Elegy for an Illusion

In retrospect, I needed deliverance from my infatuation with the Catholic Church. Which is to say, I needed to stop seeing it as the alpha & omega of my faith.

After my bruising, profanity-laced encounter with a priest and my dawning awareness of how the grinding bureaucracy, religious pride and refusal to seek truth enabled the ongoing sexual abuse of children–I have realized that my love affair with Catholicism was more or less informed by my desperate desire to find Home.

The point is, when desire for truth is muddled by a desire for comfort (in my case, a religious place to call Home)–you’re willing to overlook red flags, warning signs, harbingers of doom. To put it Biblically: you “wink” at the obvious sin in order to keep the show on the road.

For years I wandered in a post-fundamentalist haze. I had no place to lie my head. And oh, how I wanted a place to call Home.

I don’t think this was wrong, necessarily. I am, after all, quite human. Most of us do not prefer homelessness. Homelessness grates against our inherent, inborn longings. We long for Home.

And I suppose after being raised in a religiously-saturated environment, the desire to seek another religious Home was only natural as well.

In Catholicism I recognized something that looked like Home. It was very different and also very similar. Even its peculiarities seemed endearing. I longed for the stability of ritual and tradition–also, Tradition. Because in Catholicism there’s a BIG difference between tradition (little t) and Tradition (big T)!!!! Oh, how I thrilled to this unique, precious code language. It felt so special.

Ay, there’s the rub.

Specialness.

Fullness of Truth.

THE one, TRUE Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself!

I had found it!

Still, I’m not necessarily disputing Catholicism’s claims to originality (it is sorta hard to deny apostolic succession), but I am disputing that particular flavor of religious pride that fosters an attitude of being above everyone else. Better than. Superior. Specialness. The idea that THIS particular institution contains God and has a corner on the truth.

I’m also deeply discouraged by the Catholic Church’s systemic inability to root out egregious sin among its own ministers. Furthermore, I’m disheartened by a widespread form of godliness that lacks true, transformative power.

At least here in Southern California, the Catholic Church bears a poor example of Christ. It appears more as a cultural institution–a museum–than an instrument of spiritual change. The fact that most Protestant, evangelical churches in Southern California are populated by former cradle Catholics and that the refrain I hear most often is, “I was raised Catholic but I never heard the Gospel!” is evidence of this spiritual ineptitude.

And yet, something drew me. I swam against the tide to explore the hidden, misunderstood mysteries of Catholicism. I found a priceless treasure. But it was buried–to put it Biblically–”beneath a bushel.” I have spent the last three years trying to unearth it.

I have battled the suspicions and deep-seated anti-Catholicism of my Protestant family, born the casual indifference of lifetime Catholics and prayed for fumbling priests who had less Holy Spirit than a limp fish on a hot sidewalk.

I have cringed at the triumphal elitism of the Catholic blogosphere, wept over the caustic You’re-Not-Catholic-Enough emails from Catholic gatekeepers, read the Catechism, prayed rosaries, gone to Confession.

And all of it has left me here: riddled with Catholic shrapnel, bleeding out and somehow, fully whole.

So, I lay here and I ask myself: what did you learn from your sojourn in Catholicism? Well, I learned several things.

  1. I learned about the centrality of Eucharist to the Christian experience.
  2. I fell in love with Mary and the saints.
  3. I stopped worrying about losing my salvation.
  4. I caught a glimpse of God’s unconditional love.

These lessons show me, even when I feel like all is lost, that this journey wasn’t wasted. I learned something.

And now I’m back to where I started: wandering, homeless. I’m not leaving Catholicism, exactly. But I’m not exactly staying, either.

Mostly, I am not afraid.

I can place a soup spoon on the table with the utmost care.

My faith is wounded and whole, my heart is broken and holy.

  • Tancred

    You go girl!

    • Maryann

      I’m a Catholic revert. I just wrote a long, heartfelt post and accidentally deleted it when my finger slipped. There’s no point in trying to recreate it now; your other Catholic commenters expressed my feelings better than I did anyway. When I sit here and try to draft a comment explaining why I’m Catholic, what comes out doesn’t sound like something that will help you at this time.

      The only new thing I’d like to add is that you should report that priest who cursed at you to the Bishop, if you haven’t done so already. His superiors should know how he’s talking to people. I’d write all the details, including the specific curses–the diocese needs to know.  (I apologize if you already did this and I missed that post.)

      I pray for you on your spiritual journey. I may refrain from commenting in the future, simply because I do not want to take up space in your comments trying to explain why I am Catholic. This is YOUR blog and your journey.

      • Maryann

         P.S. I meant this to come up as a general comment, not a reply to Tancred specifically. Oops.

  • Carmen Lillian

    “…Mostly, I am not afraid.” Lump in my throat, envy in my heart.

  • Rachel

    I very much relate to this post. I too have wanted to find a spiritual home and have considered the Catholic Church in the past. My reasons for considering the Catholic Church are very much along the lines of the things you learned there – the Eucherist, the permanence of salvation, etc. My reasons for choosing not to dive into it are also along the lines of the struggles you have seen. The elitism and bureaucracy along with the patterns of abuse exposed through the sexual abuse trials and testimonies from victims across the world were the breaking point for me. I continue to believe in faith but too often see faith subjected to religion with devastating results.  Love you! 

    • Rachel

      I misspelled Eucharist – sorry! :-)

  • KatR

    I think I’ve figured out that some places in life are meant to be harbors. The problem I ran into is that after a certain point I just couldn’t stay in the harbor anymore. I was SO upset. EVERYONE ELSE was happy in the harbor! It was STORMY out on the ocean. But I finally realized that no matter what everyone else was doing, I was going to go crazy tied to the dock.

    So I’m back out on the big waves.

  • http://heretichusband.blogspot.com/ Heretic Husband

    Ugh.  I, too, have thought I found God twice (opposite order from you – Catholicism then Evangelical Protestantism), only to realize I had been chasing the wind.

    Perhaps I need to examine what I’ve learned from my experiences, as you are doing.  

    Kudos to you for continuing on the journey.  And thank you for this blog, an oasis in the middle of the wilderness for tired souls like myself.  I hope my blog can be the same for others.

    -HH

  • http://prosario2000.myopenid.com/ Pedro M. Rosario Barbosa

    From the bottom of my heart, thank you for writing this, dear Elizabeth. :-)  Love you always.

    • Anonymous

      And I so appreciate YOU, Pedro!

  • Kacy Ellis

    Best of luck, Elizabeth. I can understand both the attraction to Catholicism and the desire to leave. I converted in 2007, and after trying to make everything work for me for the past 2 years, despite feelings of woundedness, I’m finally at a place where I feel comfortable in homelessness.

    I hope you do find a spiritual place that works for you, and I will keep reading your blog to see what’s next in your life.

  • http://twitter.com/byzcathwife priest’s wife

    I know you don’t want to hear this- because you are happy ‘sort of’ outside the Catholic Church, but I am so sorry you are going through this. Please pray for the priest (and the priests) who was imperfect when you needed him to be holy. 

    • Anonymous

      I appreciate you, Priest’s Wife, and I’m sorry to let you down? Or maybe I didn’t….maybe it just feels like i”m letting people down. Anyway, if this particular priest was the first man of God who kicked me when I was down, I would probably be OK. It’s just that this has happened SO many times to me and I’m completely worn out….. pray for me? thank you, friend.

      • http://twitter.com/byzcathwife priest’s wife

        No- you didn’t let anybody down! This is your journey- and yes, I would love it if everyone were Catholic, but that is not my business- faith of all kinds is a gift (but I really wish all the people connected to the Church were perfect- me included!)

