Why I Remain Catholic

Maria Johnson suggested that those who attended her mastermind group at CNMC15, which I did, (in spite of the fact that I really wanted to run far away and hide until lunchtime) take on the challenge of answering, “Why do you remain Catholic?” which was asked by Elizabeth Scalia.

Why do I remain Catholic?

It’s one of those questions I’m always asking myself because there are plenty of reasons why I could (and probably should) walk away and never look back.

In fact I have walked away from the Church for at least a decade; actually looking back I wonder if I was ever “with” the Church until my 20s.

I’m a cradle Catholic but not a good one. I can’t even remember if I went to mass every Sunday growing up. I want to say yes, but I’m honestly not sure.

Regardless I went through the motions because I didn’t really understand any of it. There are a lot of people I could blame for that but I’m not going to, because what’s the point in doing that now.

In 5th grade I switched schools, to a Catholic school, and it all went downhill from there (to put in very nicely). It didn’t take me very long to figure out that if this was how Catholics acted I wanted no part of it.

In fact I went the extra mile and decided there was no God; because if God was in any way like anyone in my school I wanted none of that either.

Catholic schooling made me an atheist. I’m sure I’m not the only member of this group; however I may be one of the few that wondered back into the fold.

However I’m still not a fan of Catholic schooling, until the college and grad/post grad level. But that’s another post for another day.

So, why am I Catholic after being so severely scarred by Catholics (and the Catholic Church)?

The short answer is because I came to the realization that you can’t point out something that the Church can and should be doing better and just leave.

The first time I tried to change the Church I was in college (undergrad) and I decided I would focus all of my independent research on incorporating more art into catechesis. Because people just couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea that a Drama major would have even the slightest interest in theology and the Church.

It would’ve been easy to drop my research, maybe change my major and/or minor, and walk away from the Church (again).

In fact I was told to change my research, my major, and minor by several people (some of whom I respected highly and considered to be mentors) which could’ve caused me to walk away from the Church.

But I didn’t. In hindsight, I still can’t tell you if I was being stubborn or stupid or both.

I took a break from pursuing changing Catechesis as we know it, since 7 years of being a hardcore drama geek was slightly draining, and my (next, or real?) vocation fell into my lap.

After my latest surgery I had to pay attention to things I’d always struggled with but made due. The difference post-op was there was no “making do,” unless that meant never leaving the house, and even staying in home 24/7 required help.

Stairs and no ramp? Need to get someone to lift and carry me up the stairs, for example (and it really takes two people).

Where are the handicapped parking spaces? Are they clear of snow/debris/other cars?

The list goes on and on.

At some point a friend asked me if I was going to mass on Sunday. I told her “no” because parking was a pain and there was no place for me to be without being in everyone’s way during mass, of the subject of their pity stares and comments.

We talked about other options.

Going to another parish? It’s highly likely that I’d have the same issues just in a different location.

The Anointing of the Sick? A nice thought, but disability isn’t an illness that I need to get over. Yes, in this instance I was recovering but that wasn’t keeping me from attending mass, lack of basic access and a feeling of acceptance was. I wasn’t going to take up a ministers time just because I there wasn’t somewhere for me to sit safely during mass.

Eventually I went to the internet for answers (like most people do these days). I discovered that religious institutions, like the Catholic Church, are exempt from complying with the ADA.

However there were religious institutions that have complied with the ADA.

So why wasn’t/isn’t the Catholic Church one of them?

“Catholics are bad at tithing.”

“We don’t have the money.”

“We don’t have to comply with the ADA”

“We don’t have any disabled people who come to our church.”

“Complying with the ADA would destroy our building.”

“Catholics have the Anointing of the Sick for those who can’t attend mass.”

“We’re accessible; we just have a few stairs.”

“We have awareness services once a month.”

The list could go on and on.

Although these reasons appear to be completely valid reasons, and a true reality for a number of parishes, there are really just copouts to so many people with disabilities.

Attitudes need to change. The Catholic Church (as well as other faiths) needs to be more inclusive to the largest minority on the planet, because in the end everyone will suffer for it.

Why do I remain Catholic? Because nothing is perfect and no one is perfect and walking away because that’s the honest truth is just asinine, in my humble opinion. If you want change so badly then it’s a good idea to be part of that making that change, if not, sit down and shut up because you’re just complaining to hear yourself talk.

On The ADA Anniversary

This week (this upcoming Sunday) is the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

I’ve often wondered if the ADA creates more problems than it solves for some, if not all, people with disabilities. It helps A LOT, but it also causes a lot of headaches.

I’ve come to realize however, that the ADA isn’t really for people with disabilities. It’s for the people who can’t even imagine what life is like to live with a disability.

