Monthly Archives: March 2014

In search of a Christian bubble

Dear Pope Francis,

A few weeks ago, Lauren wrote about how she needs to get out of her Catholic bubble and engage with the world more. I’m a little jealous that she has a Catholic bubble to begin with.

One of the hardest things about coming back to the Church is the feeling of otherness I brought back with me.

In my second year of university I took a course with Fr. Dolan. One of the concepts we spent a lot of time discussing was how the essence of who we are is influenced by our life surround. When there is disconnect between our values and our life surround, one of them is going to change.

My life surround is the people, places, and things I interact with every day. When I left the Church there was otherness amongst my secular friends. The sense of being different didn’t really start to fade until I gave up many of the moral beliefs I had been raised with.

Some were easy to let go of because they were never deeply held, for example the prohibition against same sex couples. Other virtues, like temperance were easy to disregard but hard to ignore entirely.

France-Islam2Little by little, I became less the well-behaved Catholic I was raised as and more in sync with the attitudes my friends held. My life surround contained people and things contrary to the values I was raised with, so the values changed.

Coming back to the Catholic Church was like putting on a favourite shirt I hadn’t worn since the middle of puberty. I loved the familiar feel of the ritual of Mass and the music was still exactly the right shade to soothe my soul. But it didn’t fit like it had before, because I had developed and changed. The sleeves were too short and I couldn’t run easily in it because there wasn’t room for my chest to move when I breathed.

I’ve been blessed to meet so many good people and to make the few close friends I have made in the four and a half years since I came back to the church. The Catholic Church shirt I wear now is torn and tie-dyed. It fits loosely. Often when I consciously try to spend time with other young adults in the Church, it feels like they’re trying to make me wear my old shirt.

I miss having a Christian bubble to be a part of, but my old shirt just doesn’t fit anymore. I want my life surround to have more people who share my belief in God and more opportunities for me to learn about the practical side of Christian living. But it’s also really important to me to remain approachable for people outside the church, and I need my tie-dye church shirt for that.

Awkward and othered,


P.S. Pretty sure being pope gives you a little extra pull with God. Can you please remind him it’s supposed to be springtime in Canada?

Categories: Meredith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Redefining ‘Failure’

Dear Pope Francis,

Meredith’s very first letter was about fear and how it’s keeping young people away from the Church. While my struggle with fear doesn’t necessarily keep me away from Church, it can keep me from living my life.

When I get scared I make excuses; I call them “yes, but…” statements. For instance: “Yes, I could just tell a guy that I like him, but that could involve getting hurt”, or “yes I want to write regularly on a blog, but what if no one reads it?”  Getting hurt is a legitimate fear, and so is people not appreciating your work. However, over the last few months, I have realized that at the root of my fear and excuses is my deepest fear: failure. I’m not exactly sure where this fear started; I’ve had it unconsciously for a long time.

success failure

Failure is not something I can completely eradicate. It will always be there, lurking in the corner, ready to pop out. It can cause overwhelming paralysis when I need to take a risk. But, as a friend pointed out recently, failure means that you’re living your life. Since I can’t get rid of failure, I need to redefine it. Instead of looking at failure in specific, limited instances, like a test or experimenting with a new recipe, I realized what the ultimate failure would be: to spend my life hiding and not really living it to the fullest. Put another way, I realized that ‘yes, but…’ statements rob me of the ability to live life to the fullest, and to not live life to the fullest is to fail.

Redefining failure as not living my life to the fullest has helped me to open up to a few more risks, like starting this blog with Meredith and working on some personal writing projects. It has also helped me to dream big about where life might take me after I finish my M.Div.

I also wonder if this is what you meant when you wrote about being fearless in Evangelii Gaudium (EG). You encouraged us to “embark on a new chapter of evangelization marked by … joy” (EG 1) and to be a Church that isn’t concerned with being at the centre, and instead focus on being in the streets, even if we might get “bruised, [hurt] or dirty” (EG 49). Your hope for the faithful is that we will be motivate not by a fear of going astray, but by a fear of being trapped “…within structures which give us a false sense of security…” (EG 49).

