Once were Catholics

I read …

I am amazed how often I meet people who ‘once were Catholics’. You never ask why they left the church. There will be umpteen reasons why just as there are umpteen people. But millions have remained true to their Catholic faith.” Merepeka Raukawa-Tait in The Daily Post, March 19, 2013

I wondered …

“Why do I still call myself Catholic?

I was born into a Catholic family. Baptised as soon as possible after my birth, for fear I may end up in Limbo if I should die. My world was Catholic – almost a ghetto-like mentality.

So … I am Catholic by enculturation.

I was educated in Catholic schools, at great financial sacrifice. I did not have a lay teacher until I was 16 years old. Later, I participated in distance-learning courses; workshops and seminars. And, always, a commitment to self-learning and exploration.

So … I am Catholic by education (maybe even, indoctrination?).

At 15, I had a powerful, mystical experience which confirmed for me the existence of a loving, personal God. Catholic worship provided a vehicle for me to encounter this God, and a foundation from which to explore LOVE’s nature. About 5 years later, I was told by a couple after Mass, that they were leaving the Catholic Church because of me – they wanted what I had: an intimate and loving relationship with God. I was bewildered – why were they leaving when the relationship I had existed within the Catholic Church?

So … am I Catholic because I didn’t know anything different?

Years of self-doubt followed, compounded by attendance at a tertiary institution where there was no overt Catholic presence, and increasing social isolation. I became actively involved in parish ministry, partly as an escape from my situation; partly out of habit; and partly as a desire to belong and to be loved. I delighted in my varied ministries. I delighted in my daily encounters with God.

So … am I Catholic because it offers sanctuary?

Here I am – a woman of mature age – still Catholic, but a fringe dweller. No longer involved in active, parish-based ministry. No longer distraught at the decision of others to leave institutional church. No longer living in fear of a wrathful, punishing God. I use the foundational truths of the Christian faith, my Catholic faith, as a springboard for a love affair with God.

I believe that every human being is a beloved child of God.

I believe that every person, whether “Catholic”, “once were Catholic” or “never were Catholic”, encounters the divine. How we identify this encounter, name it or claim it, is unimportant.

I call myself Catholic because it is my culture; the ritual, metaphor, art and liturgy resonate with me; and I believe all the strands which connect me with the divine – Word, sacrament, silence, prayer, art, ecology, social justice – are present within the Catholic Church.

It just doesn’t get it right all the time. It is a large, unwieldly bureaucracy which loathes change.

  • I still practice as a Catholic because
  • I need to sit next to others who also love God;
  • I need to praise God, and remember God, in community;
  • I need to see God revealed in humanity;
  • I need to be immersed in God-with-skin-on.

Mainly, I think, I am still Catholic because it is familiar, known, a comfortable fit. Like a long-term marriage, or a favourite jersey well-used, frayed, holey, loved.


Liz Pearce, a mother of three adult children, loves story, writing, and dollmaking  www.heartfeltdolls.weebly.com





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