Mary Pope-Handy 408 204-7673 mary@popehandy.com

We All Want & Need Heroes

Growing up Catholic, in an intensely Irish-Catholic family, I had no shortage of extraordinary role models right within my big, extended family.

Two amazing Catholic women

My Great Aunt Ria (Sr. Marie Aimee of Jesus), my maternal grandmother’s sister, was a Carmelite nun with a sweet, sunny disposition whose gratitude for every little thing seemed to me to be one of her most prominent traits.  As a cloistered, contemplative sister in Carmel, she didn’t have a ton of visitors or a ton of talking time each day (unless it was the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, as I recall, which allowed a lot more conversation than usual).  She and her religious sisters lived more simply than I could imagine, slept on mattresses of hay, and were extremely prayerful.  And yet sometimes she and other sisters in her monastery would “go on retreat“. As a teenager, I’m sure I thought someone was pulling my leg when I was told that they did so. From what I could tell, Aunt Ria and the other sisters in her community were always on retreat.

The Four Fletcher Sisters: Thomasina (Tommy), Maria (Ria), Eleanor and OliviaMy Aunt Ria was one of my heroes; she made a life of prayer and sacrifice appear not only effortless, but natural (in the same way that a ballerina puts years of training into making that dance form look effortless, I imagine).  She was down to earth and a wonderful pen pal.  Her ego did not seem to be part of the picture.  When she was very old, in her middle 90s, she became forgetful.  One of the sisters in her community said to her that “Our Lord is taking your memory”.  To that, she replied with complete sincerity, “He can take anything he wants“.  She meant it, too….Her life was God’s.

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Disaffected Catholics, Former Catholics, Lapsed Catholics

Sometimes people who were baptized Roman Catholic find themselves not too engaged with their faith or with the Church community.  Some say they are no longer Catholic, others say they are but aren’t too involved in terms of their time and energy (“inactive Catholics”).  Often this comes from disillusionment, a bad personal experience or a problem they personally have with either a teaching or practice of the church. Or it could be that they’ve done something that they believe puts them outside of the Church community.

You might say or hear something like this in conversation:

“I was raised Catholic, but am not practicing”

“I believe most of what the Catholic Church teaches, but I have a problem with…” (fill in the blank), “so I pretty much left the Church.”

Or maybe this:

“I’m Catholic, but I don’t go to Mass very often.”

“I think of myself as Catholic, but why don’t they get with the times?”

“I got married in the Church and will raise my kids Catholic when we start a family, but we just don’t go to Mass very often.”

One of my relatives, who’s a Jesuit priest, was once in Rome and chatting with a taxi driver there about life while en route to his destination.  “Where do you go to church?” our American priest asked. “Padre, sono Cattolico, non sono fanatico!”  – “Father, I’m a Catholic, not a fanatic!” replied the driver.  Some of our not-too-adherant Catholics here in the U.S. might feel the same way.
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Silicon Valley Catholic – reflections from the trenches

For a year or two, I have considered starting a blog about being Catholic in Silicon Valley.  We have a rich and diverse Catholic community here, some interesting local church history, a few challenges that aren’t found everywhere else and in general, there’s no shortage of topics.  I enjoy writing and blogging and think I can make this a helpful resource – I hope so!

There are enough blogs, books, periodicals and other avenues for people to argue about theology, liturgy, apologetics, ethics, church law, abuse, scandals, church politics and on and on.  I won’t promise to entirely avoid topics that could step on toes, but those areas aren’t the point of this blog.

Instead, the primary focus here will be on areas that I hope will help to grow or build faith, community, and a sense of belonging among Catholics who may feel a little disconnected or alienated for whatever reason.  (Those reasons will surely come up but again, they won’t be the focus of the blog.)  We live in a pluralistic society and many of our friends who are not Catholic may wonder about certain practices or beliefs, and discussing some of them may also be helpful to them as well. (more…)