Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Being “Spiritual” Without the Catholic Church

Dear Parishioners,

All too present in society, and especially among those referred to as millennials and subsequent generations, is an attitude where a person no longer sees the need to be associated with a church or organized religion.  “I am spiritual but not necessarily religious” can sum up the general attitude.  Being spiritual can mean just about anything today from doing yoga, smoking pot, burning incense or wearing a crystal pendant or medallion, etc.

Granted, there have been far too many reasons why people get disillusioned with organized religion including (but not limited to) appalling scandals; an over-emphasis on hell, fire and damnation or requests for money; watered-down or unclear theological content; poor preaching or liturgy; hypocritical leadership; unfriendly or unwelcoming congregations; etc. Additionally, there are those who have been seriously hurt by insensitive church leaders and/or members of the congregation.

With all of that being said, why should we be part of a church—specifically the Catholic Church?

Let me look at this from the viewpoint of one having lived alone at various times in my life.  While it may not be as difficult for an introvert like me, it can still get old quickly not to have anyone around with whom to share a meal, to pray with, to watch TV or a movie in the evening, or something so simple as to go out for ice cream together.  Human beings need some form of companionship or community.  We are not meant to be always alone. “It is not good for the man to be alone . . . .” Gn. 2:18

It is similar with faith in God.  We are not meant to go it alone.  Jesus Christ established a church founded on Peter and the apostles.  “ . . . You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church . . . .“ Mt. 16:18  The Catholic Church is an apostolic church.  It is this church—a congregation comprised of disciples of Jesus—that is meant to accompany us on our life’s journey. It is a people with a rich history of 2000 years of saints and sinners; timeless theological truths; rich moral guidance; distinctive liturgy, art, music and church architecture; notable institutions (schools, hospitals, orphanages) etc., and, most importantly, the abiding presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.    

Our coming together weekly centers on a family sacrificial-meal—the Eucharist—where we commemorate what the Lord Jesus has done for us. Without the church (and her priests), there is really no Eucharist. Sad to say, participation in the Eucharist seems to be evermore insignificant—even to baptized/confirmed Catholics.  “Do this in memory of me” appears to include when I find it convenient OR perhaps, at a later time OR I’d rather not.  We are losing the sense of what we truly have in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  We are forgetting who we are as a people and the price that was paid on our behalf—the death of Jesus on the cross. We are a people with an identity-crisis of faith.

To me, life without the Catholic Church would be empty and meaningless.  I know her faults all too well!  Yet, I somehow realize we are an imperfect church comprised of sinners with Jesus as our only perfect leader.  He is Lord, God and Savior;  we are not. We need conversion, healing, forgiveness and God’s unconditional love. We do not save ourselves.

Having recently celebrated the most sacred events of Holy Week and Easter, I am sad for those who may have missed the beauty and spiritual splendor present in the sacred liturgies.  They may not have been as flashy as a show on Broadway or a movie in 3-D.  They were certainly more personal and uplifting than a tweet, instant message or post on Facebook or Instagram.

What the Mass offers to all is a foretaste of the eternal Banquet of Heaven where I pray the mercy of God leads me, a poor sinner, someday.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


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