My problem is that I grew up having my intellect praised, and this has led me to believe that I can figure all things out myself. I have applied this same fallacy to my spirituality. I'm scared of embracing a religious identity unless and until I feel fully aligned with it, but in reality, this is an impossibility. The point of a spiritual practice is not perfection so much as, well, practice. Right? It means that a certain approach is most conducive to myself growing spiritually. And a religious label at its core provides a neat and clear framework from which to gather my spiritual practice. If I were truly comfortable with a "spiritually independent" identity, I would actually have a spiritual practice that simply didn't fit exactly into any one religious framework. But instead, I have inklings and desires, but no commitment for fear of appropriating a religious identity when I feel I haven't earned it.
I give myself permission to call myself a Catholic because it's what I grew up with and what's most familiar and where I'm officially affiliated. Yet I find myself increasingly more uncomfortable in Catholic settings where the goal is to grow spiritually, and not just to come together in corporal worship. At mass, I may stay silent on proclamations that don't ring true for me, and I may have personal interpretation of the various rites that I find meaningful. But in a small group setting, something Alex and I have been embarking on lately, I am directly being asked to share my inner faith.
On one hand, I cannot lie and go with what everyone else is saying, as that would be disingenuous to the purpose of such a group. On the other hand, if I'm completely honest regarding where I am on my journey, I worry about scandalizing others or rocking their own faith, neither of which sounds like an appropriate use of a small group.
For years now I've returned over and over again to the Religious Society of Friends, and each time I say that this time I'm going to formally join a meeting. Each time I question why I haven't already done so. And each time I come across some criticism of Liberal Quakerism by more mainstream Christian Quakers, or the more Christian Quaker stance on homosexuality puts a stop to my considering any flavor other than Liberal Quakerism within the RSF.
I'm indecisive. I'm anxious. I'm a perfectionist. I care about what other people think of me. But alas, haven't I learned by now that I will never please everyone? If my goal is to please all Quakers, I cannot succeed. Some will say I'm not Christian enough (which I'm not), others will say the social justice stance of the more mainstream Christian Quakers isn't aligned enough with the values taught by Jesus. So no, I cannot please all Quakers.
Just like I cannot please all Catholics. Some would tell me to stay at all costs, for it's only inside the church that I have access to the Sacraments, and therefore have any hope in growing in my faith. Others would tell me that I give Catholics a bad name, and that if I don't even ascribe to the Nicene creed, I have no business in the RCC. I'm Ok with not pleasing all Catholics. It took a long time, but I'm OK with that. What I'm struggling with now is that I have a renewed interest in spiritual development, and the Christian Catholic language being used interferes with my spiritual growth. Yet I know I cannot grow in isolation.
I'm off to email my one time Quaker spiritual adviser. I cannot figure this out on my own.
Edited: Alas, it seems that my one-time Quaker spiritual adviser is no longer actively offering this ministry.
My problem is that I want answers and I want them now. I know what I have to do. I must pose a specific question to the Lord, and then patiently bring it to prayer and await God's leading. The problem is that I don't know what exactly my question is.
What should I call myself? What religious identity does God want for me? Should I focus on finding a way to be Catholic unorthodoxically? Should I convert officially to Quakerism by requesting membership in a meeting? Ok, so maybe I do know what my underlying question is.
Lord, should I focus on finding a way to be Catholic unorthodoxically, or should I request membership in a Quaker meeting? I am not going to rush your answer. I know it may take all year, even longer. I know that the more time I spend listening to you, the quicker the answer will be given to me. Thank you.
So for now, I guess I adopt the Quaker spiritual practice of expectant worship in my personal prayer life, while continuing to worship corporeally with Catholics.