Sunday’s Buffalo News revealed the following headline: “Mass Exodus Confounds Diocese.” This headline does not surprise me. I have heard complaints for years from people who have said, “The Catholic Church doesn’t listen to us.” As I spent the day on the campus of Notre Dame arguably one of the most well-known and prestigious Catholic Universities in the world, the school newspaper “The Observer” reported, “Students who have identified with their sexual preference are not allowed to start campus groups and faculty who are open about their sexuality risk losing their positions.”
Almost 20-years ago I “semi-retired” from the Catholic Church. My sister and her husband had phoned and asked me to be a godparent to their newborn son, Bradley. I agreed and contacted my parish priest. After several minutes of discussion and a return call from our priest I had been asked why I was requesting this letter. I was perplexed as I had explained my reasoning during our initial call. At that point it had become clear why there was such concern. I was confronted by my priest as he was concerned my church attendance was what I said it was. In between calls the priest had gone into my records and noticed my church attendance had decreased. This was in fact false. I never provided the church with my “envelopes.” I provided my tithing in cash. The next day I arrived and approached the rectory. The priest answered the door and I was ushered into his office. The letter which was written on my behalf was handed to me for my review. I read the letter. As I reached for the pen contained in my chest pocket the priest took his hand and covered my hand with his. As he did this he said, “Read the letter carefully. You’re not lying to me you’re lying to Jesus.”
Shortly after this incident we moved to another parish community but I still didn’t feel anything. Slowly over time church attendance slowed and stopped completely.
Our kids completed religious education instruction. Nancy and I both felt this was important. It’s not that I don’t believe in God, I do. I’m just no fan of being threatened with “going to Hell.”
My dad and I used to have conversations about the difference between religion and spirituality. My dad used to tell me as did our priest “God is everywhere.” As a result of hearing this I never understood why I couldn’t “see God as I was standing knee-deep in a lake and fly-fishing.” I enjoyed the same solitude and introspective reflection I could in church. I continue to feel this way today. When I run, when I ride my bike, when I snowshoe and when I kayak; these are all activities which I can reflect and in which I can see God.
Since I was a small child I looked for something, a belief which would provide me with the spiritual direction which I sought. This search lasted many years and in many ways continues. During my search I came across the practice of Buddhism. I read and didn’t understand. I read more and continued to not understand. I pushed this practice to the side and my search continued. I returned to my search several years later. When I finally did return to examining Buddhism I realized I was looking for answers where there were none. It took me a considerable amount of time to understand the answers where inside of me. These answers would be revealed to me when I was ready to see them.
Central to my practice of Buddhism is my daily practice of insight meditation. The practice of Buddhism has helped me to improve my understanding of life. This same belief has also helped me to see things as they are and to manage what I can.
I have learned to enjoy my spiritual growth in a way in which I never had in the past. To me this is key. I believe in God just not in the manner which the Catholic church believes is correct. I had this discussion with a priest who told me “I was running away from God.” He felt it was not possible to pray to God if I was not in church. We disagree to this date. This disagreement simply confirmed my choices.
I believe despite what I was told.