Just my Thoughts · Religion

Religion – Organized or Not?

I can tell when I have not been to church in a while.  It is not because I have not had my conversations with God.  It is just a feeling.  I knew, when reading my friend Steve’s blog, that I could not just comment.  It would be much more than a passing comment.  Below are my thoughts.  In my mind, even though it is organized religion, church is so much more.

 

Going to Mass – yes, I am Catholic; no, I am not a cradle Catholic – is community for me.  I see people at my church that I may or may not see in other parts of my life.  I know these people, regardless of it being 4:30 PM on Saturday or 8:30 AM or 11 AM on Sunday.  I miss these people when I do not see them.  Consequently, I know when I have missed church for a few weeks and I know I have to get back there.

 

This has not always been the case.  First, I made my choice to become a Catholic at 21.  I was brought up in a “different” church but not one that is all that different.  I fought with religion – not with God but with religion – as a teenager and a college student before finding a place that felt like home to me.

 

As a young child, my grandparents, with whom I lived from age five, took me to church every Sunday.  After my grandfather died of a heart attack when I was eight, my grandmother continued to take my sister and I to church.  We went to the church down at the end of the street.  It is an old Episcopal church and I loved it.  I sang in the choir.  I was confirmed at age 12 – do children that young really understand confirming their faith?

 

St Paul's, Owego, NY

 

I have vivid memories of midnight services on Christmas Eve, of seeing who could get further down the street with their lit candle.  I have vivid memories of the bells chiming – a person climbed the ladder every day – at 5 PM daily.  The church building holds memories for me but I am  not sure the people hold the memories that my current church family does, at least not all the people.

 

I went away to college in the Adirondacks.  It was near impossible to get to church as the college was about 13 miles from anywhere.  I did have some friends that went “into town” to church on Sundays.  I did not follow.  I started worshiping on campus.  Occasionally, it would be a service that was led by a minister but more times than not, I would walk in the woods and talk to God.

 

To this day, I frequently think this was the most spiritual time of my life.  I talked with God while enjoying His creations.  I talked to God all the time.  I didn’t think about going somewhere to do it.  I look upon it as being an infant in my true faith and with infancy come innocence.  My talks were intimate and innocent.

 

When I transferred to West Virginia University, I tried going to the local Episcopal church.  I felt uncomfortable.  I did like having prayer, the kind most all of us think of when the word is said, to fall back on.  When stress hits, I will find myself, to this day, going to formal prayer as opposed to my intimate talks.  The reason – they are there and they are rote.  I don’t need to think or add more stress to say them.

 

I went to several churches in Morgantown before going to the Catholic church that served the university community.  I could not believe I had not stumbled in there before.  I felt like I had come home.  I felt comfortable.  I felt at home.  I felt like I should be there.

 

Shortly after that, I began an RCIA program – Rite of Christian Intiation for Adults.  I became a Catholic in 1983.  To this day, I love being Catholic.  Does that mean I think everyone should be?  No.  Does that mean I think I have to be in church to talk to God?  No.  Does that mean – oh, here it comes! – I believe in all that every Catholic believes in?  Yes, but no.

 

I talk to God about my faults and sins.  I do not do it through a priest.  Intimate discussions like that are best for the two people involved.  I may do it while getting ready for bed or when I am out doing yard work or while I run but I do it.

 

Religion, in its organized state, is not for everyone.  Religion is not always about God, a Creator but it should be.  Church is more than a building but not the only place God is as He is everywhere.  We should all realize that as each of us is an individual, each of us will worship, thank and praise God, Yahweh, the Creator in our own way.

 

11 thoughts on “Religion – Organized or Not?

  1. Phew. Religion. I have not read your friend Steve’s blog yet, but I understand that if his post was about religion…you needed to expand your comment into your own post. I understand that because RELIGION? It is heavy. And so varied. And layered.

    I copied this….while reading:

    “To this day, I frequently think this was the most spiritual time of my life. I talked with God while enjoying His creations. I talked to God all the time. I didn’t think about going somewhere to do it. I look upon it as being an infant in my true faith and with infancy come innocence. My talks were intimate and innocent.”

    And just to give you some background: my mom was raised in the Episcopal Church and my dad was raised in the Catholic Church and WE THREE KIDS were raised in the CHURCH of our HOUSE, I guess you could say. I have a hard time saying it is GOD I believe in and yes, I’m sure that sounds so funky to someone who wholly identifies with GOD.

