I grew up Catholic.
Like, Irish and Czech Catholic for about 80 generations.
Like, my full name is Mary Kathryn.
I grew up Catholic in a beautiful, disciplined, non-religiously-scarring way that I really truly believe made me the kind of broad-viewed, candle-loving, choir-prone, church hall lock-in, non-athletic person I am today. Seriously.
SERIOUSLY. Stop laughing.
It was always desperately personal to me… church. I do see now how people can be a part of a family, be a part of a church (ANY CHURCH-don’t get me started), and find it stifling and run the other way. I do. I get that now. But for me, it was good. I don’t know why I made it through my youth wanting MORE church and others left for good, but my family and my church created a foundation of faith that has been impenetrable.
So, that’s good.
Now, I should tell you I’ve not been a member of a parish since college. I wanted to sing… and my college suite-mate sang in a small, groovy choir at the Baptist church. I grew up in the Bible Belt, and most of my best friends were Baptist. I was not afraid of them… and goodness knows, I like to dance when I sing. It was a good fit. My last 15 years have been spent in Free Evangelical churches and Bible churches and non-denomiational churches. As a family, the Mulders go to Blythefield Hills Baptist, though Curt grew up Christian Reformed along with the rest of Dutch West Michigan. We’re equal-opportunity worshippers. If you’ve got a choir and communion, we are in.
But mass… mass will always feel like home to me. It’s my base. It’s where I come from. When I walk into the midnight service on Christmas Eve, I feel… comfortable. Say what you will about Catholics, but they have a few things over everyone else: church flower arrangements and the church calendar. No other denomination even comes close.
I will not defend the faith- I am no apologetic. But I will- I WILL- I will say that for all the freedom other denominations have embraced, all the open-ess, all the non-pews, all the electric guitars… there is a little something missing in the structure part of things. The seasons of the church. The cycles. The encouragement to come together as a community of Believers and focus. Whether entering church and preparing your heart before the service or reading through Advent in anticipation of the Christ’s birth… the Old Church has some beautiful things to teach us.
I think we crave that structure now. I think we’re looking up from a generation of overwhelming freedom and begging for some direction. It’s not just the Lutherans and Episcopalians and Catholics talking about Lent anymore… even those crazy churches with office chairs for seats and stages for altars- yes, even those are turning to Liturgy for guidance in these special times.
And, that’s really what I want to say here today.
These next 40 days are special. There are some beautiful prayers and words of wisdom to be found in ancient and modern writings that can guide you to the Resurrection. This is a time to prepare, the clean house, to pray, to fast, to rejoice, to fall, to weep, to sing, and to learn. To try to see the beauty in the Big Story and focus on something other than ourselves for a bit. Our lives today are so very undisciplined. Truly. We do what we want when we want… church and relationships included. Maybe a little guidance, a little re-evaluation, a little sacrifice of time is exactly what is required to get over ourselves. Maybe we need a little Lent.
This season of Lent, this time… it’s not so much the ‘giving up’ as it is the intentional ‘doing.’ It’s the intentional anticipation of Good Friday and, hallelujah, Easter. If giving up helps you remember, rock it. If adding something new to your life helps you focus, bring it.
May it all lead you to the Cross.
I don’t know about you, but I have no clue where to start. That’s ok. Here are some links that will help us. May God be close to you as you seek Him.