Posted in grief, Raised Catholic

The Cyclical Nature of Grief

Yesterday, and old grief was triggered in me, along with all the symptoms that have come along with this grief – deep sorrow, rage, hatred, anxiety, panic, trembling, emotional and intellectual paralysis, nausea, upset stomach, etc.  When I found I could not even give words to what I was feeling, I turned to my blog archives and found exactly the words I needed to hear – the words that clearly articulated my grief and the loss surrounding this grief.  In this I have been reminded of how grief continues to come back around seeking another layer of healing.  Thank you those who shall remain nameless for inviting me into another layer of healing and to the gift of God’s healing presence. 

The Church That Turned Away from Me

(originally posted on Good Friday, 2015)

Copyright 2015  Lauri Ann Lumby

StMarysinterior

For the past eight years, I have been fasting from the Eucharist.  To one on the outside looking in, I might be accused of turning away from my Church.  The opposite in fact is true.  It is the Church that turned away from me.

As a Vatican II Catholic, raised in a Vatican II Church, I have had a unique experience of Catholicism, markedly different from the generations that went before me.  I never experienced the Latin mass or was drilled on the Baltimore Catechism.  I attended Saturday evening folk mass accompanied by Kumbaya’s, Up, Up with People, and To Be Alive! Fish on Friday was reserved for Lent.  Ecumenical dialogue was encouraged and instead of Heaven being the privilege of Catholics only, the pearly gates stood open to all who lived in love. I was brought up with a rock n’ roll Jesus Christ Superstar who in his humanness pleaded to be released while weeping tears of blood at Gethsemane and to whom we desired to “see more clearly, love more dearly and follow more nearly,” as he danced around us in rainbow striped suspenders, sporting a Superman t-shirt.  Speaking out on matters of social injustice and working for peace; feeding the poor, clothing the naked and setting captives free was the understood responsibility of every person sitting in the pew.  Divine retribution and punishment had been left on the editing floor of the Holy See – along with indulgences; and even the unbaptized had a place in God’s loving kingdom. The only God I knew was the God of love. Jesus came to know this love and taught us how to love and was set up as the model and example of how every Christian was called to live.  We were called to be Jesus’ hands and heart through the unique charisms gifted to us by God’s Holy Spirit (sometimes even spoken of as a woman!).

jesus

This is the Church I grew up in and the Church that I deeply loved.  Strengthening this bond was the mass that provided sanctuary and support for my inherently contemplative nature. Gothic arches, painted statues and stained glass windows serenaded by artistic soul.  And the stand up, kneel down, bow and sit of Catholic choreography nourished my need for a spirituality that was as much physical as it was emotional and intellectual. Devotion to Mary satisfied my need for a Divine Mother and the saints became my superheroes.

If I love my Church so much, you may be wondering why I have been fasting from the Eucharist?  What went wrong?  In short, it seems I took what I learned about God, Jesus and our Christian call too literally:

  • I believe in an unconditionally loving God, a Son that is both fully human and fully divine; the call to follow Jesus as an example of how to live my life and to be and do as he would in the world.
  • I love God above all else, my neighbor as myself and I consider ALL of humankind to be my neighbor.
  • I judge not (lest I be judged).
  • I pray for my enemies.
  • I try to forgive 70 times 7 times.
  • I pray without ceasing.
  • I feed the hungry.
  • I clothe the naked.
  • I give sight to the blind.
  • I set captives free.
  • And, I heal the sick.

Oshkosh WI 2/9/11: Photo by Jeannette Merten.

In the end, it was the last three actions that caused my Church to turn away from me.

After eight years in Catholic school and an equal number of years in academic and professional education and formation as a lay minister and spiritual director, I was guided by God to study hands-on-healing and Eastern Energy Medicine (Reiki). Out of this training and experience, God guided me further to develop a protocol through which people found healing from the spiritual wounds that separated them from God’s love, thereby healing them of their sin.  Right in line with Jesus’ teachings, right!? Apparently not, because the practices that I had learned and successfully applied were not “explicitly handed down by the Magesterium.”  I was challenged and confronted, hateful emails and letters were sent. I was accused of every nature of evil. Local bishops, fueled by the fear of the vocal minority, challenged my work and eventually handed down a prohibition calling it “witchcraft and sorcery,” in spite of my attempts to reason with and explain things to them.  Through this, I endured, but when I was attacked by a newly-appointed  pastor for a course in “Christian Zen” that I was sponsoring, who claimed it to be “outside Catholic teaching” and who identified Eastern practices as “dangerous,” I broke.  My heart was broken and my resolve with it.  The Church I had loved and out of whose embrace I had come to know God’s love – the Church who had called me to continue the work of Jesus – had betrayed me.  My gifts, my call, the unique way I had come to know God was no longer welcome. More than that, my ministry had been condemned as “dangerous,” “witchcraft and sorcery”….some even called it, “the work of the devil.”

ChristianZen.jpgOn that fateful autumn day, I listened beyond the voice of the fearful priest, the self-appointed inquisition, and even the Vatican II teachings that provided space for the ecumenical nature of the work I was doing and the unifying discussions that might arise out of this work.  I listened instead to the still, small voice of God within.  God’s voice was not small that day.  God spoke directly and loudly to my heart, “Lauri, you are my beloved daughter.  I have placed my word within your heart.  I have anointed you to be my servant.  Who will you obey?  Man or Me?”

Of course I chose God.

With God and the echoing support of Peter and the Apostles who similarly responded to the Church who turned away from them, “We must obey God rather than man, (Act 5: 29)” I handed over my keys and walked away.  Buoyed by God’s eternal promise of freedom, I knew that I could more freely do the work God had called me to absent the on-going scrutiny of the Church and the fearful minority.

Some would suggest that in leaving the Church I have also left behind my faith.  The opposite, in fact is true.  My faith has remained intact, and in truth, has been fortified.  I start every morning in prayer and meditation over the daily scripture.  Jesus is my constant companion, teacher and guide. I discern daily the ways in which I am being called to continue Jesus’ work in the world. I have seen the clear evidence of God at work through me as I witness the profound healing experienced by those who have become part of my ministry, and I am continually amazed at how God works through me to bring people more and more deeply into love and more closely connected to their own gifts and vocational call in the world.  I see the power of faith at work as I witness the empowerment experienced by those who come to me for counsel, attend my classes, read my writing and partake in my weekly services; and with each passing day my faith is strengthened and affirmed.

DSCF3242

Regarding the Church, I wish I could say that like Lot, I never looked back.  I find, instead, that I am more like Lot’s wife, forever gazing back in profound longing – grieving the loss of my home, my sanctuary, my community, my Church.  Beyond my own grief, however, I weep for my Church.  I long for the Church that I had come to know – one that is firmly rooted in the truth of God’s unconditional love and acting as that love in the world.  I long for a Church that works for unity and empowerment of all humankind – regardless of their gender, beliefs, or sexual orientation.  I long for a Church that is willing to set down its wealth and its power and get in the trenches with those who need its help – the hungry, the poor, the imprisoned, the fearful, the wounded and the broken. I long for the Church that takes Jesus’ example seriously by being humble, giving the seats of honor to those without honor and washing the feet of strangers.  I yearn for a Church that supports people in becoming self-actualized, mature disciples – fostering the psycho-spiritual growth of men, women and children so that they can find the God they have forgotten in their hearts, discover their own unique giftedness and vocational call and become empowered in the fulfillment and use of these gifts in service to the betterment of the world.  I long for a Church that recognizes the earth as holy and sacred and works to be a steward for the gifts God gave us so that all of humanity may not only survive but thrive.  I cry out to the Church to work for justice – justice for all – not only for those who “are Catholic in good standing.”  My heart yearns for a Church that welcomes ALL people to its table – inviting all to know the unconditional and infinite love that is their truest nature. This is the Church that I once knew and I often wonder what happened to that Church – or if all along it had really just been a figment of my imagination.

 

 

Lauri Ann Lumby, MATP is a published author, ordained interfaith minister, spiritual director and teacher.  She ministers to a world-wide audience, most of whom were raised Catholic but who were also turned away by the Church.  Lauri lives in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  You can learn more about Lauri and her ministry at www.authenticfreedomacademy.com.

