Tag Archives: religion


There are times when it helps to write out all my feelings and try to identify some kind of deeper truth about where I am at the moment.

There are also time where it’s better for me to just go on with life and try not to ruminate too much, try to focus on doing things I like and that calm me and put my feelings on the back burner.

It’s kind of like something at really struck me in this video of Nicole Cliffe, a writer I love and co-founder of the late, great Toast, talking about her conversion to Christianity. From about 4:30-6:15, she talks a little bit about the differences between Catholics and Protestants, and how admitting to spiritual doubt is a big deal that requires an intervention if you’re Protestant, whereas Catholics just keep going to Mass and going through their rituals and trusting that their faith will ebb and flow throughout their lives.

Did It Have To Be Jesus? ~ Nicole Cliffe from Mockingbird on Vimeo.


I keep changing my mind about which time of my life I’m currently in when it comes to dealing with my emotions- a Protestant or a Catholic time.

When Love Doesn’t Trump Hate

“Love Trumps Hate.” People started chanting it almost immediately after the election, and it’s a nice thought, that the hatred that now seems synonymous with Trump and his supporters could be overcome.

I wish I could feel that. Instead, ever since the election, I’ve felt absolutely overwhelmed with hatred. Hatred for everyone—like, literally EVERYONE, no exceptions—who supports Trump. And that feeling has only intensified in the aftermath of Charlottesville. I truly, honestly cannot see any value in the lives of those who support a president who says, completely seriously, that there were “some very fine people” MARCHING IN A NEO-NAZI RALLY. It’s hard for me even to think of them as people.

The logical antidote to hatred would seem to be dialogue and attempts at understanding. Unfortunately, every attempt I’ve made to try to understand where Trump supporters are coming from results in me hating them even more. When I read Arlie Russell Hochschild’s  Strangers in Their Own Land, about white conservatives in Louisiana, I felt zero sympathy for the people she portrayed—just frustration at their stupidity and inability to look at actual facts that disproved their beliefs. When some of my more patient friends engage their Trump-supporting friends in dialogue on Facebook, I am, again, aghast at their friends’ willingness to believe “alternative facts” if they support their pre-held beliefs. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why my friends don’t end those friendships. And I hate it when people bring up people from struggling, economically depressed areas when the evidence actually shows that the majority of lower-income people did not vote for Trump. From my viewpoint, Trump voters are my dad’s businessman friends and my friend’s younger brother, who graduated from a good college. They’re just selfish, stupid, and awful.

I know nothing productive can come from this intense hatred and anger. From a religious perspective, I know it’s the opposite of what I should be doing and feeling. But, as the Charlottesville events demonstrated, there seems to be no difference between Trump supporters and Nazis—and if you wouldn’t love or defend Nazis, why would you do that for Trump supporters?

I don’t know what to do. Channeling rage into supporting worthy causes doesn’t do anything for me, either. The anger and hatred remain. I don’t like feeling this way, but as long as Trump supporters continue to exist, I can’t imagine feeling any differently.

On Faith

The cursor is patiently blinking at me as I try to figure out how to write this post. But I WILL write it. Inspired by this post at Busted Halo, I’m going to do my best to fast from being private about faith today. But I am changing the date on this post so that it won’t show up on the front page, and I’ll change it back to the correct date later on.

I am Catholic, and I do go to church. I really enjoy the church I go to, which caters to the more progressive flavor of Catholics, and I’m trying to get more involved there. I read a lot of blogs that are mostly or partly about Christianity, but there are a multitude of reasons that mine isn’t one of them. For one thing, I’m from New England, where religion isn’t discussed openly as much as I’m told it is in other parts of the country, and for another, I’m Catholic, and Catholics are, in general, pretty reserved when it comes to expressions of faith. My beliefs are a work in progress, so I often feel like posting too much about them would be like posting the rough draft of a story or something. And also, since I do so rarely discuss religious issues here and I know I have readers who believe all kinds of different things, I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. But in this post, I’m going to have to take that risk.

Why am I still Catholic? I’ve often had a hard time finding the words to explain, and people who dislike the Catholic Church are often very vocal about it. And I am obviously not okay with the sexual abuse cover-ups, their positions on gay marriage and birth control, and the lack of female priests. But here’s what it boils down to for me:

                -I believe everything that Catholics profess to believe in the Nicene Creed. And there is not a word in that creed about any of the more controversial doctrinal points—homosexuality, birth control, or even the pope and priests. I struggle a bit with the concept of the Trinity, but to simplify it, I came to believe in God through reason, Jesus through history, and the Holy Spirit through experience.