      • Awol

         EE, I don’t feel let down by this post; I feel inspired by it…by your honesty, insights, and massive courage in sharing this.  You continue to put yourself ‘out there’ in this vulnerable place where we read your thoughts and then spew back who knows what all at you-the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Who knows what or where you will be a year from now?  I can’t predict and am not interested in doing so at this point.  Hugs and thank you for sharing YOU! 

  • Kimdeitzler

    Elizabeth, when I saw this I thought of you (not the tattooed blue haired part, but the recovering fundamentalis part): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kM9Y5S3UYi8

  • http://www.gracetags.com/ Janelle

    Home. I’ve been searching within for my unrest with my Christianity. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling like there had to be more, what was I missing. Reading this opened the eyes of my heart. I’m seeking home within a religion, or group of people sharing the same beliefs. I long for home, maybe if I found home, I’d find more of God. I don’t know. I just can’t help but feel like there has to be something more than the typical Christian walk. 

  • Rose

    Beautiful post, elizabeth. Just so you know, no matter how you identify (Protestant, Catholic) I love who you are. I continue to be challenged and changed through your writings by your faith, openness and willingness to speak truth no matter what the consequences. I think that last one is a rare gift that is invaluable to any faith community. We need more of it in our churches!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you, Rose. This means so much to me. Brought me to grateful tears, actually…..

  • Grandmother

    I get this. Kind of wish I didn’t – for your sake and for mine because it is such an uncertain place to live. Not leaving exactly, but not staying exactly. Oh yes – EXACTLY! 
     
    Richard Rohr’s Falling Upwards: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life speaks to this. I’ve sometimes envied his RC starting point and wished I’d had that as my own to grow from. For a time I did some reading and exploring along those lines. Not only did I come to appreciate the Eucharist and mystery and the communion of the saints but I have had a deep longing to participate in a more meaningful way.

    But my spiritual heritage and roots and connections run deep in evangelical protestantism. Per Richard Rohr’s Falling Upwards, the kind of growth that happens in this second half of life doesn’t seem anchored so much to an institution as it is something that happens inside. I’m back to thinking that fleeing one institution for another isn’t going to really satisfy what’s going on in my deepest heart.

    For now, I’m living with the discomfort. Listening to my heart. Paying attention. Trying to practice more mindfulness. Reading blogs like yours. Trying to be honest with myself and brave enough to be honest with others while loosening my grip on needing to be “right” – or anchored to something that is “right”. It is freeing and frightening at the same time.

    Thank you so much for this.

  • Emily

    I’m so excited for you!! Never compromise :)  I’ve travelled a long way through religion and fundamentalism and come to the conclusion that God IS Love!!  Follow Love and you will find Him :))))

  • Anonymous

    Weren’t your twin daughters recently baptized in the Catholic faith?  What happened between then and now?  I’m confused.  But that’s okay, too.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, my twins were baptized and I view that as one of my most wonderful experiences and accomplishments! :) I am SO happy they were baptized! :)

      • Anonymous

         I’ve always been Catholic, Esther.  I’ve never taken a break from my faith.  Every time I read about someone leaving the Catholic Church I first, feel sad, and then, I think about why I stay and why I probably always will.  It has to do with the grace of God.  I think I will blog about that soon, and maybe reference your post. 

  • http://www.JanetOberholtzer.com Janet Oberholtzer

    “Mostly, I am not afraid.”
    And isn’t that a wonderful thing… by “asking, seeking and knocking” I too have found that place and it is good… even if I’m wandering and wondering.

  • Lauren Jones

    I’m a Catholic convert from evangelicalism, and I plan on staying because I love the Catholic church and I agree with it theologically and Biblically, but I do sort of get this, as it’s one of the things I’ve longed for myself. 

  • Snookerin

    Me too. Other than that I was not raised in a fundamentalist denomination, your words are mine exactly. And it is odd: I am stragely at peace with cherishing my catholic (small c) faith while no longer considering myself part of the institution. Now I take my kids to an Episcopal church, still say the rosary, and feel rather at home. I feel at home in my faith, despite where I worhsip. Hang in there, prayers are with you.

  • http://twitter.com/marylenaburg Mary Lenaburg

    OK…I am going step waaaayyy outside my comfort zone and actually comment. First I am sorry for your run-in with a less than stellar individual. It’s made worse by the fact that he was a man of God. 

    So here’s the thing. The “Church” is filled with imperfection. Not just the Catholic Church but any and all churches where human beings are in charge. We are fallen. We sin. There is a special place in Hell for those who sin in the name of God against anyone, especially the most weak and vulnerable among us. 

    But I am not Catholic because I really enjoy my pastor’s homily’s on Sunday. I am not Catholic because I love/hate  the Latin Mass or Gregorian Chant. I am too Catholic for some and not Catholic enough for others. I really don’t care. 

    I am Roman Catholic for one reason…the Eucharist. The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus present at every Mass all around the world. So I go to Mass and I keep my eyes on Christ. The rest of it I leave to God to sort out. I love HIM and I serve HIM. 

    So I will pray for you and your journey Elizabeth. Always remember we are not made for this world, we are aliens all wanting to return HOME to HIM. 

    Blessings and Grace…

    • Suzanne

       Yes, Mary, you said just what I wanted to say and way better! From a cradle Catholic, who decided in my teens that I didn’t want those “old men” telling me what to do and stopped going to church to finding my way back in my 20s (led by a Baptist minister, I might add). The Eucharist is it… the reason why… humans fail, God does not.

    • Amielou31

      Said perfectly, Mary. I am Catholic for the wonder and grace of the sacraments. Not because I think imperfect humans can somehow make a perfect earthly institution.

      I have found, however, that a lot of people who leave fundamentalism or evangelicalism are looking for and thinking they can find a perfect church with perfect people. Something we cannot find in this fallen world. 

    • Hcclamastu

      I am also a convert. I have read Elizabeth Esther for several months, and can identify with her struggles. No one in my family is Catholic. Just me. I really do feel alone at times, but I firmly believe in the Eucharist. I will stand alone just for that.

      I totally “get” how the indifference of cradle Catholics can be discouraging.

    • Brian

      i am also an uncomfortable commenter, but this is important.

      mary (and suzanne), the position you are espousing breaks down as the following: “the world is full of problems, therefore the problems don’t matter. i have more faith than you because i ignore problems.” did i miss anything? (sarcasm)

      you sum up everything from extreme abuse to cold church benches into the dismissive generalization of ‘riddled with imperfection’. then you try to frame your own faith in an insipidly pious statement like ‘I am Roman Catholic for one reason…the Eucharist’.  that’s silly. no one is anything for only one reason. you have had a thousand life experiences that all play a part in your daily decisions.

      you claim that its important to turn a blind eye when terrible things happen to yourself and those your love because god will sort it out. then you claim that you love HIM and serve HIM. those sentences are right next to each other, take a second and try to link those two ideas. god will sort it out… i serve him… kinda sounds like you should be helping sort these problems out instead of ignoring them.

      the apathy you endorse is deeply cruel in ways you don’t want to see. it silences conviction. it enables abuse. it sits in judgement. this is not how jesus behaved when he saw the church ‘riddled with imperfections’

      there is only one sentence in your post that i think hits the nail on the head: “I really don’t care.”

  • http://www.txmom2jami.wordpress.com/ Laura

    I went back and read your other posts, and the following quote stood out to me:

    “What keeps me grounded in faith is my love for Jesus. And when my faith fails, what keeps me grounded is His love for me.”

