Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Don't Forget the Flowers: Bad News about the Church Can Be a Good Opportunity to Remember Why We're Here in the First Place

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Don't Forget the Flowers: Bad News about the Church Can Be a Good Opportunity to Remember Why We're Here in the First Place

Article excerpt

WITH SOME RELUCTANCE I HAVE TO ADMIT that one reason I am a Catholic today is a May crowning--actually a series of them. The first Friday of every May at St. Joseph School featured a riot of flowers gathered by every student, lovingly (if not artfully) arranged around our standard blue statue of Mary, which would be crowned twice, by a lucky boy and girl respectively.

"O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today! Queen of the angels, Queen of the May!" we sang, to the horror of our Southern Baptist neighbors in East Tennessee, who never really bought the difference between "honoring" and "worshiping" when it came our Catholic approach to the Blessed Mother. We didn't do it to upset our neighbors, of course. I think we did it because, well, it was both pretty and fun, among other reasons.

I find myself clinging to these childhood memories nowadays, especially since reading bad news about Catholicism is part of my job. In the past month the headline "German monastery raided over child sex abuse claims" (CNN) followed "Irish sex abuse victims ask church for $1 billion" (Religion News Service) in the unfolding news about the European sex abuse crisis.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The following week "Catholic school boots student with gay parents" (Associated Press) reported on a Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Denver declining to reenroll a 5-year-old because her parents are two women. The sensationalist and somewhat exaggerated topper on the same day, "Papal aide, Vatican singer fired over alleged gay-prostitute ring" (USA Today), sounds like it came out of The Da Vinci Code.

It's hard not to have some reaction to these kinds of stories, from shame to confusion to anger and even resignation. Whatever your own thoughts about the news of the day, the situations are unpleasant, and they beget further unpleasantness as the Catholic-vs.-Catholic conflict inevitably erupts, arguments that also end up on the front page. From the outside some might wonder why anyone bothers staying Catholic. I admit taking sides in the culture wars was not what I signed up for.

It's times like these when I have to remind myself just why Catholicism makes sense for me. Sometimes it means recalling the "good old days" of Lenten Friday fish fries followed by stations of the cross and benediction, which my family attended not only out of devotion but because our friends would be there. …

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