I have a difficult time with those that hate Catholics, but I have a difficult time with Catholics that are prime examples of why people hate Catholics.
I know better. I know we are better than this.
I know there are many wonderful priests. I know there are many wonderful Catholics that want nothing more than to be the faithful that can help lead more to Christ so he can do the heavy lifting. But this last year has left me with some fairly terrible examples of the worst in Catholics and it sucks.
This weekend I attended the Trying to Say 'God' conference that was wonderfully put together by Sick Pilgrim. I was absolutely blown away. I'll try to put it into words for you, but I know you can listen to some of the panels yourself on Soundcloud and I really suggest you do just that. I'm not a podcast or an audio file person, but I will most likely go back through and listen to all of them again. There are some really special things happening in my spiritually blocked heart right now because of this conference (and Wonder Woman, but that's another horse entirely).
This weekend I met my people. As was described by Jessica Mesman Griffith, the conference was mostly filled with faithful, devoted Catholics that live "on the edge" of the faith bubble. I love God. I love Jesus. I struggle with how to do this in the gray areas because my life is filled with people that are not Catholic or maybe not practicing their faith, and I love them. I love these people and I believe God loves them also, and they are hurting (often due to the words and actions of others claiming the title of Catholic). So I am sitting on the edge. I'm fully immersed in my faith and duty as a Catholic, yet I cannot be in a Catholic bubble that keeps me from people that are not or cannot be where I am.
Not all there were Catholic. Not all there were straight. Not all there had children, or were married, or had natural hair color, or were the picture of mental health. There were high school teachers, scholars, moms, dads, a few kiddos, a bishop, writers, artists, musicians, journalists, and more. I was taken aback at first by the sheer number of people that strolled up to me and asked me "What are you working on?" and not "How many kids do you have?" or "You sure have your hands full, are you done having kids yet?" Maybe that was because I don't get out much solo. Maybe it was because I forgot that I am a person outside of motherhood. I prefer to think that everyone there was just as excited as I was to talk about being Catholic and what that means for the arts.
I won't give you the moment by moment play by play (though I totally could and wish you all could have just attended because it was truly something special) but I hope you'll be okay with a few highlights? My blog, so I do what I want. Apologies.
I had never heard of Heather King before this weekend. She dominated her keynote speech Friday night (there were several amazing speakers) and I bought her latest book because I don't want to forget to read more from her. I had the chance to speak with her later as we were getting things set up to have an open mic night (Amazing right?!) and she's just lovely. Lovely. Go read anything that has her name on it because she's wonderful.
In a moment of some much needed introvert alone time, I wandered the bookstore on campus because OH YEAH: I was on the Notre Dame campus. As I sipped my iced coffee and listened to MLBTV, (let's go Royals, let's go) I found a unique copy of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
I met many incredibly talented and sweet people. Weird Catholics. People that swear and dye their hair weird colors and love Jesus. Smokers, drinkers, and people that don't get it all right the first time (12th time?) but are still trying because the Eucharist holds them here. People that are "Catholic curious" and people that maybe just aren't. Cradle Catholics and converts. People like me that have had a really rough time with other Catholics and feeling "Catholic" enough just because we are figuring out the gray areas a little differently and questioning how we can best be faithful while showing others love.
The last panel I attended was one that had six or seven women discussing, well, women. The women on the panel were journalists, bloggers, authors with different voices and perspectives and the panel was the brainchild of Colleen Mitchell. When I went to thank her and congratulate her on a job well done, she pulled out a copy of one of her books, signed it, and handed it over. Such generosity.
In sum, incredible. It was such a privilege to meet so many Catholics that are where I am or have been where I am that understand it. It was not meant as a retreat (I don't think) but it felt like one. All my favorite things were in one place: the Catholic faith, music, art, and literature. To cap it all off, my roomie for the weekend and I went rogue and went to see Wonder Woman. It's all I've thought about since, so it was obviously the best idea I've ever had. Be prepared to hear me gush in the near future, if nap times allow.