I am a Roman Catholic. I was baptised shortly after my birth into this church, and I have marked the rites of passage and coming of age with the sacraments ever since. In my early twenties, I went through some serious questioning in the end I discovered that God did exist, and that my spiritual home was the church I had been raised in.
The spiritual heritage in the Roman Catholic Church provides a depth and a wisdom which is often far too well hidden in the recesses of the religious orders. And yet, I must confess that there are aspects of the Church’s teaching with which I struggle enormously. Nowadays, if this affiliation comes up in conversation I am more frequently confronted with the latest scandal. In my teens and twenties the response was more likely to be concern for the salvation of my soul (Roman Catholics are not apparently true Christians). I found the latter conversations easier to handle than I do the former. Doubtless, in part, because when I was younger I was much more comfortable touting absolute answers. The practice of spiritual direction has taught me that God is far more generous than I am, and against such a backdrop absolutes don’t wash quite so easily.
Nonetheless my struggles with certain aspects of the Church have led me to wonder if it wouldn’t be so much better to just do my own thing? I have an established prayer practice, I go regularly to spiritual direction. I have enough confidence in my own discernment to know that I need the tempering of a spiritual director. Would that not be sufficient?
As tempting as it sometime is, I don’t think so. In as much as I do think I have a well established relationship with God, I also know that there is enormous wisdom in the tradition. The Roman Catholic Church doesn’t change easily or quickly. It isn’t easily manipulated by the latest fad, or a strong personality. It also responds very slowly to things that have long since become socially acceptable. (It took from the Reformation to the Second Vatican Council for the Church to finally acknowledge that maybe the Protestants were talking to the same God – and perhaps even more radically maybe God had time for them!) Some of the current hot issues have only been grappled with in wider society in the last 50 years.
So, I continue to draw on this rich tradition, but at the same time, I believe that it is part of my own faith journey to grapple with the challenges that exist too. It is important that I do have intelligent conversations about these things. The church is not a democracy and it won’t change by popular vote or public pressure, but I have to believe in the value of people of faith seeking truth and living a life rooted in discernment. And I have to believe that ultimately the Holy Spirit will prevail, although I cannot dare to presume the outcome!