                -The negative things people hear in the news about the church, like this recent issue with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, are terrible, but they do not reflect my personal experience. We all know someone who makes the rest of us look bad, but most of the religious Catholics I know are very warm, open-minded, welcoming people. There are many, many good priests in the Church as well as good laypeople serving the Church in their way—in a nutshell, there are more Stephen Colberts out there than Rick Santorums. I also went to a Jesuit college, and Jesuits are awesome—a liberal-leaning order of priests very focused on educating the whole person. While there were certainly a lot of religious disputes at my school, for the most part, it was very focused on social justice and on loving and caring for others. And the community at my church is wonderful, and I love that it exists. If Catholicism is going to grow and change, I think it will do so with the help of people who love the Church but want to see it evolve.

                -I think, also, that people like me, who never knew pre-Vatican II Catholicism, find it easier to reconcile disagreeing with church leaders and remaining part of the Church because priests, to us, do not have the same power they once did. I’ve always viewed the people in the pews as more important than the men in the pulpit.

                -Would I ever change denominations? As of right now, no. I’ve been working on a project (that’s taken me way longer than I intended it to) where I visit many churches of other denominations, and it’s been really interesting and eye-opening. At this point, I can tell you that Catholicism is still what I am most comfortable with, and I will post about the project when I finally finish it.

                -I find a lot of beauty in the message behind Christianity- redemption through love. People get so caught up in particulars—often, bizarrely fixated on sex—that they forget that what Jesus calls the two greatest commandments are “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And regardless of what else in the Bible or in Christian tradition is right or wrong, I think we can all agree on love.

That’s what I believe at this moment in time. Maybe at some point in the future, I’ll look back at this post and marvel at how my beliefs have changed in some way. I certainly can’t guarantee that that won’t happen. And there is plenty I don’t know and may never know, like the true nature of God, how prayer works (if at all), how much of the Bible is true and if the books that weren’t included in it should have been, etc.

But the “love your neighbor” part will never change. You obviously don’t have to be religious to believe in that idea, but it does take on a new meaning when viewed through the life of Jesus. And currently, it’s something that I’m struggling with in my own life—it’s been dawning on me lately that there’s not nearly enough service to others in my life, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to change that. It’s the other, lesser-known, and probably more painful kind of Catholic guilt.

So, that’s me being open about faith. When I wrote this posta few years ago, I said that I wished people felt freer to speak openly about what they believe or don’t believe, but I haven’t been doing much to change that. I sincerely hope this post didn’t make anyone uncomfortable, as it’s different from my usual style, but I also hope that more people will take the time to speak thoughtfully and respectfully about their own beliefs or lack thereof.

Let’s end things on a lighter note- with David Sedaris’s brilliant and hilarious Easter story “Jesus Shaves.” “He nice, the Jesus.” Happy Easter!

These Are My Confessions

We are now nearing the end of Lent, and I’ve heard that there’s an initiative in the Boston Archdiocese to encourage people to go to confession. I’ve written before here about my religious habits, but I haven’t been to confession since my confirmation retreat when I was fifteen. I was sharing a room with a girl I went to school with, and I confessed that I’d snuck a look at her retreat notebook while she was in the bathroom.

So while I might not be headed for ten Our Fathers or whatever they give you for penance nowadays, but there are plenty of things about myself that I’m not proud of. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to tell you guys some of the more unfortunate facts about me.

Without further ado, here’s what I have to confess to my readers:

-When I was a teenager, my sister and I both went to the optometrist. I was sitting near this table and had my hand under it, and I felt a button. When I pushed it, it made a noise like a doorbell. The optometrist apparently didn’t know the bell was there, because she was all confused and tried to figure out where it was coming from. I pressed it one more time to make sure, and it sounded again. I was too embarrassed to say that it had been me, and my sister didn’t even believe me when I told her.

-My first-ever concert was Backstreet Boys.

-It takes me over an hour to get out of bed on a normal day, regardless of how much sleep I get. My bed is just so soft and comfy that I don’t want to get out, so I can never get anything done before work.

-I don’t do laundry until I run out of underwear, and underwear and socks are about the only thing I wash. As long as my clothes don’t smell and don’t have any big stains on them, I just put them away.

-Although, I only own about three sports bras, so I very often take a sports bra out of the hamper, put it on, and hope that I run fast enough that people walking by me don’t have to smell me.

-While I love the Red Sox, I can’t claim to be a lifelong fan. I’m a lousy athlete and a bit of a girly-girl, so when I was a kid I was all, “Ew, I hate sports.” By high school I’d changed my mind, and I’ve been a die-hard Sox fan for the last ten years or so.

