Finding Faith Isn’t Easy — The Church Edition

So I’ve written abou this before. But in that case, it wasn’t so much about religion as much as it was about cancer.

This time, it’s about religion.

Why?

It’s not just that we didn’t go to church Sunday (while it’s tough with kids, we are somewhat regular). It’s more that I didn’t miss going to church this Sunday. Or any other Sunday.

At all.

This is part of my self-diagnosed mid-life crisis. (Yup, I’m having one, by the way.)

I should miss it — shouldn’t I? Or, it’s not even so much that I miss it. It’s that when we do go, the only time I seem to walk out of mass with interest is when I know the Knights of Columbus are holding a pancake breakfast in the hall.

Something is missing.

I mean, I’ve told you this before. I was an altar boy. I’ve been a lector forever. A Eucharistic minster, too. Heck, I even ran the parish council for a few years. Throw in eight years of Catholic elementary school and I’m destined for saint hood. Or not.

I’ve told  you what I like about the Catholic church — the tradition and the mystery. I love the concept of the mass and how it’s structured. However, recently, I’m just not getting enough out of it — if anything.

And that bothers me.

Of course, take a look at a couple of the church’s big issues — capital punishment and abortion. Yup, I’m all for the death penalty. And, ladies, it’s your body. As far as I’m concerned, you get to choose what to do with it.

It’s not like those are some minor issues that I’m disagreeing with. Throw in my support for gay marriage and, well, send me to hell right now.

Because of my beliefs, some would say I have no business being in the church.

Can’t lie and say I’ve never thought of that. But the question that always comes up in my head — if not the Catholic church, where?

The other question is — why am I thinking about this now?

Well, can’t lie. Death (and cancer) certainly have a lot to do with this.

I’ve had enough happen in my life alone to question my faith — let alone what others I know have had to deal with.

And, I should say, questioning faith doesn’t mean I don’ t have any. I do. Or at least I want to  have it.

It’s a quest to find some sort of spiritual comfort. Where does it come from? How do I get it? And, then, if I do get it, what the hell do I do with it?

I believe in a higher power/authority. Ok, yeah, I believe in God.

Is God a he? A she? A what? Doesn’t matter. I believe that there is one — regardless of who or what it really is.

Where I have the problem is figuring out why God wants to mess with not just me, but with others.

OK, if there’s a lesson I’m supposed to learn because of Dad and Tim, could I just know it now? Hasn’t it been long enough? Yeah. It has.

The kids are baptized. Aidan goes to a Catholic school. Sure, my experience was a great one. But, honestly, one of the main reasons he goes is because they provide after-school care. Of course, part of my hope is that Aidan going to a parochial school will help his behavior and attention in church. We’ll see how that goes.

I say prayers with the kids every night. And, I also say my own prayers every day. Not always at the same time. Not always in the same place. But, bottom line is they get said.

Heck, I’m a godfather — three times! I do take that responsibility seriously. I mean, being selected by key friends and family — well, it’s simply an honor.

But, that doesn’t mean I’m without question — because I’m not.

And, yes, I’ve read The Shack. An amazing work. Read it if you haven’t. Did it change the way I think or look at things? Not really. But it has inspired conversation. And conversation is always good.

I have a lot of questions. A lot of issues.

To some extent, I don’t want to wait any more for the answers. I know I have to. I know I can’t get the answers to some of the questions now — and maybe not ever. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want them. Because I do.

I also, to some extent, believe in the power of prayer. Not so much that it can heal the sick, per se. But more so that it draws people closer — in a different way. And in that sense, it provides comfort.

When Dad and Tim died, I know people were praying for them — and for me. Did that do anything to help them? No. But it certainly did something to help me.

When Mom had her bypass in January, people were praying then, too. Did it help her physically? Maybe it helped her get through the surgery, but the complications persisted for quite some time, so hard to accept that.

But, again, what it did was bring comfort — to mom, my sister, my brother and me — at a very difficult time.

Again, it takes people with a shared experience/interest and brings them closer. I don’t care if it’s prayer or something else, any time that happens, it’s a good thing.

So where does this leave me?

Beats me.

Will I start getting more out of mass? Was I really ever getting anything out of mass? Honestly, I think the answer to both of those questions is I don’t know.

I love to argue — er, debate — religion. Always have. My Dad and I were famous for our ‘conversations.’

I would often take the opposite side of an issue just so I could disagree with him and argue points against him. It was that much fun. Kind of our thing.

I always promoted the notion of doing good things, of being a good neighbor, of going to church on a regular basis.

Dad was never for that. Nope. “Michael, always be careful with this one,” he’d say.

“Why’s that, Dad?” I’d respond.

“Because, Michael, no matter what you believe and what you think, one thing is very clear — religion is a very personal thing.”

I realize now, more than ever, how true that is.


Interesting Connections

I’ve known since the instant I started this blog how unique connections can develop.

I mean, how else could you explain my recent happiness for a woman I’ve never met in the midwest who just announced she’s pregnant. And, she’s an Indians fan. So how could I possibly really like her? But, I do. And I’m very happy for her.

How else can I explain my recent happiness for a blogger/facebook friend who recently got engaged. Because I haven’t read much, I actually don’t know if she still blogs, but we’re friends on the ‘book, so I know about it that way. She was a regular commenter here, as I was on her blog. Things change. I get that. But I can still be happy for her through the connection here.

How else can I explain my secret blog crush on someone down south? She doesn’t blog anymore either, but the rumor is she might be back soon. But, we’re ‘book friends, too. And, did I mention she has amazing taste in music and in baseball teams. She’s funny, witty and I don’t know if we could ever carry a conversation in real time, but that’s fine. We’ve got something in common here and it works — because of blogging.

How else can you explain someone sending homemade baked goods to your office — other than blogging? Actually, two people have done this.

How else can you explain getting to know people you work with on an even deeper level — sometimes without even talking about it. You just come here and share — and that leads to a deeper understanding of some friends. And, honestly, I like that.

I write a lot about stuff that has happened to me — and death is always a part of that. First, a lot about my dad and now my brother.

And it was through writing about Tim that two more great connections just happened.

First, a woman that I deal with through work sent me a personal email about shared experiences. I knew she lost her husband a few years ago, but didn’t know much more than that. How much do you bring up over business?

Well, she became a friend on the ‘book and therefore discovered my blog (which was fine). She read some of the stuff I wrote about Tim and my desire to try and do more with my nephew. She then wrote me a great email that started with something like, “I hope this is OK to write….” and then she shared some things that she’s dealt with since the loss of her husband that helped me by giving me a different perspective — not just of what can help me, but also, unbeknownst to her, of what things my sister-in-law is no doubt going through

So through work, that connection was established, and through the blog, it became even greater.

If you’ve read me, you know how I got started — thanks to Molly. Well, after having lunch with Molly the other day, she wrote about our experience and suggested that her readers come visit me.

Well, one reader did — and she sent me an email last night that I’ve read about 10 times already.

Turns out, eight years ago, she lost her brother due to a random act of violence. She wrote to me about she’s dealt with that a little bit and how she’s been able to have a stronger relationship with her older brother — much like I hope happens with me and Tom. It’s about making sure opportunities aren’t lost.

This person didn’t have to email me. But I’m glad she did. I wrote her back and said, hey, maybe we can share stuff from time to time. Having someone to talk to that understands is a great thing.

And what’s unique about our situations — anger. For her, at someone — a real person. For me, which is an entire other element of my frustration — God. Tim didn’t do this to himself. Nobody did it to him. So why was he taken? Yeah, I know. But it’s what I think — and more importantly — what I feel. And if there’s one thing I’ve actually accepted recently, you can’t change feelings — you can only respect them.

So, again, a link from one blog to another brought this person in my life. Whether she stays, I don’t know. But regardless of that, it was nice to connect with someone in a similar situation that can truly relate.

Not that others can’t, but, well, you can’t — not unless you’ve gone through this. And trust me, I’m not not wishing this on anyone.

So, to that person, thank you for following Molly’s link, thanks for reading and — more importantly — thanks for writing.

And, to all of my blogging friends, regular readers and casual visitors — you all have a connection here somehow. It’s what brought you here. And it’s what keeps you coming back.

And while this is about me — I appreciate that. And I appreciate you.

A lot.


I’m Not Quite the Energizer Bunny…

…but here it is three years later and I’m still going and going and, well, going.

Yup, this blog is three years old.

Not only that, this is my 300th post.

I’m actually surprised — I wouldn’t have figured that I’d average a post every three days or so. Despite my recent hiatus, I guess it does go to show that (at one point) I was writing fairly regularly (and I’m trying to build back up to that pace — honest).

For that (the writing regularly part), you can thank Molly.

In fact for all of this, you can thank Molly.

It’s as simple as this — without her encouragement, this blog never would have started.

And, quite frankly, without her encouragement, this blog wouldn’t have lasted.

It’s funny in a way. When she and I get together now, she mentions my writing and tells me not that I shouldn’t stop, but that I can’t stop.

So, here I am, reading her stuff tonight and she’s asking the same questions I’ve been asking lately. And my answer to her, it’s not that she shouldn’t stop. It’s that she can’t stop.

See, I was debating what the heck to write about for a three-year/300th entry…then tonight it hit me plain as day. Talk about the person that got you started here in the first place.

Of course, I went to her when I was looking for an idea for this entry and she might as well have used my line and said, “I got nothin’.”

She actually did have a great idea — it would just take me too long to do right now. And I need to get over this 300 hump.

What’s kind of funny is that while I’m writing less now, I’m even reading less. Only a few blogs are in regular reading rotation right now — Molly’s being one of them.

What could I possibly have in common with twenty-something blogger? Well, in her case, it’s a lot.

We’ve each written about each other before. I’ve called her my little sister. She’s called me her big brother. That’s just the relationship we have.

We had a great working relationship that turned into a fabulous friendship — even after she left for what was then greener pastures.

I don’t see her as much as I’d like, but it doesn’t matter. When we do connect — like today at lunch — it’s fabulous.

Our conversations cover it all — light, heavy and anything in between. Ususally over pizza and onion rings. But, today, we’ll do it over salads instead. And that’s ok.

True friends make a mark on your life — a mark that sets them above and beyond others.

Molly made a mark on my life two years ago — in a big way. I doubt that Molly and I will ever lose touch, but if we do for some reason, I’ll always be grateful to her.

And you should be, too. After all, without her encouragement, I wouldn’t be here.

Thank you, Molly.

Wouldn’t be here without you.


New Beginnings

Aidan started kindergarten today.

Take a look for yourself.

He's ready for the challenge. (We hope.)

He's ready for the challenge. (We hope.)

Proud!

Proud!

Ready to go!

Ready to go!