My ‘yes, but…’ statements are the structures that keep me trapped in my own head. They give me a false sense of security because they let me off the hook so I don’t have to do something that scares me. In reality, they are just keeping me trapped in my head, and unable to really engage with the world around me. I’m not getting bruised or hurt, but am I really living?

Peter walking on the water

Instead of focusing on the possibility of getting hurt, I need to shift my thinking (which is easier said than done). I need to remember Peter walking on the water with Jesus. When he saw the stormy waves and began to doubt he began to sink, but Jesus caught him (Mat 14:22-33). When Jesus calls me out of the boat, out of my self, to get over my ‘yes, but…’ statements, I need to remember that he won’t let me sink. I think you put it best: “The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms” (EG 3). I don’t know exactly where Jesus is calling me, but I know that my ‘yes, but…’ statements get in the way of finding out.

Climbing awkwardly out of the boat,


Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The reassurance of no

Dear Pope Francis,

What a week. It feels like everywhere I’ve turned lately God’s been saying no. No to a full time job as a reporter for a local newsroom, no to spending next year or any year on NET, and no to a lifetime with the man I dated for the last year and a half.

God's redirection quote - 2 - Page 001It’s incredibly frustrating to keep being told no, but in another way it’s been reassuring.

“The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.” (Proverbs 19:21)

I talk to my parents pretty much every week and I keep in touch with my youngest sister over Skype while we play Minecraft together. But it’s not the same as being in the same space as everyone and lately I’ve been feeling like it’s time to go home. Being told no for the newsroom job and for NET reassures me my decision to move back to Toronto this summer is the right one.

Leo is a good man. I learned a lot about myself and what I need to be happy both from our friendship before we started dating and during the time we were together. He’s been a wonderful support during dark days and difficult times and he challenges me to think about things in ways I had never considered before. He sees the injustice and the pain in the world and wants to fix it, and he is aware of how language affects behaviour, attitudes, and feelings in a way I’ve never completely grasped.

As friends and partners, we were able to laugh and smile and cry together. We were able to play, and we were able to talk seriously. In our own way, we both loved the other.

declinedWhich is why it was so hard for us to say no to forever the other day. We need different things for forever to work. I need a husband who doesn’t just respect my faith, he shares it. Leo needs a partner who shares his worldview and lifestyle.

Choosing to close the door on the romantic relationship was frustrating and discouraging, but it was also so reassuring because it felt like the right decision. We still love each other, but we love each other enough to know we’re not what the other needs.

God’s been saying no to me a lot lately, but there’s reassurance in not having so many options to choose from. Hopefully, God says yes to one (both?) of the options still on the table for when I go home. But if he says no to those too, it’ll be okay because he’s got a plan for me.

“Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” (James 5:7-8)

Trying to wait patiently for God to say yes,


Yes, I do want that many kids.

Because whether you’re 4 or 24, crayons are great.

Categories: Meredith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What do you do with a broken rosary?

Dear Pope Francis,

I’ve pretty much given up on daily mass as a Lenten commitment at this point. Between it only being offered three days a week at my parish, and the bizarre hours I’ve been keeping the last month, I just haven’t been awake and available at the right times to go. I’ve been doing better at remembering I want to pray the rosary and then making myself do it since St. Patrick’s Day. I haven’t succeeded every day, but I’ve improved a lot and I haven’t touched the games on my phone.

I have two rosaries. One I made in either school or catechism class when I was a little girl. It’s on string and the beads and the crucifix are made of plastic. Frankly, I’m surprised I’ve never lost it. Kudos to whoever managed to impress the importance of keeping my rosary safe so firmly into my five or six year old mind.

The second is also on string, but it’s made with wood and was given to me by Fr. Santo when I did S.E.R.V.E. two years ago.

Until this year, I’ve never tried to maintain a particular devotion to Mary. I’d join a classmate in praying it in the chapel at school occasionally, and if my roommate or the Young Catholic Adults Group was praying it and I wasn’t too busy I’d join in. But for the most part, praying the rosary was just never a part of my life.

