Yelling on Sundays
When it feels wrong, maybe it is wrong ... for you.
I grew up Catholic.
Weekly mass with my classmates
Mass on all the holy days
Sunday mass with my family
Cross in every bedroom
I probably went to Mass over two thousand times before I was 18.
That’s a lot of Jesus.
All my friends grew up that way, too. It was all we knew.
And Then Things Changed …
One day, in 1980, when I was 15, I sat in the wooden pews at St. John the Evangelist as usual.
Our new priest was younger than our usual geriatric cast and he started yelling about abortion — just going off. It was such a jarring change from old kindly Father Filip or speed-reading Father John (full Mass in 23 minutes — amazing) that it really stood out to me.
I nudged my sister.
“Why’s he yelling? What’s the big deal? It’s legal.” (The Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade had happened only 7 years earlier.)
My sister rolled her eyes and we waited him out.
The next week, the same priest yelled about nonbelievers. Again, going to town about the horrible folks who didn’t attend church
I elbowed my sister again. “What is with this guy?” I whispered. “We’re here. Why yell at us? Shouldn’t he go yell at the people in the street who aren’t in here?”
Same sister. Same eye roll. We waited him out again.
But something had changed. The Diatribes had begun and Mass was never the same for me after that. Tuning out became my way of survival.
I finally went away to college. When I came home on vacation, my parents still expected me to go to church, so I got dressed and drove to St. John’s … and kept driving. I took a nice country drive for an hour instead. It was easier to pretend than to face the discussion with my parents about why I wasn’t going to Mass. Eventually, I stopped taking the drive and slept in. I was old enough to make my own decisions. My folk never bothered me again about Mass.
The Consequences of Stridency
I think back to those sermons once in a while … and I wonder what would have happened if that priest hadn’t yelled so much. I had already made it through years of Catholic school (including witnessing numerous beatings by the nuns) and it took this guy’s stridency — his vehemence and anger — to push me over the line to No Mas.
His stridency was alienating … and ultimately drove me away.
But that’s how life is, right? Sometimes we hold on and hold on and hold on — even when we know that things don’t feel quite right — and then it takes just one or two things to happen and … poof … we are gone.
Indoctrination takes time … but decisions to leave can come in a heartbeat.
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It’s Okay to Find Another Community
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that if you are in a place where things don’t feel right — and haven’t for a while — it’s okay to make your way to a place where things feel better. And I’m not just talking about religion here. Relationships, gyms, political parties, heck even your Netflix account might need to get the heave-ho. (I ditched mine last week after 14 years.)
Life will go on and you will go on with it, even during change. This much I know.
And I don’t miss the Catholic Church. I miss the community sometimes and even the rituals (I love ritual) … but I found there are wonderful communities in so many other places.
My Sunday service still happens — it’s just held in a different place and includes a barbell now. But it feels spiritual and there is much contemplation and so much soul. It’s all good.
This world is full of possibilities. Don’t stay stuck where it feels wrong. Go find what works for you now.