I probably could have stopped going to church a long time ago. I went for the first 14 years of my life because my parents made me. I continued to go when I attended boarding school because I am easily guilt tripped into doing things. I kept going in college because, well, it just felt right. It was easy because I had a lot of Catholic friends and a lot of us went to Mass together. The services were also just so peaceful and spiritual at St. John’s and St. Ben’s.
I bounced around churches when I moved to Maryland. I don’t ever remember feeling all that much at home at any single one. I stopped going to church when I lived in Middletown because I couldn’t stand the priest. It was in 2012 during the whole health care bruhah and how Catholic organizations refused to cover birth control for employees. This was also the time during when Congressman Paul Ryan was proposing dramatic cuts to food stamps and other social welfare programs.
That was also when I read about the “Nuns on the Bus” tour started by sister Simone Campbell. She and a group of sisters toured a number of states raising awareness of the dangerous proposed cuts. I was inspired by the actions.
The priest went on and on about the need to protect religious liberty and there was even a rally planned in the nation’s capital. I don’t recall a single word being said about the Nuns on the Bus or anything related to it. It made me angry. It made me sad. I stopped going to church for about four months.
I started going back to church when I moved to Boston. I attended mass at a nice church near Boston College. I liked the sermons and the people were nice.
However, the time in church I felt most moved was at the Shrine of St. Anthony in downtown Boston. I started going in spring of 2014 when I basically had a life meltdown. I went to the 4 p.m. service on Sunday before checking into work.
I sat in the pew still reeling from a difficult few days. The Arch Street Band did the music for the mass. Most times I’m not too keen on band with guitars and drums in church, but as soon as they started playing, tears rolled down my cheeks. They singers were joyful and powerful and it just felt welcoming.
I kept going to that same mass every week, mostly to hear the band play. I also began to stop into the Shrine on my way to work, even for just a few minutes to light a candle and say a prayer for a friend.
Now I go to the Basilica in Minneapolis. I do feel moved during mass there, even if I don’t always pay attention. Sometimes I just sit and think. It’s cleansing to sit still and be quiet.
I also like what Father John Bauer says every time he begins Mass, “Wherever you are on your faith journey, you are welcome here.”