Posted in About Lauri, church, Discernment, Freedom, Healing, Jesus, Raised Catholic

Good Friday – The Church Who Turned Away

As we commemorate the trial, suffering and death of Jesus at the hands of two institutions who turned away from him, I find that my own “crucifixion” has resurfaced to be examined and grieved again.  I share this because I know I am not alone in having felt turned away and condemned by my Church (recovering Catholics, those raised Catholic, non-practicing Catholics).

The Church That Turned Away from Me

Copyright 2015  Lauri Ann Lumby

StMarysinterior

For the past eight years, I have been fasting from the Eucharist.  To one on the outside looking in, I might be accused of turning away from my Church.  The opposite in fact is true.  It is the Church that turned away from me.

As a Vatican II Catholic, raised in a Vatican II Church, I have had a unique experience of Catholicism, markedly different from the generations that went before me.  I never experienced the Latin mass or was drilled on the Baltimore Catechism.  I attended Saturday evening folk mass accompanied by Kumbaya’s, Up, Up with People, and To Be Alive! Fish on Friday was reserved for Lent.  Ecumenical dialogue was encouraged and instead of Heaven being the privilege of Catholics only, the pearly gates stood open to all who lived in love. I was brought up with a rock n’ roll Jesus Christ Superstar who in his humanness pleaded to be released while weeping tears of blood at Gethsemane and to whom we desired to “see more clearly, love more dearly and follow more nearly,” as he danced around us in rainbow striped suspenders, sporting a Superman t-shirt.  Speaking out on matters of social injustice and working for peace; feeding the poor, clothing the naked and setting captives free was the understood responsibility of every person sitting in the pew.  Divine retribution and punishment had been left on the editing floor of the Holy See – along with indulgences; and even the unbaptized had a place in God’s loving kingdom. The only God I knew was the God of love. Jesus came to know this love and taught us how to love and was set up as the model and example of how every Christian was called to live.  We were called to be Jesus’ hands and heart through the unique charisms gifted to us by God’s Holy Spirit (sometimes even spoken of as a woman!).

jesus

This is the Church I grew up in and the Church that I deeply loved.  Strengthening this bond was the mass that provided sanctuary and support for my inherently contemplative nature. Gothic arches, painted statues and stained glass windows serenaded by artistic soul.  And the stand up, kneel down, bow and sit of Catholic choreography nourished my need for a spirituality that was as much physical as it was emotional and intellectual. Devotion to Mary satisfied my need for a Divine Mother and the saints became my superheroes.

If I love my Church so much, you may be wondering why I have been fasting from the Eucharist?  What went wrong?  In short, it seems I took what I learned about God, Jesus and our Christian call too literally:

  • I believe in an unconditionally loving God, a Son that is both fully human and fully divine; the call to follow Jesus as an example of how to live my life and to be and do as he would in the world.
  • I love God above all else, my neighbor as myself and I consider ALL of humankind to be my neighbor.
  • I judge not (lest I be judged).
  • I pray for my enemies.
  • I try to forgive 70 times 7 times.
  • I pray without ceasing.
  • I feed the hungry.
  • I clothe the naked.
  • I give sight to the blind.
  • I set captives free.
  • And, I heal the sick.

Oshkosh WI 2/9/11: Photo by Jeannette Merten.

In the end, it was the last three actions that caused my Church to turn away from me.

After eight years in Catholic school and an equal number of years in academic and professional education and formation as a lay minister and spiritual director, I was guided by God to study hands-on-healing and Eastern Energy Medicine (Reiki). Out of this training and experience, God guided me further to develop a protocol through which people found healing from the spiritual wounds that separated them from God’s love, thereby healing them of their sin.  Right in line with Jesus’ teachings, right!? Apparently not, because the practices that I had learned and successfully applied were not “explicitly handed down by the Magesterium.”  I was challenged and confronted, hateful emails and letters were sent. I was accused of every nature of evil. Local bishops, fueled by the fear of the vocal minority, challenged my work and eventually handed down a prohibition calling it “witchcraft and sorcery,” in spite of my attempts to reason with and explain things to them.  Through this, I endured, but when I was attacked by a newly-appointed  pastor for a course in “Christian Zen” that I was sponsoring, who claimed it to be “outside Catholic teaching” and who identified Eastern practices as “dangerous,” I broke.  My heart was broken and my resolve with it.  The Church I had loved and out of whose embrace I had come to know God’s love – the Church who had called me to continue the work of Jesus – had betrayed me.  My gifts, my call, the unique way I had come to know God was no longer welcome. More than that, my ministry had been condemned as “dangerous,” “witchcraft and sorcery”….some even called it, “the work of the devil.”

