“Not Catholic,” Receiving Eucharist.

[Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.]

August 21

Eucharist

I went to Mass on Sunday, and I receive. I receive the Eucharist. I can’t not. I want to be a part of it. I’ve been baptized, I believe. I go to Mass. No, I haven’t had first confession, but still. In Sunday Mass, where I’m unknown, in a group of hundreds, I go with the flow of the group. I receive.

I don’t always receive, because, it can be totally awkward. Standing up there with my arms crossed over my chest. The Eucharistic minister lifting the host, and then surprisingly putting it back for a hasty blessing. Several times I’ve not even received a blessing. They just stand there like, “Why are you even in line?”

I usually don’t receive in daily Mass, I just enjoy. Bask in the presence. I meditate. I consider what it would mean to go through Confirmation. Why I may, or may not, do it. I let myself be seen there, not receiving, amongst what I assume must be the most needy and committed Catholics. In the more intimate, daily Mass settings, maybe I’m making a statement. Maybe I’m being honest with myself and everyone around me.

I’m not being dishonest on in Mass when I receive on Sunday. The experience of receiving Eucharist is very meaningful. The experience of going up to a Eucharistic minister and being blessed is meaningful. The experience of just sitting in my seat and not going anywhere, nor receiving, during Eucharist is also meaningful. Whatever you believe, do what the Spirit leads you to do.

My Catholic journey began pre-conception. My dad’s family is Catholic. However, through the entirety of my childhood, my dad was not Catholic. We would occasionally go to Mass with my extended family, and we all awkwardly stood in the pew during Eucharist time. People would be squeezing between pews by seven giant redheads, and then again as they returned to their seats. One time, when my Grandma was too weak to get up and go to the front to receive Eucharist, my brother went up, got a host, came back and gave it to her. She was pretty sure that wasn’t allowed, but took nonetheless. It was still the body of Christ, someone had to consume! All that to say, our Mass going was rare.

Besides, my mother, her five fiery children, and sometimes her husband, had other church to attend to: Wednesday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday night, Church of Christ services. Every. Week. Forever. Well, it seemed like forever sometimes. Though it seems almost silly now, especially since I’m going to Mass everyday. Church of Christ really isn’t all that different from Catholicism.

Mary: MOTHER OF GOD

[Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.]

IMG_0001August 15

Mary: Feast of the Assumption

Mary is a slightly terrifying concept, but at the same time, not really. Slightly terrifying like a Latina Madre. For those of us with good dads and tough moms, she makes sense. She doesn’t get enough credit in evangelical churches. And she is kind of a big deal in the Catholic Church (along with other liturgically minded groups including but not limited to Lutheran, Anglican, Episcopal, and Orthodox). Perhaps, I’ve just been doing the Catholic thing too long. Perhaps a Catholic, might be like, “Why don’t we pay more attention to Jesus?!?!?!” Or whoever.

Think about it, there are hundreds of Bible characters. There are thousands of legendary/influential people over the course of the history of Christianity. How do you fit it all into church? Well, you have a liturgy. For those of you unfamiliar with the liturgy, it is a daily, organized reading of Scripture along with traditional prayers that makes the daily Mass. So, if you go to Mass everyday, you hear most, if not all of the Bible read out loud over the years.

In addition to the heavy reading, many of the days are dedicated to saints and feasts and such. So, each day you can also celebrate different influential people in the church. So organized!

“Oh, but Paige, what about the Holy Spirit, the current needs of the church. That liturgy thing is so rigid!”

No it’s not. Whoever is giving the homily can preach on whatever they want, like any church.

And stop putting the Spirit in a box. The liturgy is Spirit led. Instead of whatever leader choosing whatever they feel like is the need/scripture/influencer to be preached about every Sunday, there is something to guide/follow, that everyone (in the world who follows the liturgy) is also reading. This is incredible! Think of how freeing this is for local church leadership. It is with great intentionality that the readings and liturgy exist, not lackadaisical independent church leadership. You can see my bias… for now.

As the evangelical’s trust in the Spirit leading the leaders, and in the power of the message/worship every Sunday that is somehow meant just for them in that moment, Catholic’s trust the same way and they have for a much longer time.

All that being said: Mary. Theotokos (not tacos). Mother of God.

Did you hear that? MOTHER OF GOD!

Now, for Catholics, this is one of their usual no big deals big deals. Until Catholic theology school I hadn’t given much thought to Mary. Just another Bible character, a woman of no consequence, used by a man. But seriously—MOTHER OF GOD. If you think about Mary this way, as an evangelical, you can kind of understand why Catholics would make such a big deal about her, assume that she remained a virgin, and never died (the Assumption is like a double entendre).

Not only is she a symbol of obedience and humility at Christmas, but also THE MOTHER OF GOD. I feel like I need to add some expletives in there.

Separation of Life and Ministry

I was reading through my first post for “Just Be God’s” and it was a different time to be sure. My social life and work life were not at all related to “serving” or “ministry”, and I had the time and energy to really commit to church as a hobby. It was/is the best way I know how to care for and be cared for by others. What I needed at the time.

Then there is this other world, the serving and caring for others world. This world where you work your booty off as a teacher or minister or counselor or chaplain, and get paid to think about religion and spiritual things and help people. This world where you hear true, intense, and terrible stories that you wish weren’t a part of the human condition. Where there is little to no separation between home and work. For some, this may sound awesome. It is.

But is it?

When I wrote about asking God for a sign, and committing to going to church and seeking spiritual things, I had a special space for it. I made special space for it. It wasn’t my everything, but it was for everything. When religion and spirituality become everything, it’s like I need to find a special space where it isn’t or where it’s different. I have to create space to grow for myself, where I do not have to support others or hold their spiritual space.

Is this wrong? Or is this right?

I’ve been reading a book called “Proverbs of Ashes” and it’s blowing my mind. It takes a lot of simple Christian ideas that a lot of people live by, and says, “That might not be the healthiest thing to teach people (especially the marginalized, abused, and women).”

Sure, to make meaning of suffering (once removed), as a closeness to Christ or as a way to help others or as a learning experience, is nice, but is that what God wants for us? If you wouldn’t tell that to a person during their suffering, why would that work after the suffering?

In a very trivial sense, there may be people dying in their ministries because they believe, and have been taught, this is what God wants. God wants suffering? Exhaustion? Workaholics? God wants us to lie to ourselves and say we love it? Rejoice in our suffering?

Or does God desire that you have the space to love and serve and be loved and served? I hope for the latter God.

 

First Contact

[Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.]

August 13

I sent a short email to Saint Ignatius:

Hello!

I was wondering if I could have some more information on the young professional group at Saint Ignatius. Also, I was wondering when RCIA starts. I’ll be at 5:30 mass if anyone is around.

Thanks!

Paige

 And I received a short email in return:

Dear Paige,

The young professional adult group will begin sometime in September. There will be a notice in the bulletin with the information.

Also, RCIA will begin in September and that will be in the bulletin also.

Sincerely,

Betty

Adm. Asst.

She might as well have written, “Refer to bulletin.” Not helpful, and with those dates, I don’t need to really think about it for two weeks. Great.

The question that repeats itself is, “Why?” Most would probably give up after a lame curt email. The answer is in part, “Why not?” Or how about, “When?” When did I begin considering this journey of Catholic confirmation, or maybe even conversion. When does anyone really reflect on how and why they transform, grow, or change? It’s usually retroactive. I think it was when I began not to think of it as conversion. Or I began to think of conversion as something that is required in the Christian journey. My theologically minded peer-group, and my mother, seem to understand.

Not Quite Catholic

[Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.]

I wrote this for America Magazine while I was volunteering with a Catholic retreat Centre (Tobar Mhuire) in the north of Ireland (or if you prefer, Northern Ireland). It’s not really good enough or Catholic enough for them. It also has nothing to do with what I was doing in N. Ireland. It is not the beginning of my journey, but for the Just Be God’s project, I thought it a nice starting point.

January 19, 2012

Not Quite Catholic

Every weekday morning at 8 a.m. there is Mass at the Tobar Mhuire Retreat Center in “the heart of County Down” Crossgar, N.Ireland. On a good day, there’s maybe fifteen people attending, and that’s including the five Passionist priests who live here. I’m a full-time volunteer at Tobar Mhuire, red-headed (not Irish) Italian, and just recently finished graduate school at Boston College studying pastoral ministry and mental health counseling. During the Advent season the Magnificant was read, and one of the community, Fr. Mel, gave a homily about Mary’s obedience.

He said, “Mary wasn’t Catholic, but she did the will of God. She embraced her history and her spirituality, and was obedient.” I couldn’t help but feel as though the non-Catholic comment was for me. Perhaps that was a selfish thought, but let’s be real, I am the only one not receiving at these Masses, and I am quite the obedient “non-Catholic.”

