Wednesday, December 26, 2012

To Be Catholic

I've gone the cycles of wrestling and reconciling being a Catholic most of my life, and I admit that it's a hard thing to escape.   I've practiced the rituals and spiritual traditions of this faith for so long, I feel bound to it - like I have a responsibility to it, like I have a stake in being Catholic.

Frankly, I feel Catholic.  I really do.  My parents are Catholic, most all my Chamorro relatives are, and there's a huge world population that identifies with being Catholic.  When I had Misa and John-Pio, it was without question that they would be raised in the Catholic church, and currently, I've lived up to my self-induced responsibility from both a family and cultural standpoint.  They attend catechism every Sunday, we make the sign of the cross before and after prayer, and they identify themselves as "Chamorro Catholics."  In fact, they are so close to their godparents whom they refer to as "Uncle Nino," and "Auntie Nina," that they might have forgotten that their first names are actually Geri and Peter.   Their experiences have led them towards a belief in what Catholics believe, and attention to how Catholics practice.

I'm proud of how my kids have been influenced as Catholics, but more than that, I'm proud to raise them to be discerning and thoughtful about how they go about living out their spiritual and religious lives.  It can be such a hard line to tow these days here in Madison, especially because Bishop Morlino and I have never seen eye to eye, and I've been discouraged and outraged by his recent call to dismiss and punish the good works of others.  I'm not so shallow as to let this represent all of what it means to be Catholic, as actions and decisions by the religious have long had an effect on my conscience.  Admittedly though, Bishop Morlino leaves a bad feeling in my being.

I could not fake the season of Christmas without being open regarding this latest issue with Bishop Morlino.  I didn't want to go through a mass with him celebrating, and I was plotting the church we would attend for Christmas mass based on where he was not.  Frankly, for the past few weeks, I was feeling cynical and angry.  And one thing I know about these two emotions is that when I go there, I have to consciously wage that battle with myself to push through and out of it.

Over dinner one night a few weeks ago, I brought up the work being done by Wisdom Well . We looked at their website together and I shared about the retreat experiences I had with them when I first moved to Madison.  Then I shared the story published in the newspaper about Bishop Morlino's admonition against them.  Our discussion was frank and instructive, and closed with my personal sentiments about his decision and why I believe what he has decided was wrong and is still wrong.

And that was that.  I breathed a little easier.  My cynicism and anger lifted.  My kids chocked up another contribution to their developing consciousness.

I still didn't feel like going to a Christmas mass where he was celebrating.  So we went to another Catholic church on the isthmus with an amazing choir filled with harmonic and angelic sounds.  It followed all the goodness from the morning surprises and laughter of delight, and was especially heightened when, in the middle of the service, John-Pio leaned over to whisper in my ear, "This is really quite a fun mass, Mama."

That was just the boost I needed to feel Catholic all over again.


  1. Knowledge without faith leaves me feeling incomplete. A brilliant article, one which I can personally relate with.

    Art M.(Plaza Blvd).

    1. I agree with you Art - I feel better being a Catholic if I can fully feel the power of my history with this faith. But also it's important to take issue with the things that do not sit well, which for me are its archaic and patriarchal teachings and practices. Still, it's part of me - and perhaps may be part of growing up on Plaza Blvd :) which I am also very proud of!

  2. Oh, Vera. You have no idea how I can relate to this post. I have run from lukewarm, Sunday Catholic to so over-zealous and (self)righteous that I lost touch with the real world, and back, in the last 17 years of being Catholic. Sometimes, I have wondered if I even belong in this church. I so fully agree with you!. Someone recently sent me a poster by e-mail with a quote from this 13th century saint: "Better that only a few Catholics should be left, staunch and sincere in their religion, than that they should, remaining many, desire as it were, to be in collusion with the Church's enemies and in conformity with the open foes of our faith." -St. Peter Canisius. I took quite an offense to that and she was surprised. I asked if she really felt that fewer would be better and she answered yes! Really? Not what my perception of Jesus is from the Gospels. Thanks for letting me vent and share your frustration in that sad situation that your bishop (former bishop of my diocese BTW) has created. Very sad.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Carmen - and what a "small" world with Bishop Morlino's ties. It's helpful to know others who identify with the complexities of being raised in this religion. And that quote from the 13th century is extreme, but it just about makes the bishops current decision to ban those nuns, come to life.