By: Laura Horner
For nearly 60 years, I have defined myself as Roman Catholic, as naturally and essentially as I define myself as a redheaded Irish girl. In fact, as a girl my family served as missionaries for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, which led us to spend four years living in the bush in Malawi, Africa, with few modern conveniences…all in the name of converting Malawians.
My six siblings and I attended Catholic schools all the way through college. We studied the Baltimore Catechism over dinner and later taught CCD (Catholic religion classes) to youth on Sundays. We sent our kids to Catholic schools and defended the teachings every step of the way. Catholicism was more than “our religion” it was our culture, our way of life, our identities.
Then, two years ago, I left. It was a decision that, by the time I made it, was long overdue. Yet, it still is jarring to me on a daily basis, given its central place in my life. I believe in God, Jesus, his son, and the Holy Spirit. I have prayed since I was child. But I woke up one day and realized I could no longer live my faith as part of an institution that–from top to bottom– had turned a blind eye toward rampant sexual abuse of children at the hands of its leaders. Despite the bright light being shed on this systemic failure the church remained unmoved. So I had to move instead; I could no longer live with the dissonance this created in my heart.
Do I miss Catholicism? Yes. It was my home. I live with a big gap in my life. I miss the comfort and familiarity inside those church walls, the traditions, and the fact that, until Covid, I could attend daily mass–a ritual that helped me feel ready to face the world each morning.
I’m not yet sure what it looks like to live out here– outside of the faith of my childhood, outside the walls of the church I called home for most of my life. I slowly am exploring and learning about other ways to worship. I like how other Christian churches are so welcoming. I like the emphasis on how we are loved by God; even though this still surprises me.
I grew up with a punitive message in which my sinfulness and unworthiness got far more attention that God’s grace and mercy. I lived much of my life in the never-ending cycle of earning forgiveness for my sins (and fearing if it would be enough to avoid an eternity in hell). Through my Catholic lens, it often seemed impossible that I could ever become good enough to have a clear path to heaven. So I’m surprised, and sometimes delighted, by the notion of grace, and by coming to know a God who seeks a relationship with me rather than sitting in judgment of me.
And these days I find myself praying. I pray and I pray. And while I always strive to live the best life I can, I find myself doing so with less fear. I trust that, in time, it all will be clear. I am confident God wants me in his family, and because of this I am drawn to community worship. I believe I will find a way to live my faith in community with others. But I’ve yet to find my home. I’ll keep you posted…
For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.Hebrews 13:14
Laura Horner is a currently “homeless” Jesus follower, a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and friend.
She is a PR professional and writer who currently resides in Florida…and sometimes Pittsburgh.