ChristianZen.jpgOn that fateful autumn day, I listened beyond the voice of the fearful priest, the self-appointed inquisition, and even the Vatican II teachings that provided space for the ecumenical nature of the work I was doing and the unifying discussions that might arise out of this work.  I listened instead to the still, small voice of God within.  God’s voice was not small that day.  God spoke directly and loudly to my heart, “Lauri, you are my beloved daughter.  I have placed my word within your heart.  I have anointed you to be my servant.  Who will you obey?  Man or Me?”

Of course I chose God.

With God and the echoing support of Peter and the Apostles who similarly responded to the Church who turned away from them, “We must obey God rather than man, (Act 5: 29)” I handed over my keys and walked away.  Buoyed by God’s eternal promise of freedom, I knew that I could more freely do the work God had called me to absent the on-going scrutiny of the Church and the fearful minority.

Some would suggest that in leaving the Church I have also left behind my faith.  The opposite, in fact is true.  My faith has remained intact, and in truth, has been fortified.  I start every morning in prayer and meditation over the daily scripture.  Jesus is my constant companion, teacher and guide. I discern daily the ways in which I am being called to continue Jesus’ work in the world. I have seen the clear evidence of God at work through me as I witness the profound healing experienced by those who have become part of my ministry, and I am continually amazed at how God works through me to bring people more and more deeply into love and more closely connected to their own gifts and vocational call in the world.  I see the power of faith at work as I witness the empowerment experienced by those who come to me for counsel, attend my classes, read my writing and partake in my weekly services; and with each passing day my faith is strengthened and affirmed.

DSCF3242

Regarding the Church, I wish I could say that like Lot, I never looked back.  I find, instead, that I am more like Lot’s wife, forever gazing back in profound longing – grieving the loss of my home, my sanctuary, my community, my Church.  Beyond my own grief, however, I weep for my Church.  I long for the Church that I had come to know – one that is firmly rooted in the truth of God’s unconditional love and acting as that love in the world.  I long for a Church that works for unity and empowerment of all humankind – regardless of their gender, beliefs, or sexual orientation.  I long for a Church that is willing to set down its wealth and its power and get in the trenches with those who need its help – the hungry, the poor, the imprisoned, the fearful, the wounded and the broken. I long for the Church that takes Jesus’ example seriously by being humble, giving the seats of honor to those without honor and washing the feet of strangers.  I yearn for a Church that supports people in becoming self-actualized, mature disciples – fostering the psycho-spiritual growth of men, women and children so that they can find the God they have forgotten in their hearts, discover their own unique giftedness and vocational call and become empowered in the fulfillment and use of these gifts in service to the betterment of the world.  I long for a Church that recognizes the earth as holy and sacred and works to be a steward for the gifts God gave us so that all of humanity may not only survive but thrive.  I cry out to the Church to work for justice – justice for all – not only for those who “are Catholic in good standing.”  My heart yearns for a Church that welcomes ALL people to its table – inviting all to know the unconditional and infinite love that is their truest nature. This is the Church that I once knew and I often wonder what happened to that Church – or if all along it had really just been a figment of my imagination.

 

 

Lauri Ann Lumby, MATP is a published author, ordained interfaith minister, spiritual director and teacher.  She ministers to a world-wide audience, most of whom were raised Catholic but who were also turned away by the Church.  Lauri lives in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  You can learn more about Lauri and her ministry at www.yourspiritualtruth.com.

