I’m a lifelong Catholic, recently retired. I stopped going to Mass regularly about 3 years ago because I disagree with many of their rules, their “we are better than others” mentality, and mostly their unwelcoming nature in general. My parish is very open and welcoming, but the restrictions on who can receive communion make me sad for the people who come to church but are excluded this way.
Recently, I attended an event for my granddaughter and realized how much I miss the music and how much I really, really miss the community. I feel hypocritical when I go, though. I’m searching for authenticity in my life and so feel awkward joining in with what I don’t believe anymore. What should I do?
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
The first word of your signature gives us a clue to the answer. What’s that expression about “too many shoulds and you’ll end up in the should house”? Part of your resistance may come from feeling that you have to go, instead of wanting to go. The church teaches that Sunday Mass attendance is an obligation, so maybe a part of you is feeling guilty? In years past, you found the music and community to be good reasons to attend. But now your thoughts about the church’s stand on things have created dissonance for you, and you’re taking a break to sort things out. Bravo! It’s all a part of adult-ing to step back and assess the institutions in our lives. Many depend on rules to maintain membership and order. Sometimes following the rules overshadows membership itself, and people are hurt in the process. That’s where compassion and mercy are needed. Pope Francis has made this the cornerstone of his message. He is not changing existing rules, but wishes to breathe new life into how they are implemented. How this happens in the local parishes depends on the tone and approach of the bishops and priests in leadership. The parish community can influence some of this, too.
It sounds like your parish has a lot going for it. Keep your heart open to ways you can participate, like your granddaughter’s event, while you sort through your thoughts and feelings. As you do, seek out resources that shed light on the reasoning behind the rules you no longer feel you can support. (Fr. Ron Rolheiser’s book The Holy Longing is highly recommended.) This information will help inform your conscience and perhaps bring perspectives not yet considered. Through it all, continue to attend to your feelings—there’s gold there, too. It may be that you will gain a new understanding of your faith at this transitional time in your life, or you may decide to close that door for good. Give it time. You’re living a big question, and the answer isn’t clear right now. It will come.
My husband’s driving makes me nervous. Sometimes he drives too fast, and gets impatient behind the wheel. He usually abides by traffic laws, but there’s one thing he does that really bothers me: He runs stop signs on side streets and in neighborhoods. If there are no other cars around, he figures he doesn’t need to stop, and no one will see him break the law. I’ve told him I don’t like it. He laughs it off and says I’m just a more cautious driver than he is. What can I do to help him see that this isn’t a good idea?
Driving Me Crazy
Dear Driving Me Crazy,
Has your daredevil husband never gotten a ticket for a traffic violation?! I have, and it’s incentive enough to follow the rules, even when it looks like I don’t have to. Maybe, in your husband’s case, he delights in getting away with something when he runs a stop sign. On one hand, it seems a harmless thrill. On the other, what if he doesn’t see a pedestrian who assumes drivers will obey a stop sign? For me, a more cautious driver like yourself, the risk isn’t worth it. I err on the side of safety, even if it means I get home a minute or two later.
You’ve tried talking to your husband about your concerns, but he laughs them off. Making your point depends on how far you want the situation to escalate. Do you refuse to ride with him? Insist that you drive when you go out together? Look out the passenger window when he pulls these stunts? Maybe your next move is a compromise. Rather than trying to change his mind about this, ask him to accommodate you when you ride together and stop at all stop signs, including the ones he deems unnecessary. Make this request before you get in the car with him, and not on your way out the door. Cooler heads will prevail with distance from the crime scene. Let’s hope he gets a ticket soon.
Men and their cars! I never thought a Sammy Hagar song would appear in my column, but here you go:
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