This city certainly offers an abundance of dining choices for every appetite and taste, but try feeding your soul and you may find yourself in the middle of a desert.
I recently chatted with an old friend who told me she had started going to a non-denominational Christian church because after a lifetime as a committed Catholic, it was the only place where “the spirit moved me while I was there,” she said, and where she experienced a genuine welcome. I couldn’t identify with what she was saying and shrugged it off as “to each their own.”
But after a recent search for ways to feed my soul, I couldn’t stop thinking about what this friend said and whether it might be a big part of the reason the pews are increasingly empty.
Having lived in Rome, Madrid, and Toronto, I know the Catholic tradition is a true buffet. So I thought there must be some soul nourishing experience for me to find here at home.
First I looked for an Ignatian retreat – based on the spiritual teaching of St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits. I found nothing available to satisfy my hunger, or available anytime in the next six months. I cast the net wider, looking for any retreat. Nothing that was for me.
I googled parishes and started reading their weekly bulletins to see if any were offering anything that would help me but instead I only managed to raise my blood pressure. (One parish instructed parents how to remove their young kids from the church if they start chattering, another told parishioners how much they wish to receive in the weekly collection. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t tithe.)
There were lots of talks, lectures, classes, workshops and speakers, but nothing that allowed me to immerse myself in the experience that fuels my faith.
One older, very committed, Catholic woman I respect responded to my observations saying, “It hasn’t changed in 40 years.”
Worse still, to get through the doors and sit at the table you have to know someone who opens the doors, lets you in, and – almost – vouches for you. Depending on where this happens you might notice subtle scrutiny going on to determine if you’re “conservative” or “liberal.” (whatever happened to just being “Catholic”?)
This local church needs to re-learn how to set the table, fire up the buffet, open the doors wide, and like our brothers and sisters of other denominations, learn how to put up a sign that reads “Visitors Welcome, Come on In.”
Until then, those of us who have a connection to our faith and wish to keep it will have to fight to feed our souls.