    That resonates with  me in that that is the ultimate truth in our journey with the Lord.  Whatever label we may fix on the body of those who seek to worship God, that is the ultimate truth.  Churches are full of true believers, true seekers, and those who simply want to belong, without any real desire for a relationship with God.  Those who didn’t fit in with the bridge club, the rotary club, or whatever.  So they joined a church and brought their snitty little criticisms along, too.

    If we can only focus on Jesus, maybe we can make it through the journey without too many scars from those who are only interested in criticizing the way our faith looks to them.  And as we become more like Jesus, hopefully we’ll be able to pray for the “joiners” that they will find the Truth, too.

  • http://imagineangie.blogspot.com/ Angela

    I’m on the verge of tears because I love your honesty, clarity and grace. I love how you are reconciling where you are at now with where you were before… not discarding what was good because of how things went down. This, this is what life it about.

    • Anonymous

      I just want you to know that your friendship with me has been very healing. I love you, Angela. xo.

  • Steph

    Thank you for being so honest and open concerning your journey.  It helps to have someone struggling with their faith, even if only through the internet:)

  • http://www.joyinthisjourney.com Joy in this Journey

    Wait. Can we just go back to something? A priest cursed at you????

    This is where I’m ending up. Taking the good, building on it, making the best of where I am, knowing that I’m not Home yet. I suppose that is part of our Hope isn’t it — that one day Jesus will restore everything and we will finally be Home.

    • Anonymous

      Hi, Joy: I am stunned that a priest cursed at someone as well. I’m a lifelong Catholic and have never heard of a priest swearing at anyone, no matter how angry he was. If Elizabeth says it happened, I give her the benefit of the doubt. I hope the priest feels sorry and has confessed this sin in a sacramental confession, as he is obligated to do. Ideally, he would apologize to Elizabeth as well, of course. But, in fairness, I have to say that this priest’s behavior is in no way normal, common, or accepted.

  • TheresaEH

    Dear EE
    I am a “born again catholic” and yes the RC church is full of dodoe’s, stupid people,silly bishops, and crazy heiarchy etc etc, but JC gave the keys to peter and he said that the gates of hades would not pervaide, but he didnot say that  it would NOT be full of imperfect, stupid sinners!!!!  He chose Judas and look what he did!! Yes peter denied him, but he wept with shame and asked to be forgiven.  Donot leave Jesus who is present body blood soul and divinty in the Eucharist because of stupid people who do stupid things!!!!!!

    • KatR

       Where did she say she was leaving Jesus?

      • Anonymous

         KatR, I think that TheresaEH was referring to leaving the Real Presence of the Risen Jesus in the Eucharist.  It is a central teaching of the Catholic faith.  But Jesus is present in many other ways as well, so Elizabeth, in that sense, is not leaving Jesus. 

    • Anonymous

      Dearest Theresa, I’m not leaving Jesus. :) xo.

  • Urban Mom

    I agree with Mary. I’m Catholic because of the Eucharist.  That was the whole reason I converted because of the Eucharist. I don’t say this because I think you’re letting anyone down. It’s really between you and God and ultimately it’s just you and God. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I say it because I just get the impression that maybe you thought you were going to find a better bunch of folks that were more holy, more sane, more whatever and you were disappointed. That’s not a good reason to be Catholic. Not by a long shot. You’ll find some of the worst least holy people there, (myself included…) Where else would they go? They probably need God’s grace more than anyone. In fact, the ineptness of it’s leaders for centuries upon centuries is even more proof to me that it’s a miracle of God the Catholic Church still exists. But it’s no matter, it’s the Eucharist that keeps me going because it’s the closest to Jesus I think I’ll ever be this side of heaven. May you feel God’s presence no matter where you go.

  • Jenny

      “I was raised Catholic but I never heard the Gospel!” is evidence of this spiritual ineptitude.

    Those people just weren’t listening.  Didn’t they read the Gospel at every mass even in the past?

    • Anonymous

      this is not a helpful comment, just FYI.

      • Claire

         What’s unhelpful about it?  It’s the truth.  The Gospel is read at every single Mass.  It makes no sense that someone who is raised Catholic hasn’t heard it. 

        • Brian Sullivan

           Is the Gospel read at every Mass, yes. Is it taught and lived in such a way that people hear it?  Not always.

    • jean.e.lane

       Reading the Gospel and preaching the gospel are two different things.  The Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, is not just a book in the Bible (or 4).  It is the fantastic news that despite our depravity, Jesus took all the punishment that we deserve, just so God could be satisfied, and we could have the right to be called God’s children.  It is even more fantastic news to be told that Jesus was raised from the dead, proof that we also will be raised one day, proof that his sacrifice was acceptable to God the Father Almighty. 

      I was brought up Catholic but never heard these words until I went to a non-Catholic church, until I read non-Catholic books.  This was back in the early 70′s.  When I went to the Catholic church for more than 18 years, what I heard was rote, just something I had to get through or I would go to hell.  When I left home, I found out that the Catholic church had lots of rules that they made up.  I would not go to hell for not going to church.  I would not go to hell for eating meat on Friday.  But I would go to Hell if I denied that Jesus was the Christ, that Jesus was God’s son. 

      When I went back to the Catholic church, I could take all that I learned outside and the Mass was so much more meaningful.  Too bad the Protestant churches had to make me aware of what went on in the Catholic church.  But I don’t know that many other people are aware.  I think many (or most) were there because of the rules.  And because they liked the social interaction.  As a lone woman, I was never welcomed in their social circles.  During a service, I cry because of the words of a song.  I cry because of the words of a sermon cutting my heart.  And people wonder why I am crying.  They don’t understand.  And I wonder why nothing about the Mass can bring them to tears, or bring them to their knees in repentance.

      We all have to attend the churches that feed our souls.  One is not better than the other.  Even within a denomination there is bad and there is good.  No one church can claim exclusive rights to heaven.  The Pharisees did that and were condemned by Jesus.  As Jesus said, God can raise up sons of Abraham from stones.  And he still can.

  • http://laladyinwhite.blogspot.com/ colleen

    Taking heart in the promise that there is no wasted, time, no wasted experience, and God will always be one who who meets us where we are… the story of my life! The journey never really ends, i think.. <3

    • Anonymous

      YES and YES. thank you, colleen.

  • Cathfisch3

    So can relate, Elizabeth. Wholeness, I think, is the fruit that indicates that your journey is leading you elsewhere. Huge insights (those you listed above may be the big four) gained, even if the Catholic church isn’t the place for you now.  At least that’s what I tell myself. If your journey is to continue becoming fully yourself, fully the vessel for God’s love that He created you to be, then it sounds like you’ve exposed the idol that this church had become (or would if you stay). Or always was, but still God uses the imperfect to perfect us.( I love the title of this post!!) Have been through several church homes, one quite abusive church, several sojourns without a church (currently in a longer-than-expected one)–embracing more fully that all were places of necessary growth, despite significant pain, wounds,  embarrassment, etc. Thanks for sharing your journey and your heart.

  • http://cuppboard.blogspot.com Elizabeth Erazo

    I struggle with much the same. I emailed you, and I hope it wasn’t too much. I feel so heartbroken for you – not pitying you – but I just don’t like my homelessness so much and it causes me pain and I don’t want that for you. But I don’t want you to grasp at an illusion either.

    Speaking of illusion, what was it? What was the illusion exactly? The whole of the Church? The Church as the beginning and end of your faith? Thinking of the Church as what you wanted it to be, rather than what it actually was? Or as what it should be instead of what it really is?

    Sorry; I just struggle with so much of what you already mentioned, yet I also have come to love Mary and the Saints, and really am drawn to the teaching of the Eucharist — but the Eucharist isn’t the Eucharist without the Church, is it? :( So many questions for my too-small mind to conceive. I just want to rest as a child of God.

    much love & many prayers!

    • Anonymous

      I loved your email, Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing so openly with me.

      The illusion was all of the things you mentioned. And I am only human, there is only so much beating I can take. The cuss out with the priest was sort of the last straw….I just…broke. There’s really no other way to say it.

      • Anonymous

         I’m responding here to this idea of brokenness.  The thing about brokenness is that all of us are broken.  It’s true that our particular conditions of brokenness may vary.  But God, through His Son, Jesus Christ actually chose broken people to work with Him and to be members and even leaders in His Church.  Two examples were St. Peter and Judas.  Their fates were different, but both were broken. 

        Because of our brokenness; that is, moral weaknesses, we often sin.  No one is exempt from that condition.  Our sins vary.  When we do sin, we are responsible for the hurt we inflict on both ourselves and others.  With the help of God’s grace we repent.  We seek forgiveness.  We attempt to make amends as best we can.

        I learned early in life that it’s good to have pity and compassion on people like that priest, because, “there, but for God’s grace, go I.”  Maybe that sounds like a cliche, but I also think it’s true.

        When I have conflict with anyone, I sometimes have to step back, calm down, and then decide how to proceed. Eventually things return to normal.  Healing occurs in due time.

        It seems to me that everyone involved in the conflict needs sympathy and compassion. 

  • http://www.emergingmummy.com/ Sarah Bessey

    Been there, darling, you’re in a good, good place.

    • Anonymous

      It really IS a good place. It feels really difficult but I know it’s good. I lift mine eyes to the hills….my deliverance is coming….

  • http://devinrose.heroicvirtuecreations.com/blog/ Devin Rose

    God bless you, Elizabeth. Of course I’m a Catholic apologist so am supposed to have all the answers but the reality is that life is very hard and the members of the Church are all imperfect in countless ways.

    So while I believe that the Catholic Church is what she claims to be, she doesn’t have a monopoly on truth or members who are holier than other Christian Churches and communities. I wish so many things were better in the practice of the Faith in our country, but again the reality is that it is very poor and people are not supported and loved as they should be, factions exist liberals and traditionalists and everything in between and like the Ents you just want to say with Treebeard that I’m not on anyone’s side because no one is really on my side!

    I learned my most valuable lesson while an Evangelical Protestant going to a Southern Baptist Church: Christ will never fail you. So whatever sins people, including clergy and others who should know better, commit against you, Christ will not leave you. Along with that as a Catholic I came to believe that Christ has protected His Church’s teachings from error, not so they could be triumphalistic but so that every poor Joe and Jane like us in every time period could discover and know the truth without it being corrupted. So those two truths keep me going. 

    Christ be with you,
    Devin

    • Anonymous

       Yes, Devin, Christ will always love us and the Church teaches the Truth.  It’s a mighty big family filled with both saints and sinners.  I hope you will persevere.

      • http://devinrose.heroicvirtuecreations.com/blog/ Devin Rose

        Thanks Ruth Ann. Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.” I’ve been an atheist; been a non-Catholic Christian; been and am a Catholic. I am firmly convinced of the Church’s claims and don’t know where else I would go if I left (Heaven forbid). 

        God bless you too!
        Devin

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Devin. I appreciate this. And I appreciate YOU. Your words and writings have made a significant impact on my life and I will always respect and admire you. I especially admire your humility of spirit, here, and sincerely thank you for not berating me. It takes a lot of courage for me to share my faith struggles so openly. When my honesty is met with kindness instead of condemnation, it means so much. So, thank you. ((hugs))

      • Rosemary

         Hi, I’ve been reading your blog for ages… and have not commented. But I wanted to now, I am Catholic and I just want to say again what Devin said. And I hope you find peace …  Prayers.

    • Christine

      Devin – Called to Communion is a fantastic website, thanks for your work there.  Elizabeth – I’m sorry you feel bad at some things that have been said.  When I saw your title “Elegy of an Illusion” I thought the phrase was beautiful, but had to swallow hard in order to not take it wrong.  I don’t think you meant to call the Catholic faith that many of us share an “illusion” and I’m sure you want to be given the benefit of the doubt there, but maybe you can see it could prompt some defensive feelings.  I’m a convert too, and yes, the reality in the parish pew is a mixed bag as I myself am a mixed bag, broken, searching for peace and hope, like everyone else.

  • Handsfull

    I’m glad you’re at least ‘sort-of’ ok… and I’m sad that the Catholic church wasn’t what you hoped it would be.
    The peculiar thing is that in the last week we have also decided to start looking for a new church.  But it’s going to be one of those ‘not exactly staying, but not exactly going’ kind of deals.
    I hate leaving, but I can’t stay any longer.
    ‘On the roooad again, it’s so good to be on the rooooad again…’ not!

  • Claire

    I’ve been following your blog for maybe a year now, and I can’t say this surprises me at all.  A year ago I could have predicted it.  I’m sorry for your experience with that priest.  I’ve had some horrible experiences with priests too, and shame on them for misrepresenting the faith that way and leading people astray.  I’ve also had some bad experiences with Protestant (not evangelical) ministers, including one in my own family.  My uncle, who has been searching for something his whole life, changes his philosophy and approach to life every few years.  He’ll be all enthusiastic for religion for a while, then take a break, and his friends and family are supposed to follow him wherever he is at the time.  He left my aunt for another woman and then went back into ministry with no remorse and no apologies.  At one point during my childhood he went to Nicaragua and came back preaching about the hypocrisy of living extravagantly while other people are starving.  The following year he was spending ridiculous amounts of money on Christmas gifts for my cousins who had been alienated by the way he treated my aunt.  Today (divorced from the woman who he left my aunt for) he calls himself a secular humanist with a touch of spirituality (his FB description).  I’m all for searching.  But searching while planting seeds of doubt, and making passionate stances on life that change with the wind, is taking “searching” a little too far.  That’s just one example of a Protestant experience that lead me to the Catholic Church where I have been for the past 29 years.  Despite the grave imperfections within the hierarchy, the teachings don’t change, and are rooted in truth.  As for the evangelicals who left because of never hearing the gospel in the Catholic Church, that’s a copout.  The Gospel is proclaimed at every Mass, as I’m sure people here know all too well.  

    • Jenny

       Claire, this is a well-written comment with which I agree wholeheartedly.

    • Christine

      I too agree totally with you, Claire.  Including the lack of surprise after following.  Elizabeth, I guess I would just say that even if the Church isn’t meeting your expectations, needs and seems an illusion, we need you in it.  Hope you’ll stay.

      • Anonymous

        My apologies for being predictable. I’m a broken human being. No surprise, here!

        • Christine

          I am sorry for the unintended offense.  Again, I hope that you’ll stay a Catholic; and I mean that I hope you’ll want to, and I wish you all the best.  That’s all.

    • Anonymous

      Well, Claire, sounds like you see everyone and everything pretty clearly. Maybe I should have consulted you a year ago–after all, you could have PREDICTED all of this. Damn, it must feel so good to be so certain and so very, very right! I hope it was worth it because you made me feel like shit.