After all my Catholic education, my continued work with the Catholic Church, and my not quite being Catholic, I’m struggling to decide whether or not to “convert.” I put this in quotations, because I do not feel as though I am converting. But I am wondering, where am I going? What do the Catholics want with me? Is this spiritual growth? At first, it was funny, “Paige, ha. Become Catholic, ha.” In my first semester of theology school at Boston College, one of my Catholic friends created a Facebook page called “Convert Paige Cargioli to Catholicism.” I had a few friends (and family) who were slightly uncomfortable by the joke. I thought it was clever. The Catholics evangelize to the evangelical. I even dressed as a Catholic for Halloween one year. Don’t all Catholics wear rosaries and carry mini statues of Mary in their pockets? Three years later, my thinking seriously about “converting,” or as I like to think of it, being initiated, to Catholicism was not in the plan.

I am still very unsure. There are all kinds of issues surrounding the Catholic Church, but just to clarify, I’m fine with transubstantiation and the Pope. No, the issue that holds me back, and draws me in, is exclusivity.

I’m trying to reconcile the inclusivity I feel with the Catholic communities I love, and am so deeply involved with, but also not really being a part of the community. If I was raised Catholic, or could just be Catholic without RCIA and big loud statements, this would, of course, be much, much easier. But alas, there is this process, this initiation, this ritual. To me, being from an evangelical background, it feels exactly the same as when you’re a kid and they put all the pressure on you to “accept Jesus” or get baptized, or yada yada in order to become “saved.”

For me, to properly do the Catholic ritual to become Catholic does not feel like conversion at all. I ask myself, “If I become Catholic, what sort of statement would I be making?” It would not a statement of “we’re right” and “you’re wrong.” It would not be a statement of “now I’m saved.” It would not even be a statement of “I feel more comfortable in this community” or “I really want to be a part of this community” (even though I do). I would just feel more included, and I’m not sure if even that is the right attitude to have—because I’m angry.

I’m angry about the exclusivity of most Christendom, and specifically, I want the Catholic Church to simply be inclusive. Many, in and out of the Church, simply wait for her to change and shift as she does occasionally. Whether you’re in or out, you’re always waiting for change, or angry at change. Unfortunately, I cannot make Holy Mother Catholic Church change or be inclusive, except by doing the exclusive rituals to be included. It is the paradox I live in.

And it is still a difficult decision to make because, what’s the point? I’ll still be pigeonholed as a convert. Another one bites the dust. God, please, not another question about transubstantiation, the saints, or the Pope from an ill-informed evangelical.

Right now, because I haven’t been officially initiated, I feel comfortable and out of place at the same time. I don’t know where I belong. Similarly to Dr. Stanley Hauerwas in his memoir Hannah’s Child, I feel homeless. A past religion professor of mine, said to me, “Just be God’s.”

I thought I wanted to become Catholic and I even feel as though it is inevitable, but the real challenge is finding meaning and being patient while in spiritual chaos. Regardless, I imagine I will become Catholic, and I imagine someone will ask, “Paige, why did you become Catholic?”

And I’ll say, “Because I already was,” but I haven’t performed the ritual yet. Like Mary, I’m simply trying to be true to my history and my spirituality.

Mass and Meals

[Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.]

August 11

Today, I asked God for a sign. I don’t normally do this. It’s more of a Catholic thing to do. Honestly, I don’t even know if I got a sign, but I did have an epiphany (not in a Catholic way). Even, that language might be too strong. Starting over…

Where am I going to church today?

Brookline Church of Christ

Okay.

Why?

I don’t know. Comfort. Ease. Because they’re basically Catholic’s in disguise.

I’ll go to Brookline in the morning, Mass at night, and I’ll figure everything out today.

These were my thoughts this morning. I go to mass everyday at Boston College, and I’ve attended lots of others services all across Boston. Many different flavors of Mass, Episcopal, Evangelical, Theology on Tap… I love mass, and I also love other churches. I decided to go to both this week and asked God for a sign.

At Brookline this morning, it is not my favorite guy preaching. Maybe I’ll be able to preach if I keep it up here. I love it here. I asked myself this morning, “Why am I coming here? For what purpose?” I think it’s just comfort. The people are nice. I like the lack of choice. What I mean is that this is a small group of people, so you have to take them as they are, no choice. It’s funny because that is the exact reason why I haven’t attended here while I’ve been in Boston the past four years.

Then again, this comfort and lack of choice is what I like about Saint Ignatius Catholic Church as well. Today, I’m determined to inquire about the young professional group and RCIA. I’m thinking about this, in the Church of Christ pew. I want to do both. I want to document. I want a sincere search.