Despite this lack of devotion, I’ve always carried a rosary in my purse or the front pocket on my backpack. I never consciously put it in with the intent of taking it out to pray, but for whatever reason I’ve always felt a need to carry one with me.

broken rosaries

Since I started using my rosaries to pray, I’ve discovered they are both broken. My purple and black rosary is missing one bead in the fourth decade and my wooden rosary is missing three beads in the third decade. I can only assume the beads on both broke off after years of abuse from my thoughtless habit of storing rosaries in my purse, unprotected from my keys and pens and lipstick.

Realizing my rosaries are broken has made me incredibly uncomfortable. I’m still using them to pray, but I feel like I should either repair them or dispose of them somehow. The idea of putting a broken rosary in the trash makes my stomach churn and I can not shake the feeling that it would be very wrong to do so. There’s a craft store uptown I can go to for fresh string and replacement beads, but I don’t think I should just toss the old string in the garbage either.

So what are you supposed to do with a broken rosary?

I was surprised I couldn’t find anything in the index of the Catechism about blessed objects, so I turned to Google. The first result took me to a Catholic forum which wouldn’t let me register as a member to join in the discussions, and the second took me to an article on

Written by Fr. William Saunders, the article says blessed objects must either be burned or buried when they break. It doesn’t contain any mention of repair, but the sense I got was an underlying assumption the object is beyond repair for the purposes of the article.

Searching rosary repairs brought up a news article about Betty and Dick Holden, a retired couple who repair old and make new rosaries with their volunteers. Reading about them was really cool for me. While I’m certainly not anywhere near the level of devotion many Catholics have to Mary, the discomfort I’ve experienced and the degree of need I’ve felt about repairing my broken rosaries tells me the service this couple is providing is a very real form of ministry to many people.

I’m going to try repairing my rosaries myself; Google also brought back a fairly straightforward how to playlist on YouTube. I’ll burn the old string and bury it.

Looking for a suitable carrying case or pouch to protect my rosary beads,


Categories: Meredith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Engaging the World

Dear Pope Francis,

It’s not very often that I cave and watch the latest Youtube video craze. The latest video making the rounds is of Sister Cristina, a Sicilian nun who tried out for the Italian version of The Voice by singing “No One” by Alicia Keys. My friend told me that I need to watch it, so while taking a break from the end of semester rush, I watched the clip.

She was a good singer, but there is something else that struck me about the performance: the reaction of the audience and the judges. The audience was cheering like mad for this 25-year-old nun, rocking out on stage in her habit. The judges were confused, and eventually all four gave in, turning their chairs to see who was singing. They were all shocked. After she had finished singing, one of the judges asked Sister Cristina why she tried out for The Voice. Her answer was stuningly simple: “I have a gift and I’m giving it to you. Shouldn’t things be this way?”

And she’s totally right.

All too often I get caught up in my little Catholic bubble. It can be really hard not to, since I go to a theology school, most of my friends are practicing Catholics, about half of whom are studying for the priesthood. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of people I hang out with on a regular basis who are not practicing Catholics. I’m not saying this because I’m proud of this fact. Actually, I don’t like it at all.

I think it is important that I have a community around me, like my friends from school and ministry events, but I am not meant to stay exclusively in that community. Even Jesus sent the members of his community out two by two (Luke 10:1-17) and, on another occasion, he sends out the Apostles, telling them to only take what they are wearing, but nothing else (Matthew 10:5-20). One of my favourite Church documents, Gaudium et Spes: The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (GS), issues a similar call for the Chuch to deepen its understanding of explanations, longings and characteristics of the world we live in, so that we speak to the world in a way that it understands (GS 4).

So it’s important for me to grow in my faith by participating in the life of the Church, but I also need to engage the world in a way that is meaningful, both for me and for the world. Engagement is meaningful for me is when I share my gifts and passions, like writing or talking to people. For Sister Cristina, it was meaningful to try out for The Voice, because she obviously has a gift for singing. It is when we engage with the world in ways that are true to our gifts and passions that we can truly be joyous witnesses. To make it meaningful for the world is to keep up with some of the latest pop culture fads, like TV shows or music, and, just maybe,  the latest Youtube craze.

