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Pick Up Our Mats and Walk!

January 30th, 2013by Sr. Marla Gipson

It seems to me that the best way as engaged Catholics to evangelize those who have disengaged is to be honest, authentic, and constructive. Matthew Kelly speaks of this in the Introduction of his book, Rediscover Catholicism. He addresses the issue of anger and frustration that people feel in general, but especially the anger toward abuse of children and toward cover-up of abuse of children. He says:

 I suppose the question we should consider together is: What will we do with our  frustration and our anger?…It seems the people have just stopped thinking about it. They have disengaged from the Church to one extent or another and are getting on with their lives. Some refuse to come to church anymore. A great many have stopped contributing financially. Others have left the Catholic Church for their local nondenominational church. And some have tried to ignore the fact that they are angry about what has happened.

None of these are suitable solutions for me. The past fifteen years on the road have convinced me of these things:

1.       There is genius in Catholicism, if we will just take the time and effort to humbly explore it.

2.      There is nothing wrong with Catholicism that can’t be fixed by what is right with Catholicism.

3.     If you and I are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.

4.     If sixty-seven million Catholics in the United States stepped it up a notch, something incredible would happen.   

Truth be told, I have not yet read any further than this introduction. I expect that future blog posts from myself about this book will come as I read more of the text. I further expect that I will agree and disagree with some of its content. That’s ok. But suffice it to say I respect these statements listed above. On a purely human level someone cares enough to say we are the Church too and while one part of the body has a black eye, that’s no reason for the rest of us to not pick up our mat and walk.     

I am an engaged Catholic who at times is confronted with enormous frustration and anger and wonders what it is all for. This is true in my larger Catholic context as a practicing Catholic and in my local spheres of religious community and ministry. Sometimes it seems I live in constant readjustment between idealism and reality. But do I want to live in anger, frustration, cynicism, and apathy? Is that the way God intends for me to live? I do not think so!

People I know sometimes refer to the collective dark underbelly as an existing part of our institutional body. Sure, I know what they mean. But perhaps the most I can do to be constructive is deal with my own dark side. If I am bound by God and community to commitments to which we have discerned that I am called and I still encounter constraints that I cannot control, then what am I to do? The answer is certainly not to bail out or the other alternative, get psychologically, emotionally, and even spiritually stuck.

Right now, I resolve to pray, talk it out, discern, journal, not to deny frustration but struggle with it, not to deny anger but let it go when it is not helpful, to deal with my own vices and ego issues, and surround myself with positive people. I know that moving through external, negative circumstances takes inner work and is not always pleasant. But I can’t help but feeling- no, I know- our faith is more than any current dysfunction.  So may I try to be an example of what is right with Catholicism and not contribute to what is wrong with it.

Sr. Marla Gipson

Sr. Marla Gipson C.PP.S is a Sister of the Precious Blood. She currently lives in Minster, Ohio with a local community of Sisters where she ministers part-time as a Pastoral Associate at St. Augustine Church. She also ministers part-time as a Religious Education Consultant for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in the northern area regional Office of Evangelization and Catechesis and serves as one of the many Course Instructors for catechist certification. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Ohio State University and an M.A. in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton.