. I was very close to leaving the Catholic Church for almost the same reason. Ultimately, I did the exact opposite. I jumped right in, and this is why.

Initially, I stayed for convenience. I went to CCD (Sunday School) and grew up in a Catholic Church just a mile from my house. It’s extremely easy to walk or drive to, and it’s right next to the elementary school I attended. Many of my friends went there, and my dad actually taught our CCD class when we were really young. Sometimes, because three of the kids, including myself, lived in the same neighborhood, we would have class at my house. Later, I kept going to CCD and I kept going to Mass because A) my parents made me, and B) because it had become a habit by then. At the time, as far as I can remember, I really didn’t get much, if anything out of it, at least not consciously. The truth of the matter, which I didn’t realize at the time, is that, when it comes to faith, particularly Catholic faith, you have to put in effort to get anything real out of it. I think that’s true of any relationship.

What didn’t matter until some time later is that most of my extended Family is at least culturally Catholic. Many of them don’t practice, but the particulars of Catholicism matter to the ones who do, and that made me hesitant to leave once faith actually started to matter to me. I thought about leaving because, at the time, I was attending a Christian college, and Jesus seemed so much more alive there than at my church. Even during class, people would talk about their personal experiences of God’s love, and I wanted that. During worship services, fellow students would play contemporary worship music, instead of the boring hymns we sang on the weekends. At the time, that mattered. The music at school moved me. The music at church did not.

Two things Christians of other denominations often take issue with are the Sacrament of Reconciliation (i.e. confession to a priest), and the matter of transubstantiation (whether or not, and if so, how Jesus is actually present in the Eucharist). I intentionally went to confession for the first time during Lent this year. The first time I went, I was six or seven. This was before I took my first communion. The second time was about ten years later when I was confirmed. The third time was when I was acting as my brother’s Confirmation sponsor, three years after that. I didn’t want to. I went several months ago because there was something on my mind, and even though I had talked about it with God, and asked for forgiveness, it still bothered me. According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, the priesthood and the hierarchy as a whole, is directly descended from the first priests (the twelve Apostles) not by blood, obviously, but by appointment. Jesus gave them the right to act in his name on this Earth–to teach and to forgive sins. They do not act as God. They act for him. It’s an important distinction. When Jesus sends his disciples to do his work, he says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” So clearly, they have the right to do this, but it’s important to remember that it’s really God who forgives.

I didn’t go because I didn’t feel like my sins were not forgiven. I went because I wanted to talk to someone. Talking directly to God often feels easier than talking to a person about the darkest parts of my soul. At the same time, I just needed to get it out, and I needed to hear from an external source that I was okay. I don’t like going to confession, but I go now because I can look at someone who is acting in God’s name and hear, quite conclusively, that I am, in fact, forgiven. I need that reassurance. Furthermore, going to confession does two important things: it forces me to really examine myself from an emotional and spiritual standpoint, and it cuts through my pride because it forces me to admit things I really don’t want to. Ultimately, it forces me to try a lot harder to be a better person because I don’t want to have to talk about it again. Pride stops me from doing things that I otherwise would or could. It stops me from doing things that I really want to for God because they’re uncool or weird or what have you. I’m working on this, and I’m getting better. I admit my sins to my priest because I really am sorry. It’s hard to admit that I’m not perfect. God already knows I’m not, so I think it actually matters more in a way that I’m willing to admit it to another person.

To me, the Catholic faith is actually very practical. Personally, I need this. The fact of the matter is that I’m much more willing than a lot of people to believe what sound like ridiculous things. At times I even find myself thinking, “God, that’s completely ridiculous.” It’s ridiculous to believe that Jesus could “magically” bring people back to life or heal people who had been disabled for most of their lives. It’s even more ridiculous to believe that he came back to life after dying. What’s the most ridiculous of all is that a perfect, all-powerful God loves a weird, scatter-brained, broken, sinful kid (i.e. me). He’s shown me practically, and supernaturally that he loves me to an unfathomable extent. It actually doesn’t make sense. This love is one of the reasons I need to really hear “Your sins are forgiven.”

Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, as I grow in my faith, I need practical things. For example, communion was nothing more to me than a habit for a long time. Now I need it. I can’t live without it. I didn’t feel like this until I started to actually feel a strong connection with Jesus. It wasn’t the Eucharist that got this going. It was a completely supernatural experience, and it’s been a long, complicated journey. I can honestly say that I love Jesus, and I need the Eucharist because it’s the one thing through which I can actually see and touch him. Obviously it’s not him in all his glory. Sometimes when I get even a sense of his true nature I get an impulse to hide. I definitely know what it means to fear God. Humans require physical connection and intimacy. God, who is love, makes himself actually, physically present during communion so that we can have that connection with him. I’ve heard that some people take issue with this because of the idea that it’s a sacrifice. This sacrifice is meant to be seen as a perpetual commitment. Jesus perpetually offers himself to his Father, and allows us to also make that commitment, perhaps in a similar way that when a couple is married, they are making a perpetual commitment to each other. His suffering and death  was literally once and for all. The Eucharist is a sacrifice of love.

Sometimes the Mass itself is boring. I get that. It’s very methodical, whereas I imagine the “process” in other churches is less spelled out. I could be wrong. I’ve mostly only ever gone to Catholic churches, with a few exceptions. When I was at school, I thought about exploring other options, but now I don’t just believe, I somehow know that Jesus is there during communion. Sometimes I’m just not totally “with it” during most of the Mass. Sometimes the sermon just doesn’t do anything for me. For just a few minutes, however, I know that the most important thing in the world is happening. It really is amazing to me, and at the same time, it seems so simple.