    It is easiest to explain myself as leaning toward Eastern Religions, more than anything. Buddhism most specifically. The one thing that I know I really miss is that sense of community you feel. I don’t have that. And my kids don’t have that. And it does make me a little sad because I want them to be raised with more spiritual notions than I was. With more guidance in the spirit than I was. I think often about trying to find a community of like-minded individuals. A temple of sorts. It’s just hard to find Buddhist temples when you aren’t in big cities. Not as prevalent as, oh…let’s say, CHURCHES. 🙂

    All in all Nicki, I love that you have what you have. Your beliefs. Your church. Your family within your religion. I feel peace in your words and in you having read this (and even before, to tell the truth.)

  2. Nicki,
    Whoa, Tuesday morning! I 99.9% agree with everything you said in particular about finding God in community.

    We part ways on Reconcilliation. I agree one can confess directly to God and receive absolution but there is an even more cleansing feeling, spiritual lift and hopefullness when you confess to a priest.

    In response to Sarah, I think a combination of East and West is the best of both worlds. A good example of this is Catholic priest, Anthony De Mello. Excellent writings.

    Thanks for the post!

  3. Sarah – I so understand what you are saying. I have some hard times trying to explain to my kids why they have to go to church while at home with me but once they leave it is their decision. I am hoping, at some point, I will point them to this and they can see how searching is good and other ways are good along with what they find at church.

    I work for a publishing company. I just read Transcendence: Saving Us from Ourselves. It is a good combination of East and West but really heavy on the Eastern religion/philosophy.

    1. Thanks for the book title! I will look into it. I have a shelf or two of my favorite bookshelf dedicated to East/West books, ideas and thoughts…

      Thanks!

  4. Anj – As I told Sarah, thank jassnight. If he had not posted what he did, I would have had this entry in my mind for many more days, more months, more years even.

    I do understand the feelings on reconciliation. That is just the one thing I have never taken to and it is odd since both organized religions I have been members of use it.

  5. What comes through clearly in your post isn’t so much your “religion” to me, but your relationship with God–which is what it’s all about anyway. I go to church (the organized part of my faith) because people are relational, and it strengthens our faith when we are around other people who have similar beliefs to our own. It adds something different to your faith when you worship God together in your community of believers than when you worship alone–both are good, and necessary.

    1. Thanks, JenLo. I am glad it is my relationship with God that comes through because that is ultimately what is important.

  6. I tend to stay away from discussions of religion and spirituality with 99% of the people I know. That said, I commented on Steve’s post.

    My sons have been raised “lightly” in the religious tradition in which I was raised. But more than anything, they’ve been raised to be ethical, responsible, life-embracing young men. They know I have certain beliefs; they know that the people in my life – friends, family, their dad – come from other religious backgrounds and beliefs. That leaves them with respect for many things, searching minds, and I hope a sense of belonging to a rich heritage that combines cultural and religious backgrounds.

    I still do not need a building to feel what is larger than myself. I do, nonetheless, continue to respect certain of the rituals I was raised with. I hope my sons will as well.

    I am not Catholic; I did have a serious long term relationship with a very devout Frenchman. When I was there, we attended mass together. When he was here, we attended mass together. Ironically, I didn’t love the church service here that we went to (it’s not the first time I’ve been to any number of services of different sorts), yet when I attended mass with him, in a small church with a very young (and quite remarkable) priest – the feeling in that space, the glorious acoustics of voices lifted in song (and I knew some of the songs, in French, having learned them more than 30 years ago) – it was a wonderful experience.

    1. I told Steve I could not manage just a comment on his post. He knows me well enough to know why.

      I have to say that I have enjoyed masses at my church more in the last 18 months than I had previously. We got a new priest just about that time along with a merger with a neighboring parish. The priest speaks to me much more than any other has in a long time.

      I am with you that I do NOT NEED to be in a building to talk with God or the higher being.

  7. Truthfully? As much as I love the ritual of the Episcopal Church, in which I was baptized, confirmed and married, and some of them are progressive, I am annoyed at the overall conservative trends they are caving into. I don’t even like the fact that they are arguing about people’s preferences or Gene Robinson etc—I think I am going Unitarian, which is unapologeticallly progressive.

    1. Gary – I can understand your feelings. There are a lot of issues that the Catholic church disappoints me on but my thought process is many of my friends have differing view points from mine and we are still friends so why should my church be different?

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