 

 

 

 

Posted in church, Discernment, Freedom, Gifts of Contemplation, Jesus, Raised Catholic, Virtual Church

Recovering Catholics – Making Our Own Path

I find that in week four of the Virtual Church experiment, I have to say a few words about being Catholic (yes, I still call myself Catholic).  I share this for the sake of others like me who would like nothing more than to be a fully active member of the Catholic Church, serving, working and ministering under her roof.  Sadly, for obvious reasons, this is no longer possible for me, neither is it for many men and women I have come to love dearly.  And for those I don’t know, my heart goes out to you in compassion as you find yourself unable to set foot inside a Catholic Church (whatever the reason might be).

Lauripresiding

Broken Hearts and Broken Dreams

Today, my heart is breaking after a week of deep shadow work which presented itself in many ways, including several conversations about Catholicism, being raised Catholic and the path that led me to claim my own ordination and launch a virtual church. I discovered that I am not alone in having a deep love for the Catholic Church, in being formed as a minister within that Church, and being unable to minister there.  In those with whom these conversations arose, the same mistake was made.  We found God through contemplative prayer and this contemplation led us to our truth.  Then…..we tried to live that truth.  This proved to be the final nail in the coffin.  The Church can’t have people running around living their truth.  Where is the order?  There might be chaos. This could mean anarchy! Cats and Dogs raining.  People having sex in the street.  Shocking!  Sigh!  When we learn to use the brain God gave us to reason, discern and exercise truth, often the truths God reveals to us step outside the rules of the institution (see this week’s meditation supplement for how Jesus got in trouble for using his brain!).  Then, we get in trouble (again, see this week’s readings, or attend this week’s virtual church service!)  This leads me to the question of vocations….because those with whom these conversations arose also have an authentic call to the priesthood…and like me, are unable to live it out within the embrace of the Catholic Church.

Vocations Crisis!!!????

The Church whines, moans and complains about a lack of vocations.  Lack of vocations my butt!!!!  The only thing that is lacking is an institution willing to open their hearts to God’s voice instead of the voice of the power they are deathly afraid to lose.  Oh my God…what would happen if priests were allowed to married? If women could be priests?  If gay men and women could openly live their orientation within the ordained priesthood instead of hiding it in the closet and watching it come out sideways!!!????  What you might have is a vibrant, thriving, dynamic, servant-leadership oriented Church with men and women serving beside each other as equals, working together to fulfill the mission of Christ.  Unfortunately, the Institution is too busy polishing their Italian leather shoes to see the droves of men and women standing at their gates waiting to serve God.  So….what are those authentically called to continue the mission of Christ in the world to do who don’t fit into the narrow single, “heterosexual” male, “celibate” definition of priesthood?    What are we to do?

Making our own path

We make our own path, (rather, we allow God to make one for us) that’s what we do.  For through our careful discernment we have learned that it is much easier to be disobedient to the Church than it is to disobey God.  Disobedience to the Church simply means being ostracized and deprived of the Eucharist.  Disobeying God leads to an inner agony, longing, anxiety and pain that one simply cannot describe.  But here’s the funny thing…..even in disobeying the Church so that we can be obedient to God there is an insatiable longing to be able to live God’s truth within the embrace of the Church.  How do we explain that?  It is simply grief, that we haven’t gotten over our Catholicism, as was once suggested to me?  I don’t think so!  What this says to me, is that this is indeed what God desires – that God desires for the Church to open their eyes, their minds and their hearts so that there can be room for all the ways in which we are ALL called to serve God through our own unique giftedness, our own unique passions and our own unique call – married, single, hetero, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, lesbian, male and female and everything in between.  God doesn’t discriminate in God’s choice of servants, why should the Church?

In the Meantime

So, in the meantime, we live within the tension.  Live within the tension of being obedient to God’s call and knowing and trusting that God’s call is working in the hearts and minds of the Institution and that someday, others like us, female, married, openly gay, may someday be welcome as ordained ministers within the Catholic Church….but probably not in our lifetimes. (this new pope, however, might surprise us all!!!)

Posted in church, Forgiveness, Healing, Raised Catholic

A Church of my own making – Part 2

Speaking to the 42.7 million non-practicing Catholics, and those who may have been raised Catholic, but no longer identify themselves as Catholic…..this one’s for you/us.   Dreaming, imagining, exploring what Church could look like if it resembled the Church in my heart…and maybe the one that is in your heart too.  PS  This is Part 2 (or 4, depending on where you start) of a who know how long series.  🙂

confessional - M Clift

Sacraments

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s blog, the church of my own making, the one that is reflective of what I have found in my heart, would have sacraments…seven of them to be exact.  But…..some of them would differ from how we have come to know them in the Roman Catholic Church.  On Tuesday I tackled baptism.  Today……reconciliation.

The Value of Reconciliation

Growing up, I had a mostly positive experience with the sacrament of reconciliation.  While it was always an effort to get over my resistance, once I entered the confessional and unburdened my conscience, I felt relief.  Then, when the prayer of absolution was given, I felt a sense of being uplifted, of feeling as if my body was being released of some sort of heaviness within me.  I can’t say I enjoyed going to reconciliation, but I always felt comfort and consolation after having gone.  While I have never believed (contrary to Church teaching) that we need the intercession of a priest to be forgiven of our sins, and that like our Protestant brothers and sisters, we could simply turn to God to be freed of the burden of our non-loving behaviors, I fully appreciated the value of having a person with whom I could unburden myself.  And, I cannot give explanation to the profound sense of consolation in the prayer of absolution – except to attribute it to grace.  As a spiritual director, I understand even more acutely the value of having a person to whom we can go to be freed of what might be troubling our conscience and the profound gift inherent in compassionate presence and counsel….both potentials within the sacrament of reconciliation when done well.

Sin

One of the issues I have with the sacrament of reconciliation is its emphasis on sin, specifically, sin as an act that “separates us from God,” and sin that will be punished if not confessed and released through absolution.  If we believe in our Oneness with God, then there is nothing, not even sin, that can separate us from that love, yet in the Catechism of the Catholic Church it reads:

It is called the sacrament of reconciliation because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles.   (CCC 1442)

If we can never be separate from the love of God, then how is this love imparted?  I like to think of it more in this way – the we are One with God in love as Jesus taught and was reported by John the Evangelist (1 John 4).  While we are always one with God in this love and this love does not have to be earned, neither can it be taken away, because of the choosing the human experiment, we often forget this love.  When we have forgotten this love, we feel separate from God which results in fear.  Fear, then, causes us to seek outside ourselves for the remedy to this fear which often leads us toward non-loving actions (towards ourselves and each other).   We don’t choose these non-loving acts because we are depraved.  We choose these non-loving acts because we are afraid.  The Church would call these non-loving acts sin which implies punishment.  I call these non-loving acts compulsions which invites us to respond in compassion.  The sacrament of reconciliation, when done well, has the potential of helping us to remember the unconditional love of God that dwells within us and frees us from the fears that generate our compulsive/sinful behaviors.

The Potential in Reconciliation

Because I have experienced the consolation and comfort in the sacrament of reconciliation, I would never be in favor of dumping it all together.  Instead, I see great promise in expanding the scope of the sacrament and deepening its foundations in compassion.  I see the value of having a person to whom we can go to unburden ourselves.  I have experienced the grace of absolution.  And, I see in reconciliation an opportunity to help people heal on an even deeper level.  The deeper healing comes when we invite participants to move beyond simple confession and absolution and empower them to do the work of identifying what is causing them to indulge in their compulsive behavior in the first place, and then give them tools through which they can heal the fears that lead them to their compulsive behaviors.  Healing these fears, is ultimately about helping people to remember that they are loved without condition by God and that they are in fact one with God in that love.  Unfortunately, it is not enough to tell people this…..we have to give them opportunities to have a lived experience of that love and show them how to cultivate a practice in which they can frequently and consistently be open to these experiences.  And then….we have to get out of the way and let God do the work.  Because ultimately, the lived experience of that love comes from God reaching out to us….but first, we have to make ourselves available and then be open to receiving it.

