My Whole Expanse I Cannot See…

I formulate infinity stored deep inside of me…

Nov 20

To be, or not to be… Catholic?

Category: Life,Opinions

So, I’ve always thought of myself as a kind of, sort of, probably best described as a lapsed Catholic. Maybe? I mean, I go to Midnight Mass because I like the decorations, and the songs, and the story, but that’s my yearly visit to church.

Many years ago, after I quit talking, before Sara went away, I wanted to “get right with God.” It just seemed like the thing to do, for lots of reasons. I started dragging my assistant to mass every Sunday, I was looking into bible classes, I wanted to take Confession and Communion. I was really serious, it wasn’t just a passing thing. After a month-ish, less, I was at an evening mass and at that particular mass was a Bishop. It seemed so perfect, I wanted to ask someone how I would go about taking Confession and Communion, as my chair won’t fit in a confessional, and I’d recently switched to eating via a tube in my stomach. I knew I’d need accommodations. I figured a Bishop could totally get me those accommodations. I figured a Bishop would be totally happy to do so.

Well, after mass, my assistant and I went up to the Bishop, my assistant (Steven) explained my goal toward Confession and Communion. The Bishop looked puzzled a moment, then he asked Steven, talking about me in the third-person, “Can he take anything by mouth?” Steven explained that I can’t because of the tube in my throat, but I have the tube in my stomach, and we can crush things to go down said tube. The Bishop shook his head and told Steven that Communion has to be taken by mouth, only by mouth. Someone else then came up to chat with the totally not helpful Holy Man, and that was that. We left.

I didn’t lose any faith in God, but I definitely lost faith in His PR people. It felt kind of un-Christian. I remember thinking, had I just approached Jesus, He wouldn’t have totally blown me off, He’d have at least talked with me awhile, something. I remember leaving church, the sun was setting a gorgeous orange, I was thinking about dinner with Sara, a cold evening breeze making me feel keenly alive. I felt God all around me, but outside of that church, away from that Bishop.

Ever since, I only go to Midnight Mass. I always feel close to God at Midnight Mass. Generally though, I don’t go to church to strengthen my faith, God feels so much more vivid elsewhere. I see God in star-filled night skies, in sun shining through green tree leaves. I feel God falling asleep holding someone I love. I see God in her eyes, eyes that love me back. God’s not relegated to a place, God is everywhere, so it’s not like this bad experience at church broke me. I just quit feeling like church is important.

Well, after my experience at the Greek Orthodox church, I started feeling like I’d like to go back, maybe a lot. It felt nice being there. I liked being there with Maria, liked how she lit up telling me all about the church, the Liturgy. I liked how everyone was so friendly; people talked to me, not about me, in the third-person. The church itself is gorgeous. I was happier when I left than when I showed up. I was thinking about all of this stuff while hanging out with Maria last week, mentioning parts, leaving out parts.

We started talking about going to visit my church sometime, as she put it, “your turf.” I had to laugh, the Catholic church is hardly my turf. I reminded her, “I’m a lapsed Catholic AT BEST.” Then I started typing, Besides, I’m technically originally baptized Serbian Ort-, at which point Maria said, “Wait, if you type Orthodox, I’m going to have a cow!” I had no idea I was saying anything important. To me, it’s always been an amusing aside that I was baptized Serbian Orthodox, and was promptly baptized AGAIN, as a Catholic, as soon as my parents divorced. It never seemed like it meant anything. I barely knew my dad, I really don’t know the Phillipses at all, so I always just thought my baptismal resume was just another example of my never doing anything normal, and it is, but it’s more too.

Basically, if you’re baptized Orthodox, but fall away for whatever reason, they’ll always accept you back, if you ask. You don’t have to renounce anything, or convert to anything, you just get welcomed back.

I asked.

There’s one small ceremonial thing to be done, but after that, I re-join my Orthodox heritage.

I don’t know how this is going to go, but Atheism isn’t for me (sorry, Ziztur!), and I’ve really always wanted to be a part of a more welcoming church. I’m sure I’ll disagree with lots of things, as I always have, but I’ll be a part of something that’s beautiful, a place to be among friends. A place where they’ll let me take Confession and Communion, I won’t be rejected for losing something that I didn’t lose by choice. That alone tells me that I’m doing something right.


4 Comments so far

  1. Ziztur November 20th, 2013 6:06 pm

    That’s okay, I still love you anyhow. ^.^

  2. maria X (Mrs. Xenick in your school life) November 23rd, 2013 10:09 am

    Words can’t express how I feel when I read this. After saying the part about having a cow, :), I also remember specifically saying to you, eye to eye, “Michael, I don’t know what this means, but I know it means something.”
    Turns out, it means more to me than you will probably ever know.

  3. Bill Genereux January 13th, 2014 7:18 pm

    I’m very glad that you are trying to (re?)connect with God. I don’t know much about the Serbian Orthodox Church. I think they have a valid Eucharist and amazing early saint relics. I’m sad that the church is divided. I don’t think that’s what Jesus wants for his church. The thing I love about being Catholic is the connection we have with one another across the world. In my travels, I can always find a mass, even if I don’t understand the language, and I can be at home.

    I also think you were treated poorly by the bishop. I think he may have the authority to give communion through a tube, maybe not even realizing it. Not talking directly to you, but to your assistant shows he’s not really on top of ministering to those with special needs. It’s too bad. I’m biased, but I really love the universal church. As the saying goes, if I search until I find the perfect church, it will be spoiled as soon as I join it.

    BTW, the same rules apply if you’re baptized Catholic. You’re always welcome to return. The confession thing doesn’t have to happen in a confessional, just in a private place. Any parish priest can arrange it. Wishing you the best on this, Michael. I know you wrote this a while ago. I hope you are still growing in your faith. I’ll pray for you.

  4. michael January 17th, 2014 6:28 pm

    Bill: Thank you for your kind words, and for keeping me your prayers.