-I still have the keys from my summer job in 2001. Oops.

-At said summer job (lifeguard at a condo complex), I once accidentally left those keys, and all my other stuff, in the pool building and locked myself out in the pouring rain. I managed to climb over the fence and get myself back in through an unlocked door, but not before getting soaked by the rain. I don’t want to think about how many people in the condos must have seen this all happen.

-I watch Toddlers and Tiaras. It’s a horrifying, ridiculous show, but I just can’t look away! I’m too embarrassed to put it on my DVR, but I watched almost every episode of the most recent season. This one little girl, Makenzie, cracks me up. Sometimes I’ll randomly start laughing thinking of her saying, “I think waitresses are really cool…they bring food.” (That’s at about 11:47 of this video, but watch the whole thing!)

-At chorus a couple of weeks ago, while having a conversation about Disney princesses, I told this girl how Hans Christian Andersen’s version of “The Little Mermaid” ends. (Don’t look it up if you don’t know and don’t want to be disappointed.) Uh, that was a mistake- I think I ruined her day.

-When I went to see Wicked last fall, my friend Amy and I walked over a sidewalk vent on our way there. Um, bad idea when you’re on a major street and wearing dresses.

-If you have ever been a competitive swimmer, at some point you have peed in a pool.

-I was a competitive swimmer as a kid. Make of that what you will.

Wicked Awesome

I don’t go to many concerts. Haven’t paid for a concert ticket since 2006, in fact. I love music, but I tend not to get too obsessed with particular artists, so there aren’t that many concerts I would pay money for. Some, I think, are worth it; most aren’t. You often have to stand, if it’s at someplace like the Paradise, and have to suffer through one or two crappy opening acts. You fret over whether you should sing or dance along with the music, especially if you don’t know all the words by heart, and you glance around to see what other people are doing. You often can’t see very well, your ears are ringing when the concert is over, and half the time, you end up thinking that the artist sounds better on the CD. Or at least I do. It’s not the case for a lot of people, I know. Some people get an incredible natural high off of live music. They’re excited months in advance for a concert by an artist they love. They go to random concerts by artists they’re not familiar with just for the thrill of live music. They post on Facebook about how a certain (indie rock, of course) band opened their hearts and filled them, in those exact words. And while I kind of roll my eyes at that, I’m jealous of those people, too. I love listening to music, but I don’t get the huge spiritual boost from live music that some people seem to. I can’t accurately claim, either, that any music has ever changed my life or had a huge impact on me. It just doesn’t have the same effect on me.

It’s the same with religion. I’ve talked about my religious beliefs a bit here. While I do find religion comforting and benevolent, I’ve never had the kind of mind-blowing religious experience that some people talk about. I’ve read people’s writings about how religion—everything from Christianity to Buddhism to Islam to Orthodox Judaism to the Baha’i faith—changed their lives, gave them unspeakable joy, gave them whole new ways of looking at things. When people credit their faith for getting them through a tragedy or difficult life circumstance, or for giving them the strength to overcome addiction or some kind of self-destructive behavior, I marvel at the thought that religion could have that much power. While I respect religious beliefs and have my own, I’m not affected by religion to that degree.

Then there’s yoga, which I’ve gotten more into in the last year. I enjoy it, it’s shown me a better way to breathe, and I do feel a bit more relaxed after shavasana, at least more so than I would after any other form of exercise. (Some people say running gives them a great natural high, but although I run a lot myself, I can say with complete certainty that I have never felt that at all.) But my feelings on yoga are pretty similar to Sarah Bunting’s, who says “the taking of yoga so very, very seriously mystifies me.” When people say that yoga is life-changing, I have a hard time figuring out why. It’s not that relaxing. I was even at a party once where a girl said, completely seriously, “The world would be a better place if everyone did yoga.” That’s not just eye-rolling but seriously obnoxious—it’s like saying “The world would be a better place if everyone found Jesus.”

All of this does have a point, which I’m getting to. Last week, I went with a group of friends to see Wicked at the Opera House. I hadn’t seen a musical live in a long time, and I had almost forgotten what good musical theater does to me. I’ve seen Les Miserables twice, and both times, it put me in a good mood for the next week. But although I knew a couple of songs from Wicked and had read the (very different) Gregory Maguire book that it’s based on, I’d never seen Wicked before.

And holy shit. I started tearing up at least three times during the play. The storyline, which was a lot different from the book, was touching and surprising and occasionally funny. I’ve wanted to burst out singing all the songs since I saw them. I don’t often feel like music is “speaking” to me (and it would probably make me roll my eyes again if I heard someone said that), but there are a couple of songs in Wicked that I feel like I could sing about my own life. And this scene here? GOOSEBUMPS. Even more amazing in person.

