For many folks, the months of March and April mean more daylight, budding flowers and the promise of warmth (unless you’re in the Pacific Northwest...then it’s just more rain). For Christians like myself, it also means Lent, a 40-day season of fasting, giving and prayer. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter.
Growing up Catholic, Lent also meant no meat on Fridays and needing to give up a guilty pleasure or perceived flaw as a means to better ourselves. We were fasting for our whole being - spiritually, physically and mentally. With a dash of guilt and a sprinkle of peer pressure, I religiously observed Lent most of my teen years and early 20s.
I mean, it was sometimes fun to challenge myself. How long can I go without eating meat? Can I last more than a day without swearing? Can I really give up on chocolate and sweets? Practicing Lent has given me habits that I still hold today – I no longer drink soda (maybe once a year) or coffee; I’ve given up certain vices I cannot disclose here since I found out my mom reads our blog (hi mom!). In theory, Lent has allowed me to make healthier decisions for myself and that is a good thing.
However, the last decade has made it increasingly harder for me to observe the Catholic version of Lent, a season of reflection and sacrifice, when the Catholic Church continues to be unable to give up its own vices – corruption, greed, abuse and homophobia, to name a few.
When I have the image of Jesus carrying his cross and dying on it, I can’t help thinking about the Catholic Church doing a half-ass job carrying its own cross. I think about the audacity of the Church calling its members to lay down their sins at the foot of the cross when the Church, for example, waited YEARS before even acknowledging and apologizing for their direct role in residential schools.
I’ve had a difficult relationship with the Church this last decade as I continue to witness their hypocrisy. I’ve lost friends whose image of Jesus is contrary to the Bible teaching, “love your neighbor.”
For a while I sought out individuals who were changing and revolutionizing the Catholic church, but after a while I didn’t have energy left in me. And even though I now attend a Lutheran church and our family is building our own Christian traditions, I can’t seem to quit the Catholic identity.
I’ve had a lot of guilt that I haven’t been the involved Catholic parent that I was taught to be at a young age. I’m now struggling to share my faith with my girls in a way that is authentic to where I am today but also allows them to explore their own faith journeys without bias.
I mean, these girls have such innocent, deep-loving faiths. I am always in awe about their unwavering faith and the prayers they lift up. Their belief in God is so pure and I’ve been afraid to ruin that for them.
With all that said, I’ve recently decided to embark on a “releasing journey.” Catholic guilt is so real, but no longer has a place in my own faith and relationship with God. I can no longer allow it to dictate how I navigate religion and faith. The first step is having an honest conversation with my kids about God, faith, and the church as an institution.
That means sitting down with them to talk about how our faith and the church as an institution do not always align. It means explaining how the church as an institution was built by flawed people who have their own agendas and prejudices. It means helping them recognize the difference between the teachings of Jesus and the rules of the Church.
The girls’ own intimate, personal relationships with God are their own. But unlike how I was raised, I do not want them going into religion with blind trust and fear of stepping out. And as we take on this journey into our ever evolving faith journey, we will continue to share on our page our experiences so far.
This is just the beginning. I have no idea how it will go, but that’s basically our parenting style. So here we go…