Seven years ago, I was a devout Catholic. I had been raised Catholic by parents who didn't actually believe in God or Catholicism, and by the time I finished high school I didn't believe either. But then, years later at a difficult time in my life, a friend invited me to attend a local Catholic church with her, and it felt like coming home. I was more comfortable there than I had been anywhere else I had tried to go. I still disagreed with all the things I had always disagreed with, but I loved the liturgy. And this was a special church. They were extremely active for social justice, building clinics and schools in Haiti, for instance, and volunteers baked the bread for communion themselves. They served real wine to everyone. I gradually came to know God's presence in my life there.

But then, as always, things changed. I was married in that church but my husband wouldn't attend. He had never been Catholic and didn't like Catholic worship at all. Once, when I happened to mention how much I admired Quakers he said, "Oh, if you were a Quaker I would do that with you." We had two boys and then the oldest was diagnosed, at 2, with autism. The sex abuse scandals were breaking and the church was responding the way it always has to criticism--badly--and the church nursery was loud and big and seemed unable to care for my son.

I made the decision on the Feast of Corpus Christi. I sang in the choir by then, but the choir gets to sit down and pray during the silence after communion, near the end of the Mass. I felt great sadness and confusion about leaving. Not only did I love the church I attended, I had made promises at my wedding and my children's baptisms to continue to be faithful to it. Would God ask me to break those promises? On the other hand, my husband's promise had weighed on me for more than a year. The pressure within to try out the local Friends Meeting just seemed to grow.

I sat in the silence asking for guidance, and then I waited. Images of the Passover came into my mind. I found myself thinking that God doesn't ask us to find some place to be comfortable in our religious practice. We're asked to live with our sandals on our feet, our staff in our hands, ready to move when the call comes to move. I began to feel a sense of clearness. Then the Pastor stood up and said in his passionate way, "Brothers and Sisters! God does not call us to be pew warmers! God asks us to live like the ancient Israelites in Egypt, with our sandals on our feet, our staff in our hands. We have to move when God says to move!" He was inviting the congregation to participate in a processional, following the body of Christ, which is traditional on this feast day. But I knew that I had received confirmation for myself, as well.

I have been slow to consider myself a convinced Friend. I'm still an attender at my meeting. Somehow those ties to Catholicism have seemed difficult to release. But I've really had no question, ever since that first day I attended my meeting, that I had come to a place where I could bring my family and all of us could be nourished, and that that was what God wanted for all of us. I intend to write to my meeting to apply for membership now. The Feast of Corpus Christi comes around again tomorrow. It's time.


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Comment by Isabel Penraeth on 6th mo. 6, 2010 at 9:08pm
"I found myself thinking that God doesn't ask us to find some place to be comfortable in our religious practice. We're asked to live with our sandals on our feet, our staff in our hands, ready to move when the call comes to move. "

I tell thee, Rosemary, that this is the Truth.
Comment by Rosemary Gould on 6th mo. 6, 2010 at 9:32pm
Thank you, Isabel.
Comment by Jan Lyn Lewis on 6th mo. 8, 2010 at 4:59pm
This is a beautiful piece, Rosemary. I gather a sense of integration of your total journey of spirituality here, not a rejection of the past that is some times apparent in Friends. It is good to know where we come from and be obedient in where we put our feet now. At times, for me this has involved considering my family as a whole, rather than myself as an individual as long as I can be in tune with the Holy Spirit myself. I find such truth here and I'm glad it is your time. God bless you and yours.
In Friendship,
Jan Lyn
Comment by Rosemary Gould on 6th mo. 8, 2010 at 8:16pm
Thanks for your comment, Jan Lyn. Yes, we have to care for spouses and kids as well as ourselves, once we've got them. It makes it all much more complicated! My kids have been through periods of hating going to meeting, but fortunately we're in a good phase right now.

And yes, I've been grateful that I came to Friends already a believer. I think I would have found silent worship much more difficult to practice if I hadn't had that experience. I understand why people who have been hurt feel bitter about their previous houses of worship, but I'm blessed to have escaped that. Thank you so much for your prayers.
God bless you,
Rosemary
Comment by Rosemary Gould on 6th mo. 8, 2010 at 8:20pm
Thank you so much for your comment, Joey. I'm very new at blogging, but I feel led to do it more. I'm grateful that the blog was meaningful to you.
Comment by Rosemary Gould on 8th mo. 4, 2010 at 4:20pm
Hi Gabrielle,
Thanks for your comment. Yes, I think we have had many similar experiences. A line from the psalms that has spoken to me about my past is, "Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence."
Welcome to Quaker Quaker!
Rosemary

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