“It’s just a church.” These were the words he spoke to me over the phone as I cried on the other end in a painful kind of sadness and frustration. I knew I loved being Catholic, but I didn’t realize how much my Catholic faith meant to me until it was attacked by someone very close to me.
The consoling knowledge of the “communion of saints” continues to support me on my journey of grief. It is wonderful to know that those that we love need not be dismissed as “dead and gone.” There is the wonderful Reality that life goes on, beyond the grave. I can hope that my dad is “putting in a good word for me” now, that he is currently experiencing reality more fully than the rest of us in the Church here on earth.
My mind travels back to those greats who came to preach the Gospel to India, who were as strange as we are if not more. They were new missionaries, and had to learn the language, the way to dress, the food, the customs, and the huge cultural and social barriers They were rejected, accepted and rejected some more. Still, they made Jesus known. They are the reason we have faith.
I know I am not perfect. But that is why I am still practicing. Practicing my faith so I can start my next climb. So I can share my stories with those who are placed along the way. So I can listen to the stories of those who are placed along the way.
Depression came like a tsunami, I was completely submerged and there was no coming up for air. People who I called friends turned their backs on me. I was judged because of my nationality and skin color. My relationship with my parents was struggling. I didn’t know where I fit in or where I belonged.
But many of us find that we don’t have clear models for what we’re supposed to do—what it would even look like to bring all our wild, weird, harrowing experiences to the altar. Especially if something in your life or your calling from God hasn’t been modeled for you by the Catholics around you, it can feel like you’re locked out of that small, perfect sphere of faith.
And yet, four years after my confirmation, I am still finding my way. I am still actualizing my identity as a beloved daughter of God and learning what it means to be a Catholic woman in this broken and beautiful world.
During the very first Mass I attended in Afghanistan, this was all I could think about. I looked around the small chapel with tears in my eyes thinking 'this is the universal Church.' I may be on the other side of the world but, during that hour of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, my soul is at home.
Sometimes I would wake up in strange places. Sometimes I would wake up on the bathroom floor. Once I woke up in a bus station downtown after a baseball game, escorted by a kindly police officer to his waiting cruiser and delivered unceremoniously to a detox center in the next city over where I attended college.
I knew Jesus had room for me—he hung out with my crowd, loud mouth recovering know-it-alls trying to figure out how to follow Him. That wasn’t my issue. It was the Church, with its pearls and stained glass, its rules about candle height and liturgical music and specific wordings—that was where I wasn’t sure I was welcome.
"I was sitting in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting the other day - it was a women’s only meeting - and I was struck by how honest, vulnerable and real everyone’s shares were. I wondered if I had been to any Catholic women’s gatherings where…"
“Every human being has gifts, insight, and presence that are needed by the rest of us; some of us are in a position to have our offerings valued by the world, and some of us are not. That doesn’t mean some have less to offer—it means we have to create a world that elevates the voices of those who have been silenced…”
In the second letter of our Cultivating Sisterhood short-series, Sara reminds us that no matter who we are or where we go, we can always bring a little bit of the Church with us to others using our unique gifts & talents.