Seems all I’ve thought about today is perspective.
I dragged the kids to church. They don’t like going, and they don’t hesitate to remind me that they’re unhappy when we go. Still, I take them and wink and make faces when they glare at me and generally pretend that I don’t notice their surly demeanor.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a questioning Catholic. I love the tradition and the ritual; not so much the guilt and the sermons that seem only to remind me just how awful a human being I am. My philosophy has been to try to look past that. To remember that religion isn’t supposed to just be a pep rally and that even though I’m what I’ve called ‘a bad Catholic’ I’m still a believer.
As we sat in our pew today, I had to tap my kiddos too many times to count. Two taps to get them to lift their head, two taps to signal it’s time to stop hanging on me, two firm taps if they’re fighting with gestures and mimes, thinking that since their sentiments aren’t audible they’re somehow allowed.
If I’m being honest, I was more annoyed that they were screwing with my perspective more than that they were being kids. I’ve learned that I don’t love going to church because of mass; I love going to church because, for sixty minutes or so, I am allowed to be quiet and think. Sure, I recite the prayers (I’ve even finally mastered the ‘consubstantial with the father’ changes) and I sing the refrains and I even sometimes sing the hymns. But I’ve been doing all of that for forty-some years now. It doesn’t take much presence of mind. Instead, I allow myself to think.
But when my kids are protesting and sneering and kicking each other under the pew, I can’t think.
Then I came home to a day filled with paperwork and tax prep and college financial aid applications. At the end of eight-plus long hours of opening and shredding and organizing and plugging numbers into spread sheets, I came upon a letter from the Diocese of Kansas City in Kansas. It’s time for their annual campaign. This year it’s called “A Story of Love.”
Here’s the part that makes me sad: I’ve given to the Archbishop’s Call to Share in the past. They remembered, of course, and made sure to tell me how important my sacrificial gift was. Then they worked in the Catholic guilt by reminding me that I didn’t give last year, and they followed that up with “you’ve been missed.”
Funny thing is, I never got a letter when I couldn’t bring myself to sit in the pew for mass, too beaten down to listen to one more sermon about selfishness. They didn’t miss me then. They didn’t even notice me then.
My perspective takes a hit when the only outreach is to solicit money. Not my perspective on faith, or on the beauty of the mass or even on giving my kids a solid foundation in a church. I still believe it’s important they grow up knowing I believe there’s a God. I think it’s vital they’re encouraged to look past themselves, act with kindness to everyone they meet and be the change they hope to see in the world, if even in only a very is small way.
But my perspective on the church? It’s battered and bruised. I’m wondering how long I can keep taking kids that I love and truly hope to raise as good human beings to a place that seems to have forgotten that the best way to lead is by example, and wish I could sit down with whatever marketing firm wrote this letter to tell them just how distasteful it truly is.