Sometimes I find that I’m baffled by God. He’s complicated, and sometimes I find myself thinking that he’s so human. That’s actually backwards. God made humans in his image, so actually, we’re like him. I don’t think it’s wrong to equate humanity with goodness. To be human–to be as we really should be–is to be like God: to love, to forgive, to be helpful, to be together, and to be happy. Jesus says, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are one with me, and I am one with you.” (John 6:56). He means this literally. He offers himself to us in this way so that we can not only be like him, but so that we can be with him.

I learned these things partly because I stayed, but now I stay because of what I know. I also want to say that not all Catholic churches are alike. Perhaps the church my fellow blogger attended was too hung up on details and really did forget about why they were there in the first place. God loved us first, and he wants us to love him back, both individually, and as a community. If we forget about love at church, then we’re missing the point. Honestly, I hear so much more about God’s love these days because I’m actually paying attention. The truth is that it’s everywhere. It’s kind of overwhelming, and yeah, some of it is found in the “details.”

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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In The Audience And On Stage: How Does Live Music Relate To Worship?

Today I’m playing a little gig at our neighborhood block party. It should be quite fun because as far as I know, most of our neighbors downloaded my album, thanks to my mom. I find it awkward and funny and awesome all at the same time, but regardless, I’m going to play guitar today.

Last night my dad and I went to see Rend Collective. They’re a Christian band from Ireland, and they’re hysterically funny, talented, and otherwise awesome. My dad and I are concert buddies, and we were very overdue for some live music. The best part about it was that I was kind of in a foul mood before the show, but after it, I was happy as a fed guinea pig.

I was kind of thinking to myself that a rock concert isn’t exactly conducive to worship, but apparently it was without me explicitly knowing it. At one point the lead singer said something that I almost missed, but now I think I agree with it very much: he said Christians tend to think that spirituality has to be serious all of the time. The truth is that we’re supposed to celebrate and have fun. It’s sometimes hard for me to get past what I do wrong, and when I screw up, and I pray for forgiveness and I pray for him to fix me when I’m already forgiven.

I think this can be hard for a lot of people, including myself, because what we celebrate is, quite frankly, kind of confusing. When I really think about it, it actually pisses me off, what Jesus had to go through. I’m just going to go ahead and say that he was the nicest person ever to live. It’s pretty hard to argue with that. He was also the most innocent person ever to live, and he willingly went to a death he didn’t deserve. That confuses me and pisses me off.

What we’re supposed to celebrate is the freedom we now have and the salvation we have because of what he did, but there’s a bit of guilt that comes along with that. We’re not supposed to feel guilty, but a lot of times we do. It’s natural, and quite frankly, it’s annoying.

Last night I got an idea for a new song. Part of it was, despite the fact that the three bands who played last night were stylistically very different, they occasionally used some of the same motifs and metaphors in their lyrics. It’s a trap Christian bands often fall into. Rend Collective turned out to be a bit more creative, which I appreciated, but I decided that if I’m going to write a new worship song–which I am, it’s kind of what I do–I’m going to try and sneak away from convention. The idea for my new song is that the world is really loud and cluttered, and what seems to be missing is complete silence and complete darkness. I don’t know if I’ll even end up using these lines in my new song, or if they’ll be modified, but this is what I came up with last night. I think I like it.

I want to find the silence
I want to find the darkness
I want be where time Is endless
And there’s nothing between us
Nothing, nothing

I have a feeling the idea might end up getting muddled if I’m not careful, but then I’m the queen of convoluted. Very few of my songs are actually straight forward. Maybe it’s a problem, but I don’t think so. I decided something else last night as well. I decided that when I perform, I’m never going to explicitly try and make my shows into worship sessions, whether I’m playing at a college, or a bar or a church. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s hard because when you go to see a show, at least from my experience, you’re kind of going to see the band and freak out about how good their music is. Then again, I find that it’s sometimes easiest to worship when you’re with a whole bunch of people who are singing the same songs, maybe even harmonizing, and jumping around because, yes, the music is EPIC. In reality, whether it “works” or not is on us.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Not An Option

I hung out with my cousin for a while today because he got out of school early. I came up to my room a couple hours ago after he left, intending to play video games, but I ended up doing some research on getting gigs and selling music online– since I’ll have to figure that out eventually anyway. I know; sign of the apocalypse; Katie was productive just because. I did pester a few venues already this week, so I’m just waiting to hear back from them. I only found one new open mic, but I just don’t think there are a whole lot around here. I figure what I’ll do is just ask people where else they play next time I do my usuals. I do have a few tentative open mic dates planned, so if they work out I’ll let you guys know. Check my music page soon.

I also pestered Ken’s friend because I hadn’t heard back from him. I’m becoming less shy as a result of this music thing. I’m having to learn to be more of a pest. I’m sick of not hearing back from people. I’ve decided that failure simply isn’t an option. I’m going to do this, and I’m going to do it right. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot I can do at the moment except wait. I’ll do a little more research into selling music online, but my cousin is working on building me a website, and I need to finish my album anyway. My next recording session will hopefully be either next Tuesday or Friday.

Last night I had a holy-crap-I-suck moment. We were picking up my brother and my dad from Boston University because my brother was going to a presentation about how to deal with their admissions office or something. We went to dinner and then my mom and I went to Barnes and Noble to get coffee and look at books. On the way back to the car we walked right past a homeless guy and every time I do that I feel guilty. I feel guilty a lot just because my life is easy. It really bothers me that children die of hunger and stupid jerks blow things up and kill people. My two goals this summer were/are to figure out how to succeed in music and save the world. I decided that I need to worry about music first because if I’m going to get anything done, it’s going to be through music.

If anyone has any pointers on where to go/what to do, comments would be awesome!

Thanks,

Katie