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Why the New Pope May Get Me Back to Church

churchPope Francis keeps saying all the right things and his words just might lure me back to Catholicism. He said last week that the church had “become obsessed” with the issues of gay marriage, birth control, and contraception and lost focus on the plight of the poor and marginalized.

His question heard round the world, “Who am I to judge?” when referring to gays and lesbians, was the most hopeful statement I’ve heard in years that made me think that the Catholic church might be the right place for our family.

Since taking office in March, Pope Francis has led by example. He won’t live in the isolated Papal Palace, but instead lives in the Vatican guesthouse. He has literally washed the feet of prisoners and spent time with the poor. He’s reaching out to people in many different ways including Twitter where he sent this message on September, 21, “True charity requires courage: let us overcome the fear of getting our hands dirty so as to help those in need.”

These are the kind of messages I want to pass along to my children: Charity, forgiveness, and love.

I was raised in a traditional Mexican-American family by Catholic parents. They sent me to after-school religious education from elementary through high school and I joined the church youth group on my own (I went for the cute boys and stayed because I ended up really enjoying it). Being involved in church gave me an interest in public service and a very personal spiritualism.

Church was comforting and quiet and many of my friends were there. I loved the rituals and admired the iconography. Going to church made me feel like I was part of a community and that there was a higher being looking out for me. There was never talk (that I can remember) of excluding anyone or of not accepting anyone because they were different. Maybe there was and I don’t remember or I was too focused on myself to listen to what was being said. It was definitely not the same for some friends and family.

However, as an adult I wasn’t able to get my mind around the things the Catholic Church was saying. I remember the last straw came when I went to Mass with my mother when I was living in Texas. The priest, who looked like he was 1,000-years-old, gave a sermon condemning birth control. It wasn’t just that he said birth control was bad, but it was equivalent to abortion.

I became a “holiday Catholic” after that. The church was too political for me (well, not in line with MY politics anyway) and it seemed to be straying from the message of Jesus, which was to take care of people who need help.

Pope Francis appears to be focusing on who needs help instead of who should be condemned. He seems to be genuinely  humble, kind, and care for everyone, especially the less fortunate among us.  He is truly a man of the people.

I also admire that he’s not afraid to say what he feels and to do what is right. It’s so refreshing when we live in a country full of leaders who are terrified of doing anything that will result in them not being reelected. The needs of the poor in America appear to be inconsequential to our government, which is even more apparent after the House recently voted to cut billions from the food stamp program.

Pope Francis makes me hopeful and wanting to once again get involved with the Catholic Church.  I’m hopeful, but I really want a reason to go back. I want us to go to church on Sunday and not cringe at the sermon because it’s not inclusive. I want to give my children the gift that was given to me.

 

 

 

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