With Friends Like These . . .

    Here’s the kind of year I’m having: I’m in the uncomfortable position of being not holy enough for my religious friends and too holy for my non-religious friends. I have always lived with the suspicion that I don’t really fit in anywhere, that I am a perpetually awkward human. The only comfort is that my husband is pretty much the same way. So as misfits, we’re a good fit.

    Several of my pastors over the years can attest to the fact that I have sometimes displeased my fellow parishioners, and that my removal from whatever ministry I was a part of at the time was urgently advised. For my more traditional (their word of choice) Catholic acquaintances, I am too Vatican-II; Vatican-II-with-an-attitude. Although I love her with all my heart, I sometimes disagree with Mother Church, which gets me in trouble. I will never be a good enough Catholic to be accepted by some of my Catholic peers.

    Now, according to one of my dearest friends for over two decades, I have become too religious, brainwashed by what she calls the 'Catholic cult'. She has long been my goddess-worshipping friend, a feminist, environmentally-conscious, peace-loving hippie. We have always managed to respect each other’s belief systems without trying to convert each other, and still enjoy our friendship. Or so I thought. She recently told me that all my God-stuff has become too much for her to stand. I am, she says, ridiculous.

    The ironic thing is that she has confronted me with my supposed God-overload during a year in which I have been mostly absent from my parish, due in part to local politics and largely to my constant weekend traveling during my dad’s recent illness and death. I have actually been far less church-y than I have been for a long time. It has been a year of loss: my dad, my job security and financial stability, my faith community, my last child off to college, and now my old friend. The feeling of loss is pervasive, and seemingly exponential in its spread.

    I think of Jesus saying, I imagine in a sad way, that he “has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk 9:58), and although my small suffering does not even approach the magnitude of his, I think I know what he meant. I feel a little homeless in spirit, a little lost. But I am touched to my core just by realizing that Jesus knows my sorrow, in a visceral, incarnational way. And I know that, despite my degree of holiness, in this year of loss and grieving, Jesus has surrounded me with exactly the friends I need.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
James O'Brien
7 years 11 months ago
Hear you Valerie. Lifting you up in prayer. I think of this "just knowing you are out there walking the walk too, empowers me to walk
it as well. I just need to know there are others who live in this
tension with me and that there is “somewhere” that I truly fit in. I
know it is not a physical place we share, but in knowing itself. (http://ignatianlife.org/i-need-you/). Let us fix our gaze on companionship with Christ.
Peace, James
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 11 months ago
I LOVE seeing my own predicament with Church echoed and affirmed!  Thank you!  I sometimes feel like I'm standing in the vestibule of the Church, not sure if I really fit, but wanting to find my place anyway.  I tend to gravitate toward the more subdued weekday Masses.
Thomas Rooney
7 years 11 months ago
I was grabbed by your 1st sentence - ''I am not holy enough for my religious friends and too holy for my non-religious friends''.  I identify wholeheartedly, with this and the rest of your story (right down to the friends from other belief systems saying they respect my beliefs, but are actually hardoring resentments towards those beliefs that they finally 'just can't stand').
Thank you for putting into writing something that was galling me for quite some time!
 

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A group of lay theologians and clergy opposed “Amoris Laetitia” have released a letter “correcting” Pope Francis, part of an ongoing effort directed against the pope’s focus on pastoral outreach to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.
America StaffSeptember 23, 2017

The martyrdom of Blessed Stanley Francis Rother "fills us with sadness but also gives us joy to see the kindness, generosity and courage of a great man of faith," Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, said Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City.

Catholic News ServiceSeptember 23, 2017
Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, the archbishop of Dhaka, has described the recent attack on the Rohingya community in Myanmar, as “a crime against humanity.”
Gerard O'ConnellSeptember 23, 2017
This year the Grand Bargain on refugees seems increasingly fragile.
Kevin ClarkeSeptember 22, 2017