We did a very shallow dive together on the intricacies of my personal theology and theology is important to me. There is something that prompts yet another somewhat uncomfortable dive into personal theology: because religion is a very touchy subject here on the Internet.
Normally I maintain the Linus Van Pelt model when it comes to talking about religion: “There are three things you don’t discuss in public: religion, politics, and The Great Pumpkin”.
So what prompts me to bring up an uncomfortable topic yet again? A very dear friend of mine is a very active member of a religion order. He’s a Marianist just like my alma mater (Marianists are a special sect of Catholicism that have a special devotion to the Virgin Mary and you can learn more about them here.) and details are being left out for a very special reason: sometimes he occasionally gets flack for spending time with me.
Here’s why: Marianists are pretty strict. They may be liberal in some of their social policy and community outreach but many of the older brothers are very conservative and a brother spending time with a single laywoman (lay meaning a member of the church who isn’t dedicated to a religious order) alone in her home sounds incredibly scandalous. But at the same time this interaction wouldn’t be allowed if he was a Jesuit, a Franciscan or a Benedictine. And it certainly wouldn’t be allowed if I was a Carmelite (Fun fact: I actually did consider joining a nunnery at a young age and then promptly decided against it because I like food, anime and sunlight.) It sounds scandalous typing it out like this and it’s me who’s writing it.
So what possibly could a young, single laywoman and a young man promised to the purity and loyalty of the cloth and to God the Father? We honestly talk a lot about theology. We talk about the differences in our faith. We talk about the weather. We talk about books we’re reading. We talk about philosophy and the impossible questions. In all honesty, he’s the most holy but attainable person I’ve ever met and I seriously value his friendship. I put emphasis on friendship: I’m a Catholic, I take his vows just as seriously as he does and if anything in a few ways I may take his vows more seriously than he does. And we’re friends. We ran in that weird circle of college kids that were more interested in philosophy and ethics than drinking at frat parties (though my alma mater was far from a party school: says the Japanese Culture Club former president).
But what’s the most amazing is that we differ in our personal theologies. I’m more conservative, being a Deist, and my ideas about miracles and God and logic vary from the average Catholic. His ideas about what it means to be close to God and divinity scare me a little but I greatly respect his opinions. If anything, I treasure the fact that we don’t agree because it leads to deeper discussion. Having a friend so close to the Church radically changed how I viewed the Church and my theology. And it’s all the better that he and I share similar views on science and social issues. And he in fact embodies to me so many things that I think are lost in the Church: he wears plain clothes, is sworn to “poverty” and lives to serve.
But what I love is that after spending time with someone who is obviously more religious than me it makes me confront my pain points with the church like its refusal to accept LGBTQ members and acknowledge their unions.The indiscretions of terrible terrible priests and their awful acts of abuse are another common topic: it’s almost impossible to be Catholic and not talk about it and if you are Catholic, you should talk about it. It’s a serious epidemic that has gone on in the Church like a cancer for too long. It makes me confront the bad popes and oh boy, the bad popes almost deserve their own blog post. It makes me confront all of those things that make me a less than ideal Catholic and a less than ideal person and a part of me enjoys that. It is only in admitting that I have failed that I can do more. I can only grow from here. I can only be better from here. I admit that I have sinned and the rest is an active path towards redemption. And this is by far not the first time I have struggled with my Catholic heritage.
Now I’ll wrap up my very uncomfortable discussion of a close friend because it does edge on the line of “If you keep saying you’re just friends, it sounds suspicious.” I struggled with writing this for a long time. It does seem strange to be friends with someone who is also nearly objectively more devote than I am but it is in fact his humanity that makes us such great.
This is normally where I’d say go hug a priest or something but I have a feeling that would make many deacons like super uncomfortable. Oh and if you’re curious about the title of this blog post: feel free to reach out. It’s actually one of my favorite stories in all of Catholic mysticism.