      • Claire

         I made you feel like shit just because I said that I saw this coming?  Your posts have shown increasingly more dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church, and increasing doubts about its teachings.  You find it so offensive that I observed that?  And this observation means that I see everything and everyone clearly?  An observation which was followed by a statement that I was sorry about how you were treated by a nasty priest?  And then you go on to “yell” at me with sarcasm, yet I’m the one representing nasty Catholics on the internet?  I must be missing something here.  I’m really sorry for what you went through as a child, and I’m sorry that the Catholic Church wasn’t the answer you were looking for.  That doesn’t justify your attack on me.  My comment was not attacking you.  It was making a very valid observation, followed by sharing a piece of my own conversion story.

        • Anonymous

          Claire, why don’t you go back and read your initial comment and ask yourself: “Is what I’m saying gracious? Is it helpful? Will it help Elizabeth during her moment of need and pain?” Additionally, try and understand what it feels like for me to share so openly and honestly about my struggles only to be met with: “I *knew* this was coming! I could have told you this a YEAR ago!” If you can’t see how hurtful your comment was, then yes, you really are missing something.

          • Claire

             I did re-read my comment, and I don’t see anything ungracious about pointing out that it has been clear for a long time that you have been dissatisfied with the Catholic Church and have been growing distant from it.  It’ s a pretty logical observation. I didn’t know the only comments allowed were those to help you in your time of need.  I certainly wouldn’t post something insulting, as you did to me, but I also didn’t know each comment had to have the purpose of helping Elizabeth.  I did, however, tell you that I was sorry about the way you were treated by that priest, and that I could relate to it (which I can).  I think you’re the one who should re-read your comment, because the one you wrote to me was pretty nasty.

          • KatR

            “I didn’t know the only comments allowed were those to help you in your time of need.”

            True, she didn’t spell it out at the bottom of the post. She should probably also walk around with a sign that says “Please don’t pour lemon juice on my paper cuts”.

          • Claire

             I didn’t pour lemon juice on anything.  I made an observation, followed by empathizing with her experience with a nasty priest, followed by an example about how a parallel situation lead me to, rather than away, from the Catholic Church.  Her response to me, on the other hand, was quite hostile.

  • http://mommainprogress.blogspot.com/ Valerie @ Momma in Progress

    Thank you for sharing your journey, Elizabeth. I would consider myself to be one of those folks who was “raised Catholic but never heard the Gospel.” That is, until I left the Catholic church. But then I went back because, you’re right, it does feel like “home.” Until it doesn’t. And the specialness factor . . . sigh. Totally feeling you on that one. Also, a little disturbed at how many comments here are not supportive of you and your struggles at all . . . just yelling louder and louder about how wonderful the Catholic church is. I pray that you are able to find peace with whatever path you follow. At least you are ON a path . . . I haven’t been able to bring myself to attend any church in the last two years. And please keep sharing and being so honest. We appreciate it.

    • Claire

       There’s no yelling going on here.  But clearly some people see and hear what they want to see and hear, as evidenced by someone who has never heard the gospel despite the fact that it is proclaimed at each and every Mass.

      • marie

        That’s quite a passive-agressive comment, Claire. 

        • Claire

           There’s nothing passive-aggressive about pointing out the contradiction of never hearing the Gospel despite attending a childhood of Masses where it is proclaimed.

          • Maaike

            Claire, while you are entirely correct in a factual sense, that of course one has heard the Gospel if one has attended Mass, the meaning of the word “hear” was intended to indicate a feeling and resonance within for the spirit of the Gospel, not the actual physical act of using one’s ears to listen to the sound of words being spoken. I find it hard to discuss my feelings about spirituality precisely because words can be taken literally,when I’m actually trying to evoke a mood. This is one of the reasons that I enjoy and look forward to reading Elizabeth’s blog and all the comments, because Elizabeth so beautifully and evocatively does “use her words” .

          • http://mommainprogress.blogspot.com/ Valerie @ Momma in Progress

            Yes, what Maaike said :-)

          • Claire

            Okay, if that’s what you mean by leaving the Church because you didn’t hear the gospel, that’s fair.  But I’ve heard plenty of people make this claim in the literal sense, saying that they left because the Church is unBiblical, which is ludicrous.  Everything about the Mass is Biblical, from the prayers, to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

          • Claire

             I have to say that the way she used her words to slam me, simply for saying that I saw this coming, was not exactly beautiful.

          • Anonymous

            Seriously. Faith is a gift from God, so no one can take credit for his or her own faith or criticize anyone who doesn’t have faith. That said, it is simply pointing out the truth to say that anyone who doesn’t “hear” the Gospel at Mass, whether in their ears or hearts, isn’t listening. Most of us at one time or another turn a deaf ear or harden our hearts to the Gospel. The problem doesn’t lie with the Mass when that happens.

          • Claire

             That’s what I was getting at, Gigi.  My issue is not with people leaving the Church, and I certainly don’t blame Elizabeth for leaving the Church considering where she’s coming from and where she’s been on her journey.  My issue is with the statement about not hearing the gospel in the Catholic Church (and I know this wasn’t Elizabeth’s reason for leaving, but she did bring it up as a reason that others offer for leaving, which is what I was responding to).

    • melB

      Valerie — I absolutely agree with you and your experience.  I’m Catholic, and the specialness factor drives me crazy.  I love going with friends to services at their churches.  There is so much to learn from them.  I’m sure that would sound completely relativistic to some, but I love hearing good preaching or having a vibrant worship service.  I love the hospitality I experience at other churches.  I feel like these experiences remind me of how great and good God is.  Ultimately, I love the liturgy and I stay for the Eucharist.    

  • http://twitter.com/SheilaScribbles Sheila Siler

    I love your transparency.

    Have you ever read Donald Miller? He writes books (Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What) and a bloghttp://donmilleris.com/2010/04/29/does-god-have-a-specific-plan-for-your-life-probably-not/

    Blessings on you and your family. I don’t think you are homeless – for if home is where the heart is – it is obvious your home is with God.

  • http://twitter.com/SheilaScribbles Sheila Siler

    Okay, so I’m not sure why it posted this way – but that was me below that starts with “I love your transparency”. Didn’t mean to leave an anonymous comment. Sorry!

  • Lab414

    Elizabeth, my dear sister in Christ, I wish you peace. Peace of Christ-the peace the world can not give. It is easy to get pulled down by the members of any church really. But, keep your hope in Christ. I totally agree with Mary Lenaburg. In the Catholic church, you can grow closest to Him through the Holy Eucharist and Adoration. Spend some time with Him in Adoration. You will feel His loving and gentle embrace. I find so much peace in this. Take your worries to Him. He will hold you and guide you through your struggles. Also, try reading Scott Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home. It is about his personal journey and his wife’s struggles as well. I will pray for you that you find peace in Him through the Eucharist. A favorite Mother Teresa quote of mine is ” the crucifix represents how our Lord loved us then, the sacred host represents how he loves us Now.”

  • http://blueberriesforme.wordpress.com/ Jackie

    I think this is a place most Catholics (especially cradle Catholics) find themselves in at one point or another. The online Catholic world is largely terrible – very fundamentalist, uncaring, even cruel. And Catholic churches can be lame, boring, and priests subpar. But there is always a niche for someone. The world of social justice is alive and well in the Church. It doesn’t have to be so all or nothing as some fundamentalists will have you believe. Go where you find truth.

    • Jenny

       This is very true.  I started attending mass in 2008 and came into full communion with the church in 2010, so I’m not a cradle Cathoic, but rather a Protestant convert. 

