This is probably a pretty shocking post title, for anyone who knows me. Me, the hardcore Catholic girl, saying she’s leaving her church?! What in the world is going on?!
Let me put your fears to rest, I’m not leaving the Catholic faith. Rather, I’m going to be switching parishes.
I confessed to my group of girlfriends a few months ago that I felt rather “Protestant”, because I was “church shopping”. For those unfamiliar with the term, I’ve seen it used when someone needs to find a new church home, they go from church to church each week looking for that right fit of doctrine, preaching style, music, and fellowship. Many find something that has most, but not all of those elements, but as long as the important things are there, they are happy.
In Catholicism, things are slightly different. Technically, the bishop chooses the geographical limits of each parish church, and if you live in those limits, you are a member of that parish (whether you register or not). For regular “daily” things this really doesnt matter, you can go to mass or confession wherever you like. For big one time sacraments, it’s a bit trickier. It’s not as big a deal with baptism, funerals and first communions or confirmations, as it’s possible that your geographical parish might not even offer that (especially confirmation, that tends to follow the schools it seems). But in regards to wedding, you MUST get married at your geographial parish or seek permission from that pastor, or your marriage is invalid.
But enough with semantics and facts (which you can google if you are interested in learning more). I want to talk about why I am leaving my parish.
This goes back quite some time, about two years. Since becoming a mother, I’ve wanted to have fellowship with other moms. There are parishes in the area that have groups that minister to moms and their kids, but mine doesn’t have anything of that sort. It’s something I’m a bit jealous of my protestant friends for… they all seem to have awesome MOPS groups, or even just a moms bible study once a week that has free childcare available. I debated for quite some time as to whether perhaps I was being called to start something and even worked through some plans and ideas.
While I was yearning for this, I was also facing a challenge nearly every week at mass. I strongly believe that ALL children should be at mass and should only be taken out in cases of extreme misbehavior or distress. So we go to mass as a family, even the kids who are in the terrible twos (or threes). Some kids are naturally quiet and can easily sit for an hour and do nothing. I consider those kids to be miraculous unicorns and their parents have been blessed beyond measure. I’m pretty sure the only time my kids go longer than 60 seconds without speaking is when they are either very very ill, or there is a really awesome new show on netflix.
So every week I trudge into church, loaded down with coloring books of religious nature and pray that I can maybe hear ONE line of the homily that I can mull over that day. And if I don’t hear a word, I’m usually ok with that, because at the least, I’m receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, this is just a season in my life and one day I’ll (maybe) wish for the loud children to be back. Unfortunatley, many people at my parish see things differently. In fact, just yesterday I was there for 12:30 mass alone (both big kids had fevers so Chris and I switched off on mass attendance). The new confirmandi were there and I swear to you, probably not even half of those kids go to weekly mass (these are all eighth graders, I think). Some may go to other parishes, but I know I have not seen most of those kids at mass, ever. As for younger kids, I think I spotted three, and only one of those was a toddler. This is a large parish, with many families and there are hardly any babies or young children. And I think the reason why is because whenever my kids would act up, or even have what I considered a “good” day, we would get dirty looks, or ushers coming up and asking me if I knew there was a cry room, or people telling us after church that we should not bring our kids. I have seriously cried after mass because of this treatment on multiple occasions.
There is something wrong with this. And I’m going to call it a “contraceptive mentality”. This is the real contraceptive mentality that is alive and well in the Catholic Church. When we are sanitizing our churches of children, we are encouraging those in the childbearing years to hurry up and be done with it after one or two kids so that you can come back.
There’s another parish in our neighborhood which is pretty well known to be welcoming to families with kids. They have a young families group. They ran a program (that’s currently on a break) that had talks for adults and activiites for kids going on at the same time. When you go to mass there and your kids are acting like they are possessed you don’t get scolded, you get told how awesome you did taking care of them!
We’ve gone to this other parish regularly now for a couple months. And when I was back this past week, not one person asked where I”ve been. None of the people who I’m friends with on facebook have mentioned missing seeing me or the kids. And then the last straw happened when someone messaged me and scolded me again for my kids NORMAL behavior and said she wasn’t the only one who thought that (and she also mentioned that I shouldn’t have those kids at all. nice.).
So we’ll be going to the church where we are welcome. Where we are ministered to in our life position as it is now. Where our children are welcomed as the full members of the church that they are. Jesus is still at our old parish in the Eucharist, but it certainly doesn’t feel as though he’s present in the people there.
I have more thoughts on some of these themes, and other issues I have with my old parish, but as this is already a long post, I’ll save them for another time.