For more on the fears that drive our compulsive behaviors, see my book, Authentic Freedom – Claiming a Life of Contentment and Joy.

copyright 2013  Lauri Lumby

Posted in church, Initiation, Raised Catholic

Vision of a New Church – or a Church of My Own Making? Part 1

A reader of yesterday’s blog offered me the following challenge:  “Do you believe in the Catholic faith, or do you believe in a religion of your own invention?” As a woman raised Catholic, who passionately loved her faith, I ask myself this question EVERY DAY!  I long for the faith in which I was raised, and at the same time, I struggle with the inconsistencies between what I see in the Institution and what I have come to embrace through my own prayer and contemplation.  So, I’m stuck in the tension between knowing I CANNOT reform a 2000 year old institution and the feeling that I no longer have a place I can call HOME.  So….in the spirit of that search, I continue the exploration….no longer wishing and hoping for the Catholic Church to get with MY program….but envisioning what Church might look like if it reflected what I feel in my heart.  I write this, not for those who are currently content with the Catholic Church as it is…..but for those, like myself, who make up the SECOND LARGEST religious denomination in the US:  Questioning, Recovering and Non-practicing Catholics.

baptism0

Tackling the Sacraments

Because of the love I experienced for my Catholic faith, the church of my own making would look pretty Catholic.  And because of the fulfillment I found in the sacraments, the church of my own making would have sacraments – and there would be seven of them.  But, the sacraments would look a little different than how they are experienced in the current form of the Roman Catholic Church.  The primary reason – because the church of my own making will not be centered around the doctrine of original sin…and sin will be treated in a very different way than what we have known in Catholicism.  (read more about undoing the doctrine of original sin HERE)  What will remain, however, is recognition of the sacraments as profound tools of healing and rituals through which we allow ourselves to be present and accepting of God’s abundant and ever flowing grace.  (PS  We are NEVER without God’s grace….it doesn’t have to be earned and it cannot be taken away…..but we do feel it more acutely at times and participation in rituals of humility and openness sometimes help us to be more attentive to the grace that is already all around us!)

Baptism

So….let’s start at the beginning, with baptism.  Traditionally, baptism is taught as the sacrament we need in order to be freed from the stain of original sin.  And some would argue that without the grace of baptism, we are condemned to an eternity in hell….or at the very least, in limbo.  But if there is no original sin, then why do we need baptism?  I like to look at the scriptural account of Jesus’ baptism for support with this question.  In the scriptural accounts, we don’t really know why Jesus goes to John for baptism, but he does.  Was he just going along with what other people were doing?  Had something happened in his journey that inspired him to seek baptism?  According to Catholic teaching….Jesus was without the stain of original sin, so why did he need to be baptized?  We don’t know Jesus’ motivation, but the gospels agree that Jesus sought baptism.  The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) also agree with what happened upon Jesus’ reception of baptism:

The Spirit descended upon him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3: 22

The synoptic gospels also agree that after his baptism and after receiving these words from heaven, Jesus retreated into the desert where he was tempted by Satan.  It seems as if baptism, in the way that Jesus experienced it, was a moment of initiation as well as a moment of empowerment.  Through his baptism, Jesus came to understand how truly loved he was in God and the potential greatness that resided in him because of the depth of this love.  And perhaps it was through his baptism that he came to understand the truth of his Oneness with God and was thereby freed from his own perception of separation.   This awareness was so startling to him that it forced him to discern “What does this mean for me?  How am I to respond to this new awareness?”  We know through the scriptural accounts of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, that he was then tempted by the same temptations we face for pride,  power and control.  Jesus transcended these temptations after which he was prepared to accept what he discerned as God’s unique call for him – to heal the sick, release prisoners, bring sight to the blind, feed the hungry, preach the good news, etc.

A New Baptism

In the church of my own making, baptism would be something more akin to the baptism Jesus experienced.  Instead of being there to release us from the stain of original sin, baptism would be there to acknowledge how truly, deeply and passionately we are loved by God and to remind us that we are not separate from God (as the human condition would lead us to believe) but are indeed One with God as Jesus came to understand.   In our baptism, instead of the prayers of exorcism, we would hear, “YOU ARE MY BELOVED DAUGHTER, and with you I AM WELL PLEASE!”  When the waters of baptism are poured over us, we would acknowledge that in our human birth, we chose the consequences of perceived separation, but that in truth, we are never separate from God.  In receiving the oils of anointing, we would acknowledge that each and every human being is uniquely gifted and called to be God’s love in the world.  What would that be like?  What would happen if we could actually believe that we are God’s beloved sons and daughters and that God is WELL pleased with us …. exactly as we are in any given moment?  What if we truly believed how amazing and precious we are in God’s eyes?  What if instead of focusing on the pain of separation, baptism became a balm for that pain…not in reminding us of sin….but in celebrating our GREATNESS?  What would happen if from the moment of our birth, we acknowledge that each of us have our own unique mission for revealing God’s love in the world?  What would that be like?  In the church of my own making, these are the questions I would ponder as formulating my theology around the sacrament of baptism.

