Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Friendship and Catholicism

I had two of my good friends and their kids over last Friday. We used to all be neighbors, but Jenni moved to Oswego probably 2 or 3 years ago, and Laura moved to Minooka just this past August. We get along great, but we don't usually delve too far into religious or political issues. We talk about our kids, TV shows, our husbands, our ongoing struggle to lose weight or keep it off, the neighborhood and those kind of things. That is, that's what we usually talk about. Until last Friday.

I don't even know why or how we got onto the topic of religion and the Catholic church, but we did. Among the three of us, I am by far the most faithful when it comes to attending mass, participating in activities of the church and giving to the church. Don't think I'm super devout or anything, I'm not yet. But, compared to Jenni and Laura, I am like a nun.

Anyhow, we began discussing the Catholic church and various things about it. Laura was reminded to sign her first grade daughter up for CCD (religious education) by a neighbor who mentioned that her daughter couldn't come over to play that day because she had CCD. Obviously, Laura is not a practicing Catholic. I have always known that about her. She only signed up for the church here in Aurora so she could get her kids baptized. Now, she wants to make sure her daughter gets in CCD so when she is in second grade, she can make her first communion. She had recently called the Catholic church in Minooka and talked to an old priest about joining the parish. At the end of her conversation he mentioned that someone would be calling her soon to set up a home visit. Now she's nervous that whoever comes is going to be making judgments and asking questions about how much they make and how much they intend to give to the church. She was really bothered by this and said she will give what she can, but since they just moved and have a bigger mortgage, they better not expect her to give a certain amount each week. I asked her why, when she herself feels you don't have to attend church to be "spiritual" or right with God, and since she obviously doesn't attend church even on holidays, she wants to make sure her daughter makes her first communion. Her answer, pressure from her mother.

Switch to my friend Jenni, who does attend mass sporadically, but doesn't see it as especially important. She is married to a divorced Catholic man who did not want to get an annullment, so they couldn't get married in the Catholic church. Of course, she thinks that is wrong. When she moved to Oswego and called the church to register, they asked her many questions, one of which was how much money they make. (A little odd to be sure, but I assume she could decline answering.) She was mad that they asked that, since they would give what they could. "But don't ask me to give to the church when we are struggling to pay our bills!" was something she said to me on Friday. She also thinks priests should be able to get married. I'm not sure why she calls herself Catholic when she so obviously doesn't agree with much of the church's teachings.

What really irked me was that they both were so pissed off that the church would expect them to contribute to the Sunday collection and other costs the church incurred. I didn't have a good response for them on Friday. I can't always come up with a good response in a somewhat pressure filled situation. I did tell them the church doesn't get donations like it used to. People have so many things they think they need or they don't think the church is a good place to put their money, and they give little to no money each week. The church has to pay their bills, too.

As I sat and stewed over our conversation this past weekend, I realized they are being extremely selfish. They want the Catholic church to be there to baptize their children, get them through first communion, and later marry and bury their loved ones, but they don't want to take any responsibility for supporting the church. They want the services, but don't want to have to do anything in return for those services. Ironically, the church would never ask for money from people who truly cannot afford to give. They would still minister to their needs without any thought of return. But, to whom much is given, much is expected. These are not people living in tiny ramshackle houses with little to no ability to pay their bills and buy food to eat. They have multiple TV's in thier newly built houses, nice clothes on their backs, and satellite TV feeds that cost upwards of $80 a month. They are people who go out to eat a few times a week. It is about the choices we make as to whether we can give more to the church each week. It is also about sacrifice, a concept that is often ignored in today's society. They want the church to do whatever they need, but they don't want to return to the church what it needs, namely their time, talent and treasure.

I didn't want this post to sound self-righteous. It is only recently that I started giving more to the church, and initially not by my own volition. But as I become more and more involved in my Catholic church, and learn more about the true teachings and beliefs and why they are held, I am finding I want to give, not just time and talent, but also money.

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