Here’s the background: I’m part of a local Catholic youth group, and this year the group is joining up with the youths at another parish to trek down to San Diego for the annual Steubenville Youth Conference (put on by All for God). I’m helping as a chaperone and I have a great group of girls who were in my art class this last year. GoogleMaps tells me that from my house to the conference is a whopping 972 miles, 15 hours with no traffic! We’ll take a couple of charter buses on July 25, make a pit stop at Disneyland (where I’m absolutely certain I will end up buying at least one thing glittery and crazy for every person I know), and then stay at the conference for 3 days of worship and community. It’s going to be… intense.
As a chaperone, I have been blessed by the community and I get to attend the conference at a very reduced cost. I am so grateful to take part in this, and I am really looking forward to it. This will be a powerful experience; I converted just over a year ago (Easter 2011), after a long personal journey of reflection and soul searching in trying to understand the Catholic church and what it means to be religious at all. I foresee a lot of road trip-related blogging in my near future, as well as probably a bit of religio-related things while I make my own pilgrimage and help some teens get in touch with the numinous. I’m never afraid to discuss my beliefs, so if you have any thoughts or even arguments, feel free to comment and I’ll carry on the conversation as best as I can!
Here comes my Catholic/ Religio rant…
At the pre-trip meeting, I got together with my group of girls (all of them are absolutely adorable!) and we talked about some of the things we should expect. I told them about what they should bring to wear, what I’ll be wearing, what we can do after the conference sessions let out… etc. Our conversation also turned to how we might be perceived in public. The whole group will be wearing coordinated shirts during our trip to Disneyland and all three days at the conference, which is a really great way for us all to be able to spot each other in crowded places. All of the shirts make some mention of Christ or being Catholic, which is important to us since as Christians we are called to ministry. But, there was some concern for negative reactions to our group as a group of Christians, especially as Catholics.
Let’s face it, there’s a lot of room for Catholic bashing: Catholics are anti-women’s rights, anti-LGBT, anti-science, there are child molestors in the clergy… the list can go on and on and it’s all bad. Puts an awful taste in my mouth – any kind of hate does. I won’t say there isn’t any basis for those accusations; all of those things have some real basis on real incidents and actions or statements Catholic people have commited or made. What I will say is this: I am none of those things. I am fully supportive of women’s rights, fully supportive of LGBT rights (as in gay marriage, adoption, and that LGBT people have every right to exist and love and be loved), I adore science, and I think hurting a child in any way is completely abhorrent and totally inexcusable. I also believe that being a Christian and being a Catholic allows me to fully express God’s love and His desire for us to love each other, in all those above ways I am supportive of goodness and against badness. I think God would more likely want us to love each other than to hate each other; that to be Christ-like is to always look for ways to create good things that are healthy and wonderful, never hatefully destructive. I realize that my statements could seem contradictory, yet I believe – I think and I feel – that I have a balance in my soul where my religious beliefs are inseparable from how I live my life to be good. Ask me, and I’ll tell you. Ask me about abortion, or about homosexuality, or about wars, or about capital punishment, or about working on the Sabbath. Ask me anything and I’ll respond. I won’t even demand you be respectful in your question or ask a question looking to be convinced of my answer. I’m just saying you can ask.
That’s what I told my girls: it could happen that we meet negativity for wearing Catholic shirts, but we have to remember that we can’t be ashamed of being who we are, and that Christ calls us to spread His good word. I reminded them that it’s through our actions that we minister for God, and that we must be good, always, for Him. We mustn’t allow ourselves to give in to hate, and we should always respond to any inquiry about our faith with positivity and love.
Then we talked about all the rides we want to go on in Disneyland.
Look for the next few posts on everything road-trippy. And I’ll look for your comments.