101 in 1001 #68: Find a church to attend and love.

For as much as I love to share here, I’ve been fairly reserved on a few big topics. I have always, always ascribed to the notion that there are four things that shouldn’t be discussed in casual society: religion, politics, sex, and money. To be fair, I talk about all those things with my closest friends, but putting it out on the Internet is a totally different story.

Now, with that caveat, I’m going to break all my rules and talk about Catholicism…specifically, my brand of/relationship with Catholicism. Before I proceed, however, please note: I’m NOT saying  that I agree with 100% of the Catholic Church’s teachings, beliefs or approaches to certain social issues, or that I am by any means a perfect Catholic. My beliefs diverge wildly from the Church’s on certain points, and this blog will NEVER be a place where those points and beliefs are shared or up for examination. All I do, and all I think I can do, is do my best to believe faithfully and worship honestly, and I still find I'm most comfortable doing that through the Catholic Church. It’s the faith I was raised in, and I cherish it very deeply for very personal reasons.

During my time at Notre Dame, one of the areas I found the biggest/most satisfying personal growth was in my religion and faith. Religion was as much a part of Notre Dame as football and academics…the place seems to breathe it. There are chapels in every dorm and crucifixes in every classroom, and the spire of the beautiful Basilica of the Sacred Heart soars above campus even higher than the Golden Dome. I mean, we have Jesus on our library. It doesn’t get much more prominent than this:

That said, I found that Notre Dame’s particular approach to Catholicism made me fall in love with my religion in a way I never really had before. It was accessible, it was candid, and it was tailored to its demographic in a way that I think would be impossible to recreate elsewhere. Homilies and masses were relevant to what we as students were going through every day: midterms, homesickness, making friends and struggling to figure out who we wanted to be.

I was a regular attendee of dorm mass in both of the dorms I lived in, and senior year my friends and former roommates Theresa and Melissa joined me in an effort to hit all 27 of the dorm masses. I also loved attending Folk Choir Mass at 11:45 on Sundays in the Basilica…stunning music, stained glass windows and the beauty of the ceilings and walls just enhanced the elevated sense of joy I always left church with.

After college, I really struggled to feel the same way about Catholicism, and I blame in large part the parish I grew up in. My family and I had all grown very disillusioned with the way the Church’s message was communicated there, and the fact that, for many, Sunday Mass seemed to be more about keeping up appearances and being one of the elite “first families” of the church than getting anything meaningful out of the service. I attended more and more infrequently, and eventually stopped altogether when I started dating a guy who was actively questioning his faith in organized religion in general.

Subsequent to that breakup, I found myself craving the comfort and peace I had found in Mass during college, and upon my move back downtown I found myself close enough to three different churches to hear their bells every day. The beautiful Basilica of St. Mary is directly across the park from me, and I decided to try to hop back into the swing of regular Mass attendance.

Friends, I’m so in love with it. While it lacks the collegial feel of a dorm mass at Notre Dame, it offers so much of what I loved about mass there…the stunning environment and heavenly, wonderful music, priests who relate the church’s message to the real world in a cogent and relevant way, and an atmosphere of welcome and acceptance. Due to its location right downtown, it’s very much a “come as you are, stay as you please” type place…perfect for my desire for a laid-back, diverse population like my college days.

I’m happy to say I officially attend the Basilica’s services almost every Sunday, and that I think I’ve found a church I love. I keep my faith very private, and tend not to talk about my church attendance because, for me, it is deeply personal. I’m really loving the weekly presence of Mass in my life again, though, and am so happy to check this one off my 101 in 1001 list…it’s enriching my life in ways that will last far beyond the end of my 101 in 1001 challenge