I’m not a cynical person. I’m generally pretty positive and there’s a lot that I love. So I’m glad to know that even if I remain indifferent to live music, religion, yoga, etc., there is still something out there that I can find sublime, something can move me beyond the usual limits of my emotions.

Katie’s Ash Wednesday Blog Post

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. For a lot of people, it’s a mark on a calendar, but it does mean something to me. So today, I’m going to break a taboo and write about it.

I’m twenty-five years old and I identify as Catholic. But it’s not exactly something I tell people the first time they meet me. Or the second, or the third. In fact, it’s probably not something I’d bring up until pretty late in the game, if at all. And if I do, I feel the need to qualify it: “But I’m a liberal, open-minded Catholic!”

I’m sure it’s different in other parts of the country, but in blue states, admitting to being religious, especially if you’re Christian, is almost un-PC. It’s fine to say that you were “raised” in a religion, or that your family subscribes to a religion, or to joke about Catholic guilt. It’s even fine to say that you’re spiritual but not religious, because you don’t believe in organized religion. But if I mention that I go to church as part of a conversation, I can see people’s glances uncomfortably shifting as their perception of me changes.

To give you a little background, my family is Catholic, but even though I grew up going to church and CCD and received the sacraments, we’re not super religious. As an adult, though, I realized that I did like going to church and wanted to continue going. In college, I sang at Mass with the campus Liturgical Arts Group. Now I attend The Paulist Center, a progressive Catholic church on Beacon Hill. I do not agree with everything about the Catholic Church, but I’ve found ways that I’m comfortable reconciling my personal beliefs while remaining part of the Church. I’m also very interested in learning about other religions and have tried to read more books on religion and attend services in places other than Catholic churches. It is entirely possible that my beliefs will change as I get older, and I would never tell anyone that what they believe or don’t believe is wrong.

What is wrong, though, is forcing religion on others. Trying to convert unwilling people is wrong. School-sponsored prayer before public high school football games is wrong. Trying to ban the teaching of evolution in schools is wrong. Actually, trying to ban anything in the name of religion is wrong. Opposing gay marriage is wrong, especially if you try to justify it in the name of religion. Telling people they’re going to hell is wrong.

Equally wrong, though, is disrespecting religion. It’s one thing to call people out on it if they’re forcing religion on others, but mocking someone’s personal faith or obnoxiously questioning their beliefs is a terrible thing to do. I find Bill Maher’s movie Religulous horribly offensive because he’s not mocking the forcing of religion on others or even the distortion of religion to fit one’s personal beliefs—he’s mocking people for having faith at all, and forcing people—regular people who aren’t hurting anyone—to question their beliefs.

It’s also wrong to lump all religious people into the same group, whether it’s equating all Muslims with terrorism or believing that all Christians are Sarah Palin-loving homophobes who picket abortion clinics. Particularly, the culture wars seem to have lent people license to equate “Christian” with “Republican.” As a Democrat, whose more religious family members are also Democrats, who knows far more Catholic Democrats than Catholic Republicans (although, granted, that might just be because I’m from Massachusetts and went to a Jesuit college), that bothers me a lot.

Moreover, I don’t think you’ll find any two people within a religion who believe exactly the same things. Faith is a deeply personal thing, and people interpret religion differently. Catholics like me, who don’t agree with everything about the church, are often pejoratively called “Cafeteria Catholics,” but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. People like Bill Maher accuse religious people of believing blindly, and while that’s certainly true of some people, I think they’re outnumbered by people who have given their faith serious thought and have accepted or rejected certain beliefs based on that.

The First Amendment guarantees us freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but I often wish people felt more free to speak openly about what they believe or don’t believe without insulting anyone else. I like learning about other religions, and I wish it were easier to talk to people about what they believe and why. I know this post basically boils down to “Why can’t we all just get along?” but to me, it really is frustrating that people who abuse religion have made it so hard for the rest of us to talk about it honestly. I mean, I know someone who visibly recoils if you even say the word “church,” and whom I could see tensing up when I mentioned the name of a Catholic college in casual conversation. And I know someone else who, when someone asked him out of curiosity about his religious beliefs or lack thereof, looked at the person asking the question as if he was pissed that the question had even crossed her mind. So…why can’t we all just get along?

To end this post on a lighter note, I give you this song by Christine Kane, a singer-songwriter and fellow BC grad. It’s called “Mary Catherine’s Ash Wednesday Journal Entry,” and it’s pretty funny. And check out some of Christine Kane’s other songs while you’re at it.