This is a continuation in the series on my discussion about being Catholic and a response to accusations that I have “left the church to start my own religion.”
The Question of What Went Wrong
So, if I loved being Catholic so much, and there are so many things about being Catholic that I still love and if Catholicism is in my blood and part of my bones, then why am I currently choosing to fast from the Eucharist and live as a “Catholic in Exile?” What went wrong? Contrary to what some might think, prior to the “what went wrong,” my eyes were open to the realities of the Institution of the Catholic Church. I knew of the abuses against children (and women!), I knew of the corruption of the Institution, I knew of the power and control. Prior to the “what went wrong,” I was able to stand as observer and for the most part, hold the Institution in compassion, recognizing that it is a human institution complete with human frailties and imperfections. Of course my inner reformer would have to do her justice dance from time to time, but for the most part, I was able to stand in a place of trusting that the Holy Spirit was at work and that all that needed to be healed in the Institution would be healed in its own time. I do have to admit, however, that my inner reformer saw herself as part of the healing. I was determined to be a source of healing, transformation and support for the church (for the sake of the people of the church) that I loved. For a long time, I found support for this call through my Pastor (Jeff VandenHeuvel), my Spiritual Director (Judy Miller) and both the Newman Center and St. Mary’s communities. Then it all changed and it became personal.
In the late 1980’s, I heard the call to pursue Reiki as a model of energy healing. It was not until years later that I found my Reiki teachers, but I did find them and in all places….IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH!!!!! After years of searching for a Reiki teacher, I found two Catholic nuns who taught and practiced Reiki and for me, this was absolutely perfect. I have always seen Reiki as a vehicle through which we are able to continue Jesus’ healing ministry in the world, and these teachers echoed my sentiments. Eventually, I heard the call to include Reiki as part of my existing ministry in the Catholic Church and our new pastor supported me in this call. Unfortunately, the fearful minority DID NOT! Now, I’m going to own something RIGHT NOW! I absolutely know that what I will now share with you is part of my pain story. As my teacher, Julie Tallard Johnson, would remind me, all of what follows is a direct reflection of my pain story, “I am rejected.”
So, in a nutshell…the fearful minority did not like the fact that I was doing Reiki. In their words, “Reiki is not the truth, because it is only the truth if it is explicitly handed down by the magesterium.” Ok, historically, this is not even an accurate statement (practice always precedes legislation), but it was what they believed. Long story short, in their minds, I was “doing the work of the devil” and practicing “witchcraft and sorcery” and thanks to their efforts (and the efforts of others of the same mindset), the local bishop issued a prohibition statement against Reiki which basically echoed these very words. Not only was I a target for the local self-appointed inquisition, now they had the papers to back them up. But it wasn’t just Reiki that made them nervous, it was also the fact that I practiced and taught contemplative prayer. “Isn’t Centering Prayer (the Catholic form of mindful meditation), dangerous?” one of these folks asked me in a class I was facilitating on Christian Prayer. SIGH! I thought long and hard about this question and realized the truth is YES – Centering prayer (and any contemplative practice for that matter) is dangerous BUT ONLY if you are afraid of discovering the truth – specifically the truth of your most authentic self and the truth of God’s unending and unconditional love.
Owning my Stuff
So, how did I respond to the local self-appointed inquisition? I felt rejected. My inner victim wailed, “How can they say these things about me? Don’t they know I’m a good person? God called me to these tools and I have found healing through them and have helped others also find healing? If God called me to this, how can it be bad?” In the end, I allowed these circumstances to break my heart. When the new pastor challenged me for the very same reasons the local inquisition challenged me, I just couldn’t take anymore (nor did I need to). So I quit. I quit my ministry in the Catholic Church (for the second time) and I quit going to church. In my mind, I could not attend mass presided over by a priest I knew did not support me and I could not share mass with those who I knew had led the local inquisition. Was I being a baby in making that decision? HHHHHHMMMMMM I’m still processing that one. What I do know, is that since leaving work in the institution, I have experienced expansion and growth around my ministry. My own inner creativity has exploded. People in need of spiritual healing and comfort (especially “recovering Catholics) have found me and have found enormous healing, peace, comfort and affirmation of their own inner truths. I have received, created and facilitate a formal process of spiritual formation for adults that is rooted in Jesus’ teachings, and speaks to people of all beliefs, faiths, etc. Oh yea….and I’ve written three books (one coming out in April, the others are still looking for a publishing home) And, except for this one wound that still remains unhealed, I feel a deep and profound inner peace and contentment in where I am spiritually and professionally. So, the invitation for me now is to transform this part of my pain story and ask myself how I can now see it through my current intention: I receive everything as love. And…..the answer to that will have to wait for Monday’s blog!
Authentic Freedom Ministries