Reading the signs of the times,


Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The problem with modern apologetics

Dear Pope Francis,

I propose the anniversary of the election of a pope be called “poplectary” (poh-plek-tah-ree). I’m bored of reading articles about the anniversary of your election. The whole phrase takes up too much space, and also I haven’t invented a new word in a while.

Know what else I’m bored of reading? Articles about church teaching where the main argument used is ultimately an appeal to authority; usually God, the Bible, or the Church.


I think apologetics are great. There’s a huge need for them with so many people in the world trying to dissuade people from believing the truth of the resurrected Christ. Believers and non-believers both struggle with why the Church teaches what it does, and this struggle can become a huge pothole in their relationship with Christ.

We need to have a serious look at both what the Church is teaching and how we teach it though.

Yes, the Bible is the inspired word of God – but it is also an historical account of events in Jewish and early Christian history. All cultures have certain assumptions they make about societal roles which affect the degree of agency people have over themselves. We need to take note of the assumptions being made by the people in the Bible and see how those assumptions affect the message.

Yes, the Church has two thousand years of Tradition which have brought us to where we are today. But the early church grew out of the traditions of Judaism and evolved a great deal before it became the rich and powerful entity it is today. Growth in the early church was rooted in the core message of the Gospels: Jesus lived, died, and rose again in fulfilment of the scriptures.

If we examine our own Apostle’s Creed, known to have existed in some form since 390 C.E., the focus is clearly on the story of Jesus.

I believe in God, the Father, the almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,
I believe in Jesus Christ his only son our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Looking closer, the word “catholic” is not capitalized. When written with a small ‘c’ the word catholic means universal. The capital ‘C’ Church is the totality of Christians, the universal church, not the institution of the Catholic Church.

I think if we look at the Church today, growth is still rooted in the core message. But the Catholic Church has been diluting that message by focusing on adherence to Tradition.

I am a Roman Catholic. I attend mass every week, and I believe the presence of Christ is in the bread and wine we consume during the celebration of the Eucharist. I adhere to the Ten Commandments we adopted from our Jewish forefathers and mothers (well, I try) and I no longer do and think these things simply because someone told me to.


In the words of a Dominican priest who spoke at a conference I attended two years ago, “faith should be reasonable.” My faith is reasonable, and because it is reasonable I do not cite God, the Church or the Bible as authorities in arguments. I reasoned things out until I was satisfied the evidence for outweighed the evidence against.

It’s an exercise I’m continuing to do with the rest of church teaching. I believe in God and I believe he has a plan for this world. But constantly citing God’s authority as a reason to do or not do something is lazy. We have the ability and the responsibility to craft better arguments for what we teach. We can fill in those potholes.

Happy poplectary,


P.S. Sorry for not being able to get this up during the week of your poplectary! I was experiencing the human body’s ability to fill nasal passages with an unlimited supply of snot and spending pretty much all my awake-but-not-at-work hours drinking tea and trying to get rid of it all.

Categories: Meredith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Breaking a Lenten promise – the struggle with St. Patrick

Dear Pope Francis,

In the two months since we started Letters to the Pope, Lauren and I have been keeping track of the search terms landing people on the site. Some of the search terms come in the form of questions others are simply subjects.

We’re both beginning to feel like this blog is a real form of ministry not just a place to talk about our experience in the church. We want to try and address those people searching for answers while we continue to explore our faith through these letters.

St.-PatrickToday is St. Patrick’s Day. Celebrated in both a religious and a secular context around the world, everyone is Irish on St. Paddy’s Day. Associated with the holiday (the purpose of which is to celebrate the conversion of Ireland to Christianity, not just Irish culture) are parties with drinking, dancing, and eating all sorts of food. For people who give up meat, or dessert, or alcohol St. Patrick’s Day can present a unique challenge since it quite often falls during the season of Lent.

But what happens when you break a Lenten promise?

You figure out why you broke it and you try again. Maybe you change what you’re giving up or trying to do and aim a little lower. The season of Lent isn’t about giving something up, it’s about trying to deepen your relationship with God so you can be fully part of the celebration of Christ’s resurrection at Easter.

“Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes,” fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church 1430)

I’ve already broken my commitment this year to going to mass or praying the rosary every day. The reason is really stupid: I wake up and I think of how I need to do it, but then I get distracted by games on my phone before I get around to actually praying. Only twice in my life have I ever succeeded at keeping my Lenten promise for the entire season. Once was when I was twelve or thirteen years old, the other when I was 22.

farm heroes sagaSo I’ve modified my commitment and as of today, I’m giving up the games on my phone so I can spend the time I was putting towards them in prayer instead.

When was a kid, I remember Mom thought I should give up TV completely. I specifically chose to give up The Simpsons because it was the program I watched most frequently. Different episodes came on four or five times a day between three channels and I watched every single one.

It was really hard to give it up because my brother and sisters and friends all still watched it religiously. But I was resolved to last until Easter and I spent the time reading books and jumping on the small trampoline in my friend’s backyard.

homer paddys day

At first I was counting down the days until Easter because I missed watching it so much. I felt left out at school because I hadn’t watched The Simpsons so I couldn’t talk about it with my friends there. But by the end of the season, I didn’t crave the show. I did start watching it again, but only occasionally. I had broken the habit and discovered other, more interesting things to do with my time.

For people who fail to keep their commitment to forgo dessert, or meat, or alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day, there is a bright side: since it is a feast day we are allowed to celebrate it and there is dispensation from fasting in many dioceses.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)

Go out, join in the celebrations. Be Irish for the day. But you’ve made it almost two weeks already – why not celebrate St. Patrick while keeping your fast? Volunteer to be the Designated Driver (Lord knows some people will need one) or focus on enjoying the veggie tray. Help with the dishes or with serving the food so you’ll be occupied and avoid the temptation of nibbling just that one bite of dessert.

Avoiding one more level so I can be on the level with Mama Mary,


Categories: Meredith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waiting for Yes

Dear Pope Francis,

There are so many quotes about waiting and having hope. These are just the ones I have hanging on my wall:

  • “When God closes a door he opens a window” (and the alternate: “When God closes the door, praise Him in thhallway”)
  • “There is a season for everything… a time to grow and a time to reap” (Ecclesiastes 3)
  • “Consult not your fears, but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with your failures, but with all that is still possible for you to do” (Bl. John XXIII)
  • “Seek God in all you do and he will show you the path to take” (Proverbs 3:6)

Sometimes, like right now, I get very hung up on the waiting. I impatiently wait for the reaping time and anxiously search for the window.

As I was reflecting on the (many) times that God has been saying ‘no’ to me lately, I remembered something that one of my professors tells the class frequently. She tells us that very often people caught up on all of the areas where the moral teachings say ‘no’: no abortion, no contraception, no premarital sex. She challenges us to find the ‘yes’ in the moral teachings: yes to life, yes to the total gift of yourself, yes to the dignity of your future spouse.

What I find interesting in these, is that the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are simultaneous: a pregnant woman can’t really say ‘yes’ to the life of her baby without saying ‘no’ to an abortion. The difference is where the emphasis is. It seems like a glass half full, as opposed to a glass half empty situation; will I emphasize what I’m affirming (life) or what I’m ‘losing’ (abortion)?

Now, I’m not necessarily saying that this shift in perspective is going to solve all of the moral debates that are plaguing North American culture, nor am I trying to downplay or trivialize these important ethical issues, but it was a revelation for me that maybe there are ‘yes-es’ co-existing with the ‘no-s’ I’ve been receiving lately. Being single means that I don’t have a boyfriend, but that also means that I have more time to cultivate meaningful friendships (or write, or exercise, or cook, or do school work).

As this school year winds down, I am beginning to look ahead to the summer and to some extent, the next academic year. I have been discerning, and receiving ‘no-s’: jobs that I will likely not continue and volunteering that will need to be significantly reduced. Right now it’s hard for me to think that I will give these up in the future, especially because I don’t know what window God is going to open, and I don’t know when the reaping season will be coming. I need to acknowledge these things that I will let go of, but I also need to be aware of the areas where He’s saying ‘yes’ right now: blogging for LTP, some other volunteer positions, having time for self-development, finishing up my degree.

