Catholicism is a fascinating thing. Often I am really stumped by it. There is so much doctrine, ritual, legalism, rote prayers, Sacraments, Mary, saints, statues—the list is endless. I call it “Catholic clutter” and so I basically took a break from the Catholic Church during my child-rearing years for what seemed to be simpler, Protestant ways. I did my fair share of church shopping and reluctantly settled on a place where my severely wheat allergic daughter could receive gluten-free communion.
As a child, I went to Catholic grammar school with the mostly scary nuns, who had masculine names and rosaries jingling from their belts. At least we knew when they were coming! As it happened, I found myself in “Catholic” institutions all the way through my first two years of college. I was also active in music ministry throughout my young adulthood.
What started me thinking about all this was a particular day recently when I happened to go to Adoration at the Catholic church, which then turned into Benediction, which then turned into people praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which then turned into Mass complete with a cappella hymn singing and topped off with the, suddenly controversial, St. Michael prayer. Whoa! When I got out of there I felt like I was doused in a full round of Catholicism, like getting a full service car wash or a hamburger with the works! It felt kind of good and cleansing!
On the other hand, it also felt kind of weird. What on earth was I doing there and even kind of liking it??? Me, the previous Charismatic, hand-raising, speaking in tongues, guitar playing, baptized in the Holy Spirit follower. What to make of this? Perhaps my doubts are from the devil, trying to tempt me away from Christ, or maybe it’s okay to like reverent rituals as well as joyful praise sessions. There are many forms of worship. After all, to everything there is a season.
As I get older, I am growing to like the “Catholic clutter”. There is an over 2,000 year history to the Church that provides a richness and depth that other churches can’t rival. I am more fully appreciating the majesty of ritual with the incense, holy water and elaborate priestly garb, especially during holidays. I am more curious about what I can learn from the saints, that I used to write off as mentally ill, and am thankful we have a perfect Heavenly Mother who watches over us. I find comfort in the familiarity and I love good music (when it can be found). Now, being Catholic is like the icing on the cake. It’s like having all the flavors of ice cream ever made, not just some of them.
I will always cherish emotional experiences, and feelings of God’s presence, but that isn’t realistic all the time. It’s about commitment and faith, no matter what I feel. It’s about relationship and Jesus in the Eucharist, communing with me. And what is more glorious than that?
Book: The Eucharistic Miracles of the World , presented by the Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association, Inc.