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?
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.