Shannon Woodside says that being a Catholic is a constant battle to do the right thing.
The Father planted the seed, the Mother protected it and the Holy Spirit nourished it. I am just working on keeping it alive. Most young Catholics my age seem to either be cradle Catholics or a convert. I’m somewhere in between. I’m a cradle Catholic who came into her Faith as an 11-year-old child, at the passing of a loved one. As I stood by the graveside, I heard a family member say, ‘She’s going upstairs to heaven.’ This is what captured my desire to know Christ.
A lot of people would answer the question ‘Why are you Catholic?’ with a great speech about how they are Catholic because I was brought up that way or in my country it’s the norm or some great event happened to me and I want to make the world a better place by sharing the love of Jesus.
I love when people can answer in that way and be proud of it. For me, my answer is this ‘I’m Catholic, not because someone tells me to be or because I’m scared of what would happen if I wasn’t.’ I’m Catholic because I choose to be. I chose to live my life on this earth trying every day to better myself, to love others and to get, I hope, to this place called Heaven.
My Faith isn’t easy. It’s a battle that I fight every day. A battle to pray, a battle to try and do the right thing, a battle to show kindness even to those who have caused me great pain, but it is a battle that has already been won for me. For years I’ve struggled, but I’m still here and with every battle fought comes at least a small victory.
I stand by the Church and everything She teaches but that doesn’t mean that the community within it is infallible. To me a successful Church is a universal Church that is both fully alive and active in their Faith, where every parish offers equal opportunities to all.
Where the charismatics are free to worship the Lord with songs of praise, the traditionalists can find comfort in the silence. Where the youth are taught about the love of the Father, the relationship with the Son and the joy of Faith, where everyone has equal opportunities to experience their Faith in a multitude of ways and connect with it in the way that is right for them without judgement.
A Church where the older generations are respected and loved and not seen as an inconvenience or a part of the structure. A Church that rejoices in the laughter of children and the comforts those who grieve whether you’ve known them for years or you’re just there in the moment.
Most of the time, I think of the word Church and my mind goes to the buildings that are crumbling around us or the finance that is always needed. But what use is a physical building no matter how beautiful when the family inside is dying? What are we doing to nourish the flock which Christ has given us? Not just one group but the entire family?
But how do we achieve this success?
For me personally, I feel it is time we go back to the heart of the Gospel, the love of brethren. For the Church to change, it needs to start from within, to nourish the lives of all the parishioners not just a few. To weed out all of the politics and cliques which happen in every parish.
We are not all of the same mould, what works for some to grow in Faith, won’t work for others. I feel that once we return to inclination to love our brethren instead of looking for their flaws, to stop comparing ourselves to each other and stop trying to squeeze square pegs into the round slot in the way we are forming people and start actually listening to our flocks and the journeys they are on, tailoring slots for each individual, we will start to see a rebirth in our Church and a greater joy within our communities.
At the end of the day if our goal isn’t to get ourselves and everyone we know to Heaven, then why are we living this life of faith, what are we fighting for?
Shannon Woodside is a support worker in Aberdeen.