Wondering About Belief



As people flock to catch even a glimpse of Pope Francis during his visit to the United States, I wonder about faith. The lackadaisical religious training of my upbringing (4 years of Catholic School) is long gone but I love this remarkable spiritual leader as he rejuvenates the conscience of the church, of all of us, demanding we pay attention and act against injustice, poverty. How can we not be moved? He gives me belief in humanity – a good place to start.

Because of too many recent deaths, I have been in different churches celebrating and grieving lives of those gone. It’s good there are places to do this. I flailed after my husband’s death – not knowing where or even how to hold a service but thought it important to have one for my daughter, for me. I remain ever grateful to the Unitarian Minister who guided me with poetry in his beautiful church. But it was mostly him that drew me – the congregation was too white and wealthy to become my community.

To some extent, I envy the assurance of my wise friends of faith. They know where to turn to make sense of the world, they find comfort believing their loved ones are welcomed by a benevolent God after death. It’s a beautiful story but I don’t feel that belief.¬†During prayers, I bow my head in quiet reverence and appreciate the hum, the music, the silences of the faithful I stand with and envy the ready community to be found in a church of shared faith. But I don’t share it.

And I wonder – how others feel so sure in their belief and why I don’t. I joke about being a recovering Catholic and that recovery takes a lifetime. But even that gives more weight to the impact my early childhood religion had on me. I was done early. I went to Catholic school until 3rd grade and in 4th or 5th, had the misfortune of encountering a mean priest in confession. Other than funerals and weddings, my family no longer went to church nor did we ever pray or discuss faith. It didn’t stick.

Even as I join with others in church, knowing I am welcome, sure my questions would be embraced, I feel a foreigner who doesn’t quite understand the language. I’m glad for the visit, sometimes, even exhilarated by the energy, the force of many voices raised together, the easy support they give each other, the love offered. I listen carefully and sometimes join the prayers waiting to be moved, for them to feel like anything more than a recitation and – ¬†am not. So there you have it.

Yet, walking home from a love filled memorial service in a beautiful old church yesterday evening, the moon appeared huge and bright on the horizon. My heart filled and I felt the wonder of the earth beneath my feet spinning through the universe.

4 thoughts on “Wondering About Belief”

  1. I, too, was raised Catholic and also left the church early on. By accident, my husband and I happened upon a United Congregational Church in our community and found an unlikely but welcome home there for several years. People from a variety of different faith backgrounds chose to worship there because of the absence of dogma and the willingness of the congregation to embrace spirituality in the largest sense of the word. My husband is an avowed atheist and he found complete acceptance and even some compatriots within that congregation. I miss being “exhilarated by the energy, the force of many voices raised together,” as you put it. It was the people that became the church for me and joining with them in gratitude and wonder at the world spinning though the universe was sufficient religion for me. Thank you for this, and reminding me.

  2. Yes, that’s the United Congregational Church is where I met those moving voices and a keen sense of social justice. Good to know it’s there. And where are YOU now? (I mean really, not spiritually!)

  3. Your pieces are always so wonderful in sparking reflection! I used to be so envious of people with faith…and then I realized i was one of them, but in a loose, undefined way. Dave and I go round about this periodically – he points to the damage done in the name of religion; I counter with my belief that whatever it is that is true out there in the universe can not be blamed for man’s actions cloaked in the guise of religion. Poor Dave – we’ll be riding bikes or just out in the yard, and I’ll sweep my hands to encompass flowers, chipmunks, ocean, clouds…all signs to me of love, creativity, playfulness, and order…and I am grateful for them as balance to the craziness in the world of men. XXOO

  4. I too join your ranks as a recovering Catholic and also greatly admire our current Pope — his humanity and humility is inspiring. Even today though, I still feel a connection to the old adage, “once a Catholic, always a Catholic.” Thank you for the gift of the poetry of your words, in helping me to explore my very ambivalent feelings about religion. Xoxo

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