Posted by: Mark Nielsen | May 3, 2009

Rosaries & Nurseries: Going to Mass in Wisconsin

I’m a post-Vatican II Roman Catholic, who became Protestantized in college and casually wandered away from “The Church”. But I’ve been reclaiming some parts of my original heritage the past few years, in a strange integrative process that only makes sense if one knows Jesus and his funky funky Spirit pretty well.

With that process in mind, this morning I went to a reg’lar old Catholic mass in Waupaca, Wisconsin, for the first time in at least seven years. Last time around, it was when my non-Catholic wife was trying to see if and where we could do church together again (the previous year, she had left the Mennonite church we attended together). She didn’t have big problems with the Catholic liturgy or the central beliefs at the best of the local Skokie congregations. But Catholicism felt like an alien culture where she would always remain a bit of an outsider, even if she got more involved. So we stopped going.

I limped along a few more years at Reba Place (the Mennonite church) till it felt kind of stale to me as well, at which time we discovered an emergent Evangelical Lutheran church we both liked. Our son Graham liked going there as well, so we’re still there.

But I still hang with a lot of Catholics, including most of the men in my men’s spirituality/accountability group. And I occasionally read classic Catholic literature and devotional material — including Graham Greene, Walker Percy, and Flannery O’Connor on the fiction end of things, and St. John of the Cross, Thomas Merton, Jean Vanier and Kathleen Norris (a Benedictine/Presbyterian hybrid) on the devotional end. Because it seems to me that these Catholics
have more guts than the current crop of Protestant writers in facing up to the sticky realities of being human, while still stumbling toward deeper faith. Their faith is muscular, acknowledging sin while still seeing God “in the details”.

But enough about books. I’m out of space for this post, so in Part Two, expect more about “real life” church, at St. Mary Magdalene this morning.


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