There are two things that have been consistent and sacramental in my life—mass and meals. Mass is the ritual. Attendance. Showing up. Being. Presence. Allowing the Spirit to fill in the blank. Meals is the community. That extra oomph the ritual needs. People. Reaching out. Participating. Learning and growing together. Evangelizing. Even though these things give me the most meaning, I haven’t gone all in with either of these things. But now, I’m going to do it: daily Mass, Church of Christ, and RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). I’m not totally sure why I’m so into it. Why these two? I’m drawn over and over. It makes no sense and perfect sense.

Church is important to me, and I want it to keep being real, true, ever-changing, and steadfast. I know I can do this. I know I can keep this writing up. I don’t know what it will be in the end, or where it will come from. Part of me wants to keep it a secret, and I probably will for a little while. Maybe for years.

The most striking part of what I wrote at church today was my priorities. Right now, church, for whatever reason, is number one. When I decided to go to Mass everyday last fall, it was more life giving than I expected. I used it to keep me connected, and it did, and it does, and I will probably do it for as long as I possibly can. Daily mass, in my mind, is the equivalent to the evangelical daily devotion/prayer/Bible-reading. Except, it’s with a group! In daily Mass, you get the fullness of church every single day! What evangelical would say not to that? There definitely needs to be a healthy balance of church that is all-engrossing, and church that is separate and apart from the rest of the world. I suppose that is why I choose both.

A church that is all-engrossing, permeating every part of being and life. A very public church. Then a church that is separate and apart from the rest of my world. The part that reaches outside of herself to embrace the excluded. Or is this a church where I can hide, escape, retreat? When I am excluded and embraced.

Why do they feel so separate and the same?

I took some steps today. I gave my information at Brookline. That way, I can get a ride to church whenever I want. And I emailed Saint Ignatius about their young professional group and RCIA.

That’s right, finally, after five years of Catholicyness, I asked seriously about RCIA. I want to be involved.

Church and food have been my obsessions this past year, and I’m finally going to organize and recognize. Is there some sort of intersection? Maybe yes, maybe no.

Will I be confirmed in the end? Another mystery.

But after 10 years post high school in emerging adulthood, I have figured out my priorities, and I’m going to stick with them, and see what happens.

Time for Mass.

(July 8, 2016. I laugh every time I read that second to last sentence. Wish I could latch onto that “emerging adulthood” certitude.)

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion

Just Be God’s: A Call the Continuing Conversion.

This is the first in a series of blog posts that are scheduled throughout the year. I recommend reading in order, starting here. Below, is an explanation:

I wrote a lot three years ago and didn’t take it anywhere. It’s a autobiography/memoir of sorts, and publishers are, understandably, sick of these. I’ll be posting my past thoughts on being Protestant and becoming Catholic three years late. Spoiler Alert: Not much has changed.

What is this “Just Be God’s” all about?

It’s about me, Paige Cargioli, a girl who works in a Tech Call Center, and has two Master’s degrees from Boston College in Mental Health Counseling and in Pastoral Ministry.

These are my thoughts for an entire year of RCIA at Boston College. Simultaneously, I was attending a Protestant church (Brookline Church of Christ). There, I was given the opportunity to preach several times throughout the course of the same year I was doing RCIA.

This project shows me going back and forth between these two Christian flavors. It shows my frustration, my friends opinions, and my questions. I occasionally mention pop culture, pray, and reflect on the readings from that year. That’s it. It’s an in real time Christian narrative mind trap.

It is my journey, and it is not unique. It’s back and forth, and very repetitive. It’s also extremely narcissistic and naive. In this narrative diary, I don’t hold back, and there are probably a lot of heretical and insensitive things said to multiple groups written in here. That’s what I was thinking at the time. I wasn’t writing expecting others to read it, and I have no idea who will be interested in reading this now.

If you’re a voyeur, you might like it because it is a day to day journal of a young, professional in constant spiritual crisis. Some days are more coherent than others.

If you’ve ever “converted” within Christianity, or are considering, you might like it.

This project is for the wanderers and those who like to break the rules. It’s for the person who likes questions more than answers and conversation more than debate.

This blog isn’t to convince anyone of anything. I don’t care if you’re Protestant or Catholic. It is demonstrative of an imperfect, confused, honest Christian seeking Jesus. It’s just a story meant to remind you that you are not alone.

If you would like to read on, here are the currently published posts:

I’ll do my best to respond to comments and reflect on… Myself? Over the weekends.