First time poster, long time reader. I suppose it’s finally time to dip my toe in the water and see if there are sharks. (Sorry this is so long.)
I grew up a Southern Baptist in the buckle of the Bible Belt. I was very involved at my church. Sunday school, youth groups, choir, the whole enchilada. For myriad reasons, I never bought into the evangelical ideal, and I always somehow “knew” that I was called to a more sacramental, more liturgical, more ancient form of Christianity. It may have had a lot to do with my Italian Catholic step-grandfather whom I loved dearly, but it went beyond him. I became a “none” in college, and ultimately moved to New Orleans and married a nice Catholic girl. I went through RCIA in 1994, a month before the birth of my first child.
I cannot say that I, or anybody in my RCIA group of 10 or so, really fully knew what it meant to be Catholic in 1994. I knew more scripture than the volunteers teaching the classes. I had read books about the Catholic Church, talked to priests, and prayed (a lot). I loved arguing about religion (still do), but I never once doubted that this was where I wanted to be. However, I still had doubts about the legitimacy of certain church teachings and doctrines, particularly in the areas of sin and salvation (I struggled, and still do, with the concept of mortal sin and the idea that salvation, once attained, can be lost.) I chose to go with a strategy of prayerful acceptance as a precursor to belief, which I always felt would eventually come. It has in most areas, but not in all.
My life since those days has been a roller coaster ride. My faith was not initially mature enough to handle the cycle of sin and guilt that would haunt me throughout my adult life. Sin, seek forgiveness, rinse, repeat. I stuck it out, and in 2008, after not having been to confession in over a decade, I went back. Things did not get better overnight, but I finally concluded that I was on the path that God intended for me. I have faltered many times since, but my faith is stronger today than ever. I am writing a book about my life experiences and my journey, one which will probably never be read by anyone. Part memoir, part spiritual manifesto.
Now I shall get to my point, and to my question. I am not a cafeteria Catholic (at least per my understanding of what that is). But I question. I know (hope) that there are many people out there like me – people who came to the church voluntarily, who believe in Christ as the savior of the world, and in the Eucharist – but who initially struggled and still struggle with “the rules” which can make the catechism look like the U.S. Tax Code. We are edgier, more cynical, and know what a firm grip sin can have on a person. We detest moralizing and we do not sit in judgment of others. But we are called to be Catholic, and Catholic we shall be to the best of our ability. It’s a journey, not a destination, and I am in a long way from the end.
Is there room in the church for someone like me – someone who struggles with the rigorous mandates of church teaching, yet tries to follow them? Can I pay my taxes under protest? Is there room for me on this forum?