Thursday, June 14, 2012

I Won't Give Up

I had thought of my parish as a sanctuary where I could flee from the problems of life.  I had hoped to find comfort and solace in that environment.  Instead I found the cross.

I wanted to shake the dust from my sandals, thinking that I needed to break free from a big part of who I am; I wanted to leave my parish where my family and I have been members for 20 years.  It's the only parish my children have ever known.   I was filled with frustration and anger and resentment and hurt and I wanted out. Things were said that didn't sit well with me and I thought that the only answer to my anger and hurt was to leave and start over fresh somewhere new, someplace where I wouldn't have to face any difficulties over differences from the way I believe, from the way that I thought everyone should believe.  I wanted to belong to a church where everyone believed and spoke just like me.  The thought of leaving felt like a divorce or a death.  My husband and children and I were grieving and we really didn't want to leave.  But I was stubborn and leaving was the only solution, in my opinion. We began to visit other parishes and schools to find someplace new to call home.  It seemed so strange to be in this position because so often in the past I was the one begging others to stay and I was the one mourning over the loss of friends who have left the parish.

As we started to sever the ties by trying to disentangle ourselves from the various ministries and activities to which we were deeply involved, others reached out to us.  We heard from parish staff and parish members who asked us not to leave.  We heard words of love and understanding as well as offers of assistance to face our concerns.  One of my dearest and longest friends said, "I'm praying for you.  I'm not praying so that you stay at the parish; I'm praying so that you will be happy wherever you are."  It felt so good to know that we are loved unconditionally and that if we would leave we would be missed.  I learned that life at a parish is so much more than just the ideologies of a few but instead it's about the love of the many.  A parish is a home and its members are a family no matter how different we all may be.  But learning to get along with others involves some pain-it involves the cross.

As with all things in life, I gave my worry to God, asking Him to show us His will in this matter. And He spoke through my husband who decided that a meeting with our pastor was in order.  So we made an appointment and shared our concerns and he listened in love.  And he told us that everyone is important in a parish and that our differences are what makes a parish rich.  He reminded us of how dull life would be if everyone were the same.  He said that every piece of a puzzle needs to be in place to make a complete picture and he agreed to address the concerns that had hurt my heart.  And his words satisfied us.

So we are staying at our home parish where we belong, where we sit by side with our fellow Catholics at whatever stage of belief we happen to be in and we pray to our One God with whom we are all deeply in love.

I had thought of my parish as a sanctuary where I could flee from the problems of life.  I had hoped to find comfort and solace in that environment.  Instead I found the cross-which is just as it should be.

 Every once in a while a song touches me where no words on their own, without music, can. I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz speaks so eloquently to the importance of holding on, of persevering in loving others, no matter how difficult life can become. These words in particular spoke to me as I prayed through this situation:
I don't wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I'm here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got yeah, we got a lot at stake
And in the end, you're still my friend at least we did intend
For us to work we didn't break, we didn't burn
We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I've got, and what I'm not
And who I am

I won't give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I'm giving you all my love
I'm still looking up
Still looking up.

I won't give up on us (no I'm not giving up)
God knows I'm tough enough (I am tough, I am loved)
We've got a lot to learn (we're alive, we are loved)
God knows we're worth it (and we're worth it)

You can listen to the entire song at this link.


  1. This is come up in many situations. Circumstances where the first thought is *I need to leave or get out of here*...only to find through prayer that we are there for a stand firm in be a presence, even if silent.

    Great post Anne!

  2. Good post. A parish is a family and like a family there will be disagreements and differences. But we are still the Body of Christ...I need this reminder as we are facing some heavy turmoil in our own parish right now.

  3. Thank you for your sharing. It seem to me that you've touched on what is actually true about so many aspect of life--certainly within families, organizations, religious congregations, etc. I know that within our own congregation of women religious, we have such a wide variety of opinions, beliefs, etc. For all of us, I think, there is a need to come to see that in most situations there is such a variety of viewpoints and shades of coloring. It seems that very little in life is strictly black and white--which add such beauty to life!

  4. Thank you Theresa, Jenny and Sr. Ann Marie,

    It's comforting to know that I am not alone in my struggles and also to realize that no matter where we are we will have to wrestle with the differences of others. But if we always remember that we are all God's beloved children and if we try to see Jesus within one another, we will be on the right path to harmony and unity.

  5. Anne--
    Thanks for sharing this because it touches on an issue in my own life. My husband and I were considering leaving our parish after 20 years. I felt such overwhelming sorrow about it. Ultimately I may decide to stay and my husband to go to a different Catholic church in the area. I have come to believe that although there would be no wrong in going if I truly feel called to be somewhere else, I need to hang in there with my church family and try to learn what God is teaching me in this and be an example for others of endurance in trials. If my husband can only feel anger when he goes to church, then he needs to worship elsewhere. It seems to me a complicated issue with no right answer for everyone.

  6. Oh Mary, thank you for this comment. It is so painful, isn't it, to think about leaving? But I can certainly understand where your husband might be coming from. It is so distracting to feel anger when you attend Mass when what you want is to focus on the love of Christ. I, too, had thought about leaving and letting my family remain, but that doesn't seem right,either. The purpose of marriage is to bring one another to heaven and doesn't it make sense to worship at Mass together as a means of attaining that goal? I will pray for you and your husband and your parish so that you may come to a peaceful resolution in this sorrowful situation. May the Sacred Heart of Jesus hold all of you closely and may your united sufferings heal all that hurts His Wounded Heart.

  7. Wow, Anne! This is a powerful post that many of us can relate to, more than you know. I can totally relate, personally, as we have been in this same boat. We too have stuck it out with our long-time parish family and endured many crosses. I am blessed to say that we are now experiencing a new springtime and we feel it is a GREAT consolation. Our hearts are bursting with thanksgiving and grace. I pray that you, too, will experience this in God's due time. Hang tough, dear warrior for Christ!

    1. Tiffany, thank you for your reassuring words. I wait in hope for the springtime in my parish.