Kind of like how birthday parties really aren’t for the people they’re throne for but for the people that go to them.

Kinda.

Without knowing it I managed to grow up just as the ADA was finding its “sea legs,” which probably explains why so many aspects of my life have become, in a sense, easier even though my mobility had had an endless ebb and flow.

I once heard it said that, “those who don’t need the law are truly freed from the law,” or at least that’s the best my brain remembers it as.

The idea being (I think) that we wouldn’t need as many laws (or any) if everyone operated with the same level of moral decency.

As great of an idea as this is I doubt it will ever happen, ever. Sorry all of you who dream of world peace.

It would be nearly impossible for someone to be able to imagine what it’s like to live with a disability, unless they do in fact live with a disability themselves; besides the fact that imagining it and living it are two different things.

That’s why the ADA is so important.

It gives people a clue into what’s needed in order for people with disabilities. Although it should be pointed out that what’s deemed ADA compliant doesn’t mean it’s accessible for those who need it to be, but it’s better than nothing.

(So if you don’t know anything about the ADA feel free to read up)

As much as I (and countless others) benefit from the ADA there always seems to be something new to learn.

Such as how many loopholes there are.

Like the loopholes for already existing buildings and/or religious institutions.

As a Catholic who works in a building that’s been “grandfathered in” (multiple flights of stairs and no elevator) I curse such loopholes often.

It would be nice if there were less (or no) loopholes in the ADA but that’s only a short term dream. Someday I’d like it if the ADA was an afterthought, making it in a sense unnecessary because access for all is a natural thing.

It seems so wildly unrealistic, but I can hope right?

*A similar version of this post was written on July 22, 2014

#CNMC15

The 1st stop of my trip was The Catholic New Media Celebration in Atlanta. Which was well over a month ago and as much as I wanted to write about it sooner but whenever I had the words I didn’t have the time and when I didn’t have the words I had the time.

At the last CNMC my recap consisted mostly of pictures. This time is different though, because I didn’t take any pictures (or tweet a thing) thankfully I’m not alone.

And if it works for Greg Willits than its good with me too, at least that what I’ve been telling people when they ask to see pictures (and then I have to explain who Greg Willits is).

Tiffany was generous enough to agree to be my roommate and companion during the weekend. We met in the airport and went to check in at the hotel (after my attempts at the damsel in distress routine to gain assistance from Billy Newton failed miserably).

You should probably read Tiffany’s account of the experience since her post was fresh in her mind when she wrote hers, unlike this one.

Our room wasn’t ready for us so we headed over to the Eucharistic Congress while we waited for a phone call from our hotel. We decided pretty quickly against attending any of the talks, mainly because we were both sleep deprived. Instead we strolled around to see if we could find anyone we knew.

One of our first stops was the SQPN booth, after a quick detour to my school’s booth) but more on that later), where we met Fr. Cory & Fr. Darryl and took our now pretty famous extreme selfie.

Once we realized it was past check in time and we still hadn’t gotten a call about our room we headed back to the hotel to check in & finally decompress for 5 minutes.

While Tiffany was at the Jubilee Dinner I did homework. And by did homework I mean I went to the gym, ate dinner, took a shower, and kept tabs on the Jubilee Dinner thanks to the #CNMC15 Tagboard Lyn Francisco created. Basically I should’ve gone to the dinner because I wasn’t I wasn’t helping myself out in any way, at all.

The next day was when all the real fun happened. Tiffany & I sat at the same table with Sr. Anne which was total Providence, in my opinion, so it was nice to talk to her in person since I’m been telling people in my life about her for a while now.

Greg Willits’ keynote was amazing and just what I needed to hear, without knowing it’s what I needed. Don’t you just love when that happens?

The rest of the day was pretty much a blur of workshops and networking, and most importantly genuine community.

I had a list of goals in my head of things I wanted to accomplish and a list of things I’d like to accomplish but it would be OK if I didn’t. I was able to cross off everything on both lists and then some. 🙂

Like cornering Capt. Jeff, The Airline Pilot Guy, at lunch and asking him all kinds of air travel type questions; such as why “closing the bridge” due to lightning means people can still get off an aircraft but anything gate checked needs to stay put. Thanks Capt. Jeff & sorry about the inquisition.

Other highlights of the day were meeting Lisa Hendy of Catholic Mom and talking to her more about how she got started as well as talking to Maria Johnson in person since I’ve been bugging her for her feedback on various things for at least the last year.

After the conference was over I headed back to the hotel with Mac & Katherine Barron, of Catholic in a Small Town, who happen to be two of the nicest people ever. I had a great time talking with them and I hope to have the chance again in the future.

Once back at the hotel I met up with Tiffany and a few friends to go to dinner, except those few friends had turned into a group of 17 (?). I’m not even sure how many of us there were but it was one of the best group dinners I’ve ever been to, and I know there are a few pictures of it floating around F@cebook. During dinner I sat next to the older sister of a college classmate which is pretty unbelievable, even considering our alma mater).

Lisa, from Of Sound Mind and Spirit, was also at my end of the table with her kids. She was great to have dinner with and now I want to visit Houston!

After dinner I had every intention of packing and going to bed but Tiffany invited me to go with her to meet a few people in the hotel bar. So we headed back out the door and downstairs (I blame my severe FOMO, in spite of my introverted-ness) where we enjoyed more socializing and met (all too briefly) Jennifer Willits.

After such a great day with everyone I really didn’t want to go to bed but one can only hold off reality for so long. Thankfully Allison, of Reconciled To You, and Tiffany had made plans for breakfast so the next morning we said our good byes to Steph (TV Rewind Podcast) & Marika (@oneeyedsmiley) in the lobby before heading to the airport for breakfast.

My CNMC experience ended, at least for now, with a final good bye to Dee, of Catholic Vitamins, before heading off on the second leg of my trip. Now that home I have one final thing to say, well Steve Nelson said it first, but I agree.

And if you want another good review of CNMC15 you should read Steve’s thoughts (and/or Maria’s link up).

3,300 Miles, 22 Days, 4 States

3 Classes
2 Conferences

And a partridge in a pear tree.

Where do I begin?

I knew this summer was going to be busy. The structure of my degree program has made that very clear until I have that diploma in hand. My summers are spoken for, even before you add (in no particular order, at all) a job that pays the bills, a still-budding career, family & friends commitments, sacrament season that occurs just before summer, and that eating and sleeping thing.

I knew in January the calendar year was full, so full that my commitment fearing- self, sat down and wrote out a calendar. I filled in what I could and left a list of “items needing to be dated” in another column.

The Catholic New Media Conference (or Celebration) was at the top of that second list. I had such a good time during the last one (essentially being baptized by fire) that I knew I had to go to the next one. I just needed a location and date.

I prayed like hell that it wouldn’t fall around my proposed course schedule, or worse, right in the middle of it.

It ended up being the Sunday before classes started. Did I really want to spend a full day learning and socializing and then go directly to class first thing the next morning? Not really, bordering on “no.” But I checked the proposed summer courses schedule again and found a slim chance to make all of this work.

Not wanting to do anything stupid, unintentionally, I emailed my academic advisor for the “OK.”

I would go to CNMC and then head to campus to fulfil my “in residence” requirement for the year.

But that left a few free days; which left me wondering what I should do with them, going home for a few days didn’t make much sense and as much as I would’ve liked to stay in Atlanta, it just wasn’t in the cards.

So I headed to my dad’s for a few days since it’s so much easier to get a direct flight from Atlanta to my dad’s than it is to get to my dad’s from the closest major airport to my home. Ironically I’d have to fly to Atlanta and then change planes to get to my dad’s.

The plan was for the rest of my books to be delivered to his house to avoid any hiccups in the delivery. The rest of the plan was to do copious amounts of reading to get ahead of myself and hopefully avoid a few late nights. I’m happy to say that plan half worked, because every other time I’m made a similar plan I’ve blown the plan to bits in the worst possible ways.

During preparation for all this travel I happened to mention that I wished I could go to the Abilities Expo this year since the dates fell just so and I would be in the area. Suddenly I wasn’t going to be traveling to Chicago alone anymore, much to the delight of my already overloaded suitcase.

As my initial departure date got closer I realized how insane this whole plan was. I’d be away from home for three whole weeks, for one thing. I’d basically be embarking on a mini national tour for another. There were so many details that I didn’t think about initially that kept driving me to fits of panic.

What if I can’t repack all of my stuff?

What if I get sick?

I’m probably not going to have time to go swimming for 3 weeks.

What if I get a flat tire?

I’m going to be sleeping without my pillow.

The last three items on this very short list were the most concerning.

I was adamant that I was going to be “carry-on only” but I let that one go fairly early & quickly once I started packing like I was preparing for the apocalypse in addition to needing to pack books (not kidding).

In the end I had to break the trip into sections ad pack according to those sections. But it all boiled down to “just manage to get to Chicago with as little trouble as possible,” and it worked, mostly.

Now that I’m back home (and back to reality) there’s decompressing to do, papers to write, items to respond to, among so many other things.

Too much travel is more disorientating than I bargained for. Now I know why celebs appear to be so high maintenance.