I am a convert who has been Catholic now for about eight years. To be honest, sometimes the only thing that keeps me going to Mass is my absolute belief that Jesus Himself is present in the Eucharist in a way that He isn’t in any part of any other church or religion on earth. When I say that’s the only thing…I really do mean that’s the only thing.
For one, I am not from any of the predominantly Catholic cultures in the Church (Irish, Italian, Mexican, Filipino, etc.). I pray that God will show me a way to deepen my faith outside of the predominantly European (and even when it’s not, always someone else’s) traditions, saints, and culture of the Church in the country where I live (US). But my weekly (Mass in a parish) experience of the faith is limited to always feeling like an outsider to everyone except for Jesus. I can live with that, to an extent…but…when I try to discuss my experience as a woman of color, I’m told to “stop focusing on the negative” and just believe that “Jesus is greater” than all of the pain and suffering my people have endured for centuries and continue to endure today…yes, this may be true, but Jesus created us in the bodies that He did in the world that He did. I do believe that He cares about each and every one of our experiences (this extends, too, to those who are SSA and others with crosses that place them outside of much of the Church)…but the Catholic Church of our times does not care about these things. The Catholic Church of our times (at least in the US) is dominated by European and politically conservative cultures and histories and worldviews and these things simply do not resonate for me the way they do for those who come from those cultures.
Anything about culture or race or gender or sexuality is dismissed as “identity politics” or even the work of the devil…but “we’re all the same in the eyes of God” to me does not mean that we dismiss and ignore difference, especially when that difference is used by forces of evil in our world to inflict suffering. We are human beings living in a fallen world. We need to show up for each other and show compassion. I do not see this in the predominantly European-descended, politically conservative Catholic Church in the US, many of whose members stick to their political affiliations and do not even attempt to enter into conversation about anything that does not fit within their ascribed beliefs.
I’m not saying that the Church needs to be “perfect” (which is a common response when so much as a question is raised about these issues). But I do wonder how much I can grow in faith within the US Church life which is the only one I have access to on a daily basis. Can I really be who Jesus created me to be in this kind of Church with just the Eucharist? If the answer is yes, then it’s yes…but only God knows what His work is with me here because I am not seeing it.
The reason I’m writing all of this is that I’ve tried and tried to see if others out there have similar experience, so far without much success. If I continue not to be able to have these kinds of conversations anywhere, at all, remaining Catholic is going to be a very, very difficult road.