copyright 2013  Lauri Ann Lumby

Posted in church, Raised Catholic

Where Have All The Catholics Gone? – Part 1.5

Oops….forgot one big reason why Catholics either leave all together or stop participating – Part 1.5 of yesterday’s blog on why there are 42.7 million non-practicing Catholics in the US and why they left and where they went (Watch Monday’s blog for where they went!)  Today’s blog is about Catholics who leave because someone changed priests (or parish directors) on them. 

Changing of the Guard

Not sure how I missed this one, especially since I have been witness to the devastating effects a change in priest can have on a Catholic community – not once, but thrice.  Unlike many of our Protestant brothers and sisters who have a say in their community leadership, in the Catholic Church, the community has no say. Instead, the Bishop appoints a pastor, based on the Bishop’s opinion of what pastor would be best for that community or on what the Bishop wants to see happen in that community.  To my knowledge and it has been my experience, that the needs of the community, the community’s unique character and what the community is familiar with is NOT taken into consideration.  In fact, it often seems as if the Bishop chooses a pastor that is completely opposite of what the community is familiar with,  comfortable with or would fit with the parish’s unique character, especially if the community leans toward a more liberal or progressive expression of Catholicism.  This is a strange phenomenon that has devastating effects on a worship community and a reason that I have seen many Catholics leave.

When Priests Leave

Let me give you an example.  I have been a part of three worship communities where the change in leadership had devastating and lasting effects on the community.  In all three situations, the parish had been led by a priest or parish director who were firmly rooted in Vatican II and working toward implementing these reforms. As such, the communities had vibrant liturgies, good music, excellent preaching, sound religious AND spiritual formation.  In addition, these leaders were enormously gifted with compassion, understanding, acceptance and tolerance.  They understood that every person was on their own journey and that a hard-line approach to doctrine fits with only a small percentage of Catholics.  As a result of this, the parish communities became enthusiastic participants not only in worship but in other ministries of the church, and often took their service work out into the community and out in the world.   Additionally, each of these parish leaders were gifted with empowerment and therefore empowered the fullest expression of involvement from their parishioners.  People were happy and excited to serve an active role in the leadership and ministries of the parish.  Then something changed.  For various reasons, these leaders stepped down or were asked to step down and were replaced with priests that were TOTALLY OPPOSITE in their temperment, their gifts and their philosophy of parish leadership. ( I often wonder if the bishops do this on purpose.  Empowered Catholics can be dangerous, you know!)   For each of these communities, it was like getting hit with an atomic bomb!  Not only were they grieving the loss of their beloved leaders, now they were expected to CHANGE everything they had come to know about being a part of this parish.  Angry, hurt, feeling betrayed and not allowed to grieve, what recourse did they have?  Some slinked back into mute participation.  Others tried to fight….but mostly in vain.  And the rest simply quit coming.

Compassion for the Priests

I cannot address this issue without offering a profound prayer of compassion to the priests to unwittingly find themselves in this role.  These priests are as much of a casualty of the “you have no say in this” approach to job placement.  If the priest is placed in a community that doesn’t fit his temperment, theology or philosophy of leadership, then he ends up becoming the enemy and the scapegoat for the parishioners’ anger, powerlessness and grief.  These poor guys are being fed to the wolves and that is no more fair to them as it is to the communities where they are forced to minister.  I have watched several priests struggle just to stay sane in the face of these dynamics – all really good men in their own right, with their own unique set of gifts, forced to minister to a community that doesn’t fit their gift or skill set.  That would be like hiring me to fix the motherboard on your computer and expecting me to do a good job –  and I promise you, that WOULD NOT be pretty!

What have been your experiences of good parish leadership?

What are the negative effects you have experienced when parish leadership changes?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com