      I have at times struggled with the feelings of not being a “good-enough Catholic.”  This was especially exacerbated  when I started spending my free time online on Catholic websites and forums.  Somedays, I’d feel like a complete failure because I have only child, didn’t attend daily mass, didn’t pray a family rosary, didn’t veil in church, had cheese pizza on Friday instead of fish…….  It can all be rather overwhelming, especially as a convert. 

      The Church is such a treasure trove.  It was hard for me to control
      myself in the beginning.  Imagine opening a treasure chest every day and
      having all these beautiful jewels and coins and yet not having the
      ability to wear them all or spend them all.    

      With much prayer, I finally realized that all I really “had” to do to be a good Catholic was not that much.  When I focused on
      the essentials, rather than all extras I felt so much peace.

      I don’t know if this will be helpful in any way to you, Elizabeth.  I just know that where ever you find yourself, there will be lukewarm people, sinners, power struggles, inept management, and abuse of some sort.  There is no perfect church or no  perfect people. 

  • Lauren Sutton

    “We long for home.” So true. Sorry it didn’t turn out to be the home you were looking for.

  • KatR

    Yeah, I’m commenting again.

    I’m reading some of these comments, and it seems like that if you can’t explain your spiritual life in a way that fits on a post it note, the burden falls on you. Go, go, go! Look, look, look! Read, read, read! Pray, pray, pray!

    And at no point is anything ever expected of God or church. They have no responsibilities. They just sit and watch, bored, while you scramble around like a confused ant.

    Maybe the answer is…Stop. Stop. Stop.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you, Kat.

  • Meghan

    Every time I hear a comment or read a post as this I pray, “use me, Lord, I am yours”  I do not know the plan of God, but I trust Him and adoration and Jesus in the Eucharist sustain me. I lift your heavy heart up in prayer, Elizabeth.  May you find the unconditional love and home you are searching for!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you, Meghan.

  • marie

    Much love to you, Elizabeth.  I appreciate your candid words; they remind me I’m not alone with wondering where I fit with the church/particular denominations.  (hugs)

  • Maggie

    Healing from past abuse is just plain hard.  Sometimes you feel on top of the world thinking “Yes, I’m finally healed.”  Other times, NOT so much.  I’m not going to offer any advice.  Just prayers.  Prayers that you will rest in His perfect love.  And tell you something I tell my perfectionist daughter and myself a lot.  “You don’t have to be perfect to be loved.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/deborah.delagarrigue Deborah de la Garrigue

    Sorry for what you are going through, Elizabeth.  Also, I would be sorry to lose you as a fellow Catholic.  I have also encountered what you have spoken of here.  I have just decided to focus on what brought me to the church in the first place, the Eucharist and Mary and peace and, of course, Truth.  I have also stopped reading certain catholic sites on the internet that were a spiritual downer.

    That being said, the Catholic church is a very imperfect place with imperfect people.  It doesn’t pretend to be anything else.   

    I appreciate your honesty in your writing and have enjoyed your blog so much.  I hope you can find peace in your journey and may God’s peace be with you.

    Deb

  • Krista

    Thank you for this Elizabeth. I so appreciate hearing your thoughts on this journey, it makes me feel like I am not alone in some of my struggles. Your title puts it so perfectly, it is all about the death of an illusion. I am Protestant and my husband is Catholic, and we are both having to deal with things we thought/expected that just aren’t reality.

    Just know that it is about you and God, He loves you EE, and will throughout your whole journey.

  • JL

    Praying for you, aching with you, hoping all the best for you.

    Loving Jesus, and receiving his love, seems like it ought to be the simplest thing in the world – but so often it is surprisingly difficult to just find a place (both material and spiritual) to just BE and give and receive that love.  Praying you find that place.

    (I’m girl who emailed you her messy life story to which you so graciously replied a few weeks ago.  The one who found a home in the Lutheran church. Letting my guard down one brick at a time and praying the best for both of us).

  • http://dwellinhope.blogspot.com/ made for another world

    You’ve been on my mind a lot since I read this yesterday.  Please know you are in my prayers…Have you ever heard of the book The  Holy Longing by Ron Rolheiser?  I’m a big believer in books changing your life.  Of course, they  have to the right book at the right time.  Not sure if this would be it for you but, I thought of the title when I was thinking of you today.  He’s very influenced by Henry Nouwen.  It’s a very gentle book about spirituality with a eucharistic focus.  Thank you, as always, for being honest. 

  • Tara S

    And the angel said to them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be for all people.”  
    Even if Catholic doctrine is all true (ESPECIALLY if it is all true) your journey is okay, and you are okay.  Being in Christ is a process of continual transformation, and if you feel that the Catholic Church around you is holding you back from that right now, there is no shame in having trouble identifying with that Church.  When we hold faith tight in our fist it gets warped, but holding it loosely means that we can’t control where it will take us, nor can we anticipate how it will feel or what it will do.  What an easy step it is for so many, to become convinced that this Church is the clearest path to God…and then to confuse the Church *for* God, and imagine that from within the Church we can divine His thoughts. (“For may thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”

    Do not worry!  You are okay. 

  • Alexandra

    I find it amazing that with all that you have gone through you can (apparently so comfortably) be really honest about what has gone on in your heart and mind and what is going on right now and that you are willing to share it with others so openly (even though it means that some people feel free to make mean comments… hadn’t you said you were going to delete those…? :)
    As I read through this post several things came to mind:
    1. You seem to be at peace with where you are at on your journey. You thought you’d come home.  You found out it was a resting place on the journey.  Now you’re moving on.  And you’re (mostly) OK with it.  I find this wonderfully amazing.
    2. A (very well-known) quote from Augustine, the one where he writes that God has made us for himself and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in him.  I do believe that on this earth, though there may be seasons of rest, eventually God will awaken restlessness in us once again because there is so much more of Himself which he wants to reveal to us.
    3. Another quote – this one from Ireneaus – the glory of God is a (wo)man fully alive.  As I have read your recent posts in which you’ve shared how you are enjoying running, and lounging around in a bikini, and such like, it has seemed to me that you are blossoming into more fully-aliveness.  And in that more-fully-aliveness, you are willing to take on new challenges. 
    I’m praying for you (honestly, I really am).  Mostly for the next stage of the journey.  The Lord be with you :)

  • Chriscampb

    Thanks for your honesty. I’m not a Catholic nor an apologist for any denomination but in my own spiritual walk I’m increasingly being taken back to the deity of Jesus and the love of God shown in His life and death and resurrection, and made to see the insufficiency of anything/everywhere else for true peace.  Even in your current church homelessness I pray you continue to find your rest in Christ and His fullness.

  • birdsong

    I understand what you are going thru Elizabeth.

    It is clear to me that had you stuck on the straight and narrow and not asked any questions you could have had a front row seat at one of the elite Catholic blogs.  What a catch you would have been. Even better than an ex- atheist turned Catholic.   It probably would have included a show on EWTN. 

    You would have been patted on the back by fellow Catholics who gather to proclaim their specialness and being above everyone else.  The Triumphal Elitism could have just kept on building up your ego and made you feel at home. But it would have been a false sense of home if you were not being honest with yourself or others.  If you are going to be a Catholic blogger every other word out of your mouth needs to be “I will do whatever the Magisterium tells me to do” (as defined by those who interpret the Church’s teaching in the most conservative manner.)
    You would have been surrrounded by others who proclaim how wonderful they are and how awful the entire rest of the Catholic Church is, heretics that they are.  I mean have you seen such as such liturgical abuse?  There is no one in my entire parish that is a REAL Catholic and so on and so on.

    I also know that being part of the Catholic elite means your response to the sex abuse problems in the church is “well it happens everywhere else at nearly the same rate” (Oh my, if I hear that one more time I am going to lose my mind…) Nevermind calling for people that knew about the abuse of children but did nothing about it be FIRED.  Oh yes, we have a secular institution (Penn State) who handled that better than us.  There is always a deep level of protection for the hierarchy amongst the Catholic elite.  That is a true mystery to me. Take a look at the actions of Penn State and the NCAA.  Did ONE Cardinal, Bishop or priest who knew about abuse but did nothing get fired?  Now that is some serious institutional illness.

    Here is another thing I have learned: don’t ask questions at any of the Catholic blogs or actually even in person with the Cahtolic elite unless you are willing to repeat,” The Catholic Church is always right, I will do whatever they tell me”  100 times after asking the question and admit your pride for even questioning the Magisterium.  Or you can “say even though I don’t understand this teaching I will submit out of obedience” and that will get you group acceptance. 

    Apparently you can not even be honest on your own blog without the Magisterium Police coming out to witness to all the things you mentioned above that make you feel that Catholic Church is not your home.

    I do write with both angst and anger.  I do need healing and I am getting it.  I admit I have not been truthful along the way. While I have not intentionally lied or been untruthful I know what I can say or not say or how honest I can be with my fellow Catholics. Raising  questions such as “Why are women not allowed to be deacons?” is cause for instant scrutiny.   (Maybe I’ll come up with my top ten list of questions to never ask…)

    With God’s grace I am getting over that flaw to please people rather than answer to the One to whom I am accountable.  It is unfortunate that I allowed myself to be in parishes and groups that I could not be honest in.  That is my fault and I repent.

    Peace be with you on this journey.  I am learning to live more with the questions than the black and white answers for everything.  Prayer deeply and know that God is very present in your life.  The Eucharist keeps me in the Church too.  It takes alot of courage to be honest.  Don’t let the Magisterium Police have any power over you.

    • Claire

       What a mean-spirited post.  I subscribe to many Catholic blogs, and I have yet to find a blogger who thinks she’s special or better than everyone else.  Granted, I don’t visit the blogs that advocate skirts or veils (not that there’s anything wrong with skirts or veils) or nitpick about what constitutes a serious reason for using NFP to avoid.  But the bloggers I’m familiar with (Danielle Bean, Kate Wicker, Elizabeth Foss, etc) are women who are faithful to Church teaching (which, by the way,  is not subject to interpretation) and are kind, loving women who do not have a superiority complex.  But you’re right, honesty is the best policy, and I would much rather see someone be honest about where they are, then pretend to be somewhere else while subtly planting seeds of doubt about Church teaching.

    • http://www.facebook.com/deborah.delagarrigue Deborah de la Garrigue

      Wow!  That was a weird and slightly sick post!

      • KatR

         Wha? “Weird and sick?” I get that anyone who is a conservative rank and file  Catholic might find the post offensive, but I don’t get “weird and sick”.

        • Claire

           The post is hostile and mean-spirited, and it shouldn’t take a “rank&file Catholic” to see that. 

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for this. Your insight is spot on. And your words healed me today.

    • mel

      I’m a cradle Catholic who sticks with the church because of the Eucharist, sacraments, and liturgy.  I went to daily mass during college and sometimes during medical school — I’m not just a cultural Catholic or Sunday Catholic. Even so, I am often frustrated by the culture of Catholicism that tells us there’s only one true way to be Catholic.  Why can’t we agree to learn from amazing Catholics like Oscar Romero and the countless men and women who have committed their lives to living as Jesuits, Fransicans, sisters of all communites, and so on?  There is such a rich tradition available to us, yet the party line seems to fall back on accusing Catholics of not being Catholic enough.  The Church excommunicated many people who were eventually deemed saints.  Why can’t we as a Church learn from our mistakes?

      I think part of the problem is that Catholics stay with the Church (our denomination), despite the local offering in terms of parishes.  I’ve belonged to parishes that were so vibrant I would cry out of joy at the services.  At one of our parishes, we were so close to the congregation we had the choir sing at our wedding and invited the entire congregation to our wedding — this is not typical in Catholic parishes.  In other parishes, priests have told parishioners that Obama bumper stickers were not welcome in the parking lot.  Some priests (when given permission by the bishops) have decided that girls aren’t allowed to be altar servers.  

      It is best to stay away from the Catholic blogs, as they usually just make my blood boil.  Those people would accuse me of being lukewarm. From my perspective, it drives me nuts to hear the Church fall back on “we’re the one true Church.”  Following the sex abuse scandals, there is obviously room for improved transparency and justice.  I realize that no human institution will be perfect, but can’t work on improving it?  

      There are days when I leave church events stating that next week we’ll be at the Mennonite or Presbyterian church, but we always come back.   

      Birdsong — at first I thought you had too much anger, but I realized I feel much the same way. I often sound more angry than I feel.  It’s hard if you’re in a setting where you’re not allowed to ask questions — it means that we spew out volumes on forums like this:)   I have much love for the church, but feel frustrated about its current culture.  I look forward to reading your Top Ten  list of questions to never ask within the Church:)

  • chantal chauvet

    I’ve been following your blog and many others who were raised in fundamentalist churches.  I have time, at the present moment in my life to be able to sit in a little chapel with the Eucharist .  I think of you and all the woman (and men) who have striven to search, love and follow God.; only to be beaten and hurt.  I weep for you and I cry out “Where Are You for these your children?”   If it comforts you, know that someone in Canada is praying for you in front of the Eucharist.   When I go I usually stay till I am at peace.  My life is also a mess.  When I first discovered adoration sometimes I would just crouch in a corner and sleep.  If you need to step away from the Catholic Church than go.   May you rest in His arms and know that you are beloved. 

  • chantal chauvet

    My life is also messed up, and I realized that I wish to teach my kids to be Love, seek Truth and appreciate Beauty.  Since God is all three, I trust that my children will find Him.

  • Eulaha

    EE,
    I wish I could give you a great, big hug.  I’m sorry for what you are going through.  I gave up on attending church shortly after leaving the Assembly.  I just could not find a place that I felt comfortable with.  It has now been 12 years since I left that abusive group, and I have a four year old child that has not been exposed to God and Jesus Christ.  I feel that as her mother, it’s my obligation to raise her in some sort of faith.   But where do I do?  Where do I turn?  So many questions, not a lot of answers.

  • Michele

    Hi, I’ve never commented before but have been following your blog for some time.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciate how open you are are about where you are in your spiritual life.  Coming from a fundamentalist background where appearance is everything if substance cannot be obtained, your voice is a breath of fresh air.

    This particular post resonated with me for the very reason that I too am feeling the  post romance  let down and acclimatizing to the reality of worship with human beings and becoming part of a body
    While my own journey from fundamentalism didn’t lead me to the RCC, I too had found what I thought to be “home” in the idealized sense.  

    Sometimes I think that like an orphaned child I fantasized over the home I would one day have with loving perfect parents.  But the perfect parents don’t exist.  I sometimes don’t get along with my new siblings.  But the most important thing is that despite the discomforts, I am finding the love of God and others who I am learning to call friends and brothers.  For me it is often more difficult to receive than give.  Learning the ways of grace often leaves me awkward but grateful to learn.  I am often humbled but not shamed.

    As you pointed out, you are learning and the things learned are by no means small.   This too keeps me hanging in there when my natural impulse is to withdraw (I have very strong avoidance tendencies way beyond just the normal “this is a bad situation and I should leave”)

    Basically this is all to say.  Thank you.  I think I get it.  I wish you all blessing as you find your way.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for commenting today. I needed to hear from you. Your words were a balm to my soul this evening. So, thank you so much.

  • Wheeler Garcia Home

    As a convert of 8+ years all I can say is it’s a bit like falling in love.  After awhile you sit on the rose covered glasses and break them and realize, ah, darn….they’re all human like me.  The Eucharist has kept me in the Church after years of doubt and a dh who is less than enthusiastic about Catholicism.  You’ve reached a normal, maturing point in your conversion.  All is well.  Elizabeth Foss re-posted an old article on Suspicio about pruning roses.  I think that’s what God does while converting our hearts.  FYI: I didn’t read the 100+ comment before mine.  Mother of four 5yrs and younger with a newborn I might add has to sleep now.

  • http://bunkersdown.com/ Ami

    I read your blog because it talks about your journey.  I don’t care what religion you belong to, what church (or lack of church) you frequent.  I’m just thankful for your honesty and bravery in chronicling your journey.  I’m not foolish enough to believe that just because your journey is different from mine that means one of us is wrong.  Because it doesn’t.  Even though I’m on a different path than you, I still learn so much as you share your experiences here.  Thank you for that.  Stay strong and continue to be true to YOU, because YOU are why most of us are here.

    • Anonymous

      This is the reason I read other narrative blogs as well. I don’t care about their exact beliefs, but I love their honesty and willingness to share the journey. I’m so happy you’ve found that here on my blog, too. It’s really the best compliment I can hope for. Thank you.

  • Tara S

    In the fallout from this post, you and a few of the commenters have inspired me to stop “following” the blogs of people who are perfectly nice in themselves, but just come a bit too close to that triumphalism.  Life is too short to wade in brackish waters.  I feel good. Free!  And I started my own blog! Woo!!

    • Anonymous

      Send me the link to your new blog! Can’t wait to read it! :)

    • Krista

      I did that too a while back, and it was one of the best decisions I made for my mental and emotional health. It made my husband happier too, I wasn’t all wound up about internet arguments when he got home from work! :)

  • http://www.ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com/ Melissa@ Permission to Live

    I just wanted to say you are very brave to be transparent and honest, especially knowing that people seek that out as an opportunity to attack and belittle.

    • Anonymous

      This means so much. Thank you…

  • Beth Pulliam

    I have been lurking on this blog for a very long time.  I found this post to be very compelling. I think Elizabeth bravely articulates what the rest of us are even afraid to think about.  The “illusion” she is speaking of is our unspoken, deep longing for a  place of safety, refuge and security that transcends anything we have ever experienced, and the pain we feel in searching for that place.  This longing is almost undefinable, and will only be quenched when we find ourselves in the presence of God at long last.  In the meantime, we hate the explicit panic of feeling like we are always “running scared” down a dark alley, never quite arriving to safety.   As a convert two years into the Catholic Church, I have found it to be far from perfect.  The only time and place I ever feel like I get a glimpse of what it would be like to be “home” when the host is elevated and I hear those beautiful words that never cease to  captivate my soul:  “From Him, through Him,with Him……. Peace and love to you, Elizabeth from a fellow traveler.

             

  • LauraJean

    EE, I have nothing to say except this. If you were my neighbor, I’d come over and sit with you over a cup of tea. If you wanted, I would give you a hug. Reading this, it sounds like you could use at least one. I pray there is someone in your life who is doing exactly that for you.

  • Pamdeam

    i dont go to catholic church focusing on the priests or the pope or the bishops i go there to connect with god i am not there to learn the bible verse by verse but to find a venue in which i can express my love and true devotion to god i find grace beauty truth oneness christ the holy spirit and god the father there i leave refreshed connected having touched the face of god i dont need a bldg. per se i have attened holy mass in a school yard and also under a tree outdoors it never dissapoints …i am a convert grew up in chaos instability and was drawn to catholic church figured i could find god there have attended calvary chapels too always go back to catholic church in spite of much criticism for past 45 yrs.from media and especially protestant believers ..i am a march b day and always analyze myself to no end and doubt myself as well especially when criticized but at the end of the day i cannot be that sq. peg trying to fit in that rd. hole god will have to accept me i guess even if i am catholic ….
     

  • Amy Stults

    Thank you, EE, for letting us come along on your spiritual journey. It’s rare that I don’t have something to mull over after reading your posts. The four learned lessons you mention here are priceless. Thanks for reminding me why I cling to Christ even though being part of His church is sometimes messy, exhausting, and disappointing.

  • http://asteadyinvitation.wordpress.com/ Kathleen

    I so admire your willingness to allow complete strangers to share in such a personal journey. It seems that both those who have been given a solid faith and the ones who are struggling in the search are asking for the security of a “safe harbour” narrative, and it’s a sign of such integrity that you’ll keep going when that assurance is absent. As someone who is putting off a decision about reception into the church because I am so riddled by the kinds of  questions won’t fit there, I truly hope you receive your reward for swimming in those depths in spite of everything. 

    And as a prayer, for you and all of us, this part of the Eucharistic Prayer came to mind…

    “Grant also to us,
    when our earthly pilgrimage is done,
    that we may come to an eternal dwelling place
    and live with you for ever…”

  • Annie

    EE: No one has a right to judge you on your journey. I’ve been a Catholic now for four years, and I am happy as one. There is grace and beauty there. But there is so much noise sometimes, both from within the church and without, over things small and large, that it can be draining. God wants more for us than a spirituality that elevates pettiness and shallow judgment over substance and meaning and grace. But pettiness and judgment do sometimes appear to be on the menu, if you’re following the Catholic blogosphere or listening to the ranting that the various factions do.

    I am sorry some idiot priest swore at you. I am sorry that a few of your commenters see fit to judge this. I’ve been reading you for a while now, and you are indeed brave. Write your book, and let it be the best book you can write. Live your life. Do what you need to do and apologize to no one.

    “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

  • Katisha

    Elizabeth,

    I grew up Protestant Fundamentalist, like you.  Like you, I am seeking to know God better…who is God really?  Surely not the caricature I was taught, not the legalistic Judge or the tyrannical Patriarch.  So I seek, spending time in this harbor and that, resting in a religious system for a while before I journey further onto a stormy sea.

    It is frightening to be honest with one’s self.  It is terrifying to be honest with one’s audience.  I pray for comfort from the hurts and inadequacies of organized religion and its followers.  I pray for continued clarity and Truth for all of us who are seeking.  Perhaps we will not find a Home until we pass on to the next world, and that will be all right.  Misfits and freaks, seekers all, God loves us, every one.

    Bless you.

  • jean.e.lane

    Home.  I think that the only time I will be home is when I am at Home in Heaven.  I will never stop the longing, which is what I have come to believe is what is wanted.  If we don’t stop longing for the ultimate Home, we will be happy with what we have.  To be like everyone else, whether they believe that Jesus is who he said he is or not.  No.  Strive and never stop.  We will never be satisfied until we are satisfied by God.

    As a no-longer-Catholic, the one thing I do miss is communion.  I can’t say Eucharist because I never held the belief that it was all ‘they’ claimed it was.  But in non-Catholic churches it is just different.  I don’t know why.  And I miss it. 

    I miss the church calendar.  Even the Israelites lived by a calendar set by God himself.  Where I attend – not much except  Easter and Christmas.  I miss the church calendar!

  • Erin

    Elizabeth
    Praying for you, and I do so often,  as you travel your journey with Christ. May you feel His loving presence and his Healing{{}}