It’s not always easy to focus on these ‘yes-es’, even though they are very life giving. Letting go is hard, even when I know that I am letting go of something that isn’t necessarily helpful or life giving. It is even harder when I feel that I need to be accountable to other people about why I am saying no. However, this is one of those times I feel like I need to hang on to hope even tighter while I search for the window and sing praises in the hallway

Singing loudly in the hallway,


Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Playing Hard

Dear Pope Francis,

This week, I have been reflecting on how you wasted no time in speaking out about the issues that you are passionate about, or taking the first steps to enact change. The word ‘steps’ reminded me of a talk that I had heard at a conference during my grade 12 year. The name of the speaker escapes me now, but I remember him telling a very familiar story: a story about children having a playdate while their mothers chat over coffee.

When the coffee is gone, Mother calls up the stairs: “five more minutes and then it’s time to clean up.” The kids scramble to play as much as possible in those five minutes (which usually stretches into ten or more). Then they hear the dreaded footsteps on the stairs or in the hall, and the playing is even more frantic. When Mother appears in the doorway, the kids beg for five more minutes. “But, we just started playing!” they protest. If they’re lucky, Mother will relent and let them have more time, and they play furiously, squeezing every ounce of fun out of those minutes. This is repeated until Mother won’t give in, and it really is time to clean up and go.

Don’t be like those kids, the speaker told us, don’t wait until you hear the footsteps on the stairs or in the hall to play hard. Play hard from the very first minute.

So many times in my life, I have fallen into this trap of waiting until the end of something to really give it my all, like waiting until my last two years of my BA to get involved in the Chaplaincy Centre on campus. I think there is something to be said for settling into a place and testing the waters before swimming into the deep and making waves. But I can also trick myself into complacency. I claim that I am choosing not to get involved because I’m settling in, when really I’m scared, overwhelmed and uncomfortable in my surroundings.

I imagining becoming the leader of one of the largest religious organizations in the world would have been an overwhelming experience, not to mention being confronted with the multitude of challenges and issues facing the Church. That didn’t seem to bother you, though. You started taking action right away. You talked with people, and acted in surprising ways. You didn’t wait until you had settled into your new role, catching up on paperwork and learning the routines before you made the papcy your own. You started playing hard from your very first moments, when you asked the faithful to bless you and  pray for you.

As I’ve been reflecting over this week, I have felt inspired to look for those areas where I’m not really playing hard, where I’m shying away and being complacent. One of the things I’ve realized is that I don’t actually like being complacent. I want to make the most of the time I have. I don’t hear the footsteps coming just yet, but I know they will be soon.

While no one can say how long you will hold this office, I pray that the footsteps aren’t approaching just yet.

Playing hard,


Categories: Lauren | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Conservative and Liberal: Arbitrary Labels

Dear Pope Francis,

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many other Christians, and people of other faiths. Sometimes these conversations were a little tense, especially around areas of the papacy, saints and the role of scripture, but most of them were enlightening. Oddly enough, I don’t find these conversations the most challenging. The hardest conversations I have are typically with other Catholics.

These are the conversations that I find the most challenging because every person has their own idea about what it means to be Catholic. This creates many definitions of what who a Catholic is, and in some instances, it creates deep divides between people which can be difficult to overcome. Most often these divides are called ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’.

The most frustrating part of these terms is that they are completely arbitrary. I’ve been told that I’m a liberal Catholic because I study at a Jesuit school, and I’ve been told that I’m conservative because I observe the teachings of the Church. In reality, I’m a Catholic trying to follow Jesus’ example, who happens to love studying theology so I can understand what the Church teaches, and also happens to have an affinity for Ignatian spirituality. I think it’s safe to say, that for the most part other Catholics are also trying to follow Jesus in the best way that they know how, even when those practices are different from my own.

All too often these labels are used as an excuse for one group to avoid working with another group. Instead of focusing on our differences, we should be focusing on those places where our goals overlap. We should be striving for unity in diversity, acknowledging that we are different but that there are common elements, like the Sacraments, or belief Jesus’ death and resurrection. When we can focus on these core beliefs, and agree to discuss our differences in ways that are helpful, then maybe we can start to bridge the gap between the ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’, and focus on building the body of